You’d be forgiven to expect The Avengers, as one of the tent pole comics of the Marvel universe, to be a calm, easy comic to drop into. A sort of Status Quo book, here to spotlight our iconic figures in their roles as Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and establish their hard- (but not too hard) won dominance over classic villains.
You would, thankfully, be wrong. The most recent issue of Avengers is a quick example of how wonderfully weird the Marvel Universe is. It drops us, with no narrative forewarning, into the hellish WWII-era adventures of a character we’ve never heard of or seen before, one Sergeant Szardos.
Szardos (almost certainly related to Nightcrawler’s adopted mother) is a Sorcerer Supreme-adjacent roughneck in the trenches of a secret front against Nazi magics. Armed with the Eye of Agamotto, a breathing machine gun, and tutelage from the Ancient One, our man in the trenches is beset by Mephisto’s current assault on time and the multiverse.
Javier Garrón continues his turn as artist on the book, and his approach has been a bit more subtle and humanistic than some of the stylized giants that have done the job before him. While magical and super-powered, this is a story primarily dealing with the mundane hardships of a war now 80 years past. A bulk of our players aren’t gods or colorfully-spandexed super-folk, they’re gruff human men in khaki. With a couple massive, weird exceptions, our major action set-pieces are finely crafted, real-world aircraft. Garrón handles both men and planes with delicate precision, which makes his jumps into the fully uncanny all the more daring and incredible.
The Avengers themselves play major roles in Szardos’ conflict, but at a one-panel cameo level, and while we have no idea if this is Earth-616 or not (a final splash page introduces characters that would imply that it isn’t), the issue has the feeling of providing Avengers-level esoterica. These are the depths (or perhaps the widths) of what’s unknown and unknowable about the Marvel Universe. At any point we might find out that there were pre-Avengers Avengers; heroes taking up arms and artifacts against foes that Earth’s Mightiest might have done, given the opportunity.
It’s been a core concept in Jason Aaron’s run on the book, which has introduced world-altering core concepts at every turn. Most notably, of course, are the Avengers 1,000,000 BC(E), which insists that there are certain legacy archetypes inherent to Earth’s history.
For Szardos, that archetype is, of course, the already established role of a sorcerer guardian of the world, the first of which being Agamotto himself (and the most recent being Clea).
The Avengers #57, then, isn’t an issue that provides a quick, clean representation of what an Avengers comic is. It does, however, perfectly present an issue emblematic of the current Avengers mega-story, which is weird and brilliant and every degree of “big” deserving of Earth’s Mightiest.
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