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Comic Review: AVENGERS #13

After his definitive run on Fantastic Four and its sister book FF came to a close last year, Jonathan Hickman was tasked with breathing new life into Avengers. Brian Michael Bendis’ years-long run on the book (and its many, many related titles) made the team relevant again, then Joss Whedon’s big-screen smash rocketed them to superstardom. So, you know, one has certain expectations when it comes to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Luckily for us, no one does cosmic superheroics these days better than Jonathan Hickman.

Hickman takes the “breathing new life” thing to heart, too. From the first issue, his series has been about creation, whether it’s Iron Man and Captain America creating a bigger team with an expanded mission statement; or new foe Ex Nihilo, in his attempt to evolve life on Earth, creating a species of “several dozen screaming zebra androgynoids,” as Spider-Man calls them. (Another thing you can say for Hickman: he might be the only one capable of doing anything worthwhile with Superior Spidey.)

In the two weeks since Ex Nihilo brought them into existence, those zebra androgynoids have grown to the size of seven-year-old humans. Last issue, a few Avengers took the kids to the Savage Land to “train” them, only for the High Evolutionary to drop by and whisk them away. The poor kids are so naive that he doesn’t even have to kidnap them or anything; they’re willfully led to his evolutionary contraptions with smiles on their faces. This has the effect of pissing off Hyperion, which forms the basis for most of the issue’s drama.

avengers #13

Other new additions to the roster like Smasher and Captain Universe have had their turns in the spotlight, but this is our first real opportunity to get to know Hyperion, Eternal from a dead world. Accordingly, Hickman makes it count. Hyperion’s affection for these innocent creatures is foreign to him, as there were no children on his world. He and Thor discuss whether or not that kind of sentiment is a weakness on the battlefield. It’s surprising how moving their conclusion is. Based on the strength of the last couple issues, Hyperion has a lot of potential as an Avenger.

This issue is more than just tender, reflective heart-to-hearts, though. It features some of the biggest, most satisfying superhero action I’ve seen in a while. I find that artist Mike Deodato is often hit-or-miss; his attempts at photo-realism tend toward the awkward, which can make certain scenarios, like #11’s one-off casino outing, not quite work. Here, however, Deodato is in full-on “hit” mode, drawing glorious full-team splash panels which I wouldn’t mind hanging on my wall. Thor throws Mjolnir at a giant enemy, Deodato turning that stock image into one of the most exciting pages in the book.

Every character is used effectively, from Iron Man to Spider-Woman; there’s huge, crazy action; and the reader gains genuine insight into team members both new and old. Avengers #13 is just about everything you could want from a superhero team book.

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Arlo J. Wiley

Arlo J. Wiley