Friday, February 8, 2013

Review: Avengers #5

(w) Jonathan Hickman
(a) Adam Kubert

The first three issues of Jonathan Hickman's Avengers showed just how big this team has become. While that air of grandeur still persists after the completion of "Avengers World", Hickman has narrowed his scope with the two issues following that arc to focus on Hyperion and Smasher, respectively. This is still the same narrative from the first three issues, just told through different lenses. Avengers #5 introduces Izzy Dare, a small-town Iowan that the randomly inherited the armor of a Shi'ar Imperial Guardsman, Smasher classification. While Izzy's turn-for-turn journey to the Shi'ar homeworld to learn about her new abilities is uncannily similar to becoming a new Green Lantern, Hickman manages to make the whole issue natural and organic enough for it to feel fresh and interesting. 

One of the biggest complaints I have about comic books, in general, is that an overwhelming number of characters experience little to no shock or mental anguish over gaining a power/mutation/ability/etc. This problematic habit is even more prevalent in comic book movies, where someone goes from normal life to aliens and starships without so much as flinching. It doesn't matter who you are: the concept of having abilities beyond normal human capacity is a psychological bomb that no person would be immune to. This isn't to say we'd all have nervous breakdowns, but some sort of reaction. Hickman somehow manages to balance his pace of storytelling with Izzy's utter disbelief at what's going on around her and it's just plan fun to read. Izzy is tough (she grew up on a farm), so she's taking it all in strides, but there are moments when her total wonderment shines through and those moments are golden.

Flash forward to the present day, and the Shi'ar Empire has come under sudden and mysterious invasion. Izzy gets an automatic distress beacon -- even across half the cosmos -- and brings her own reinforcements, the Avengers. During the flashback sequences, Izzy's Smasher suit gives her the breakdown about the Shi'ar Empire and it's standing in the universe, giving a nice framework for the present day battle and the various Shi'ar Imperial Guardsmen zipping around. It's becoming increasingly obvious that Marvel is moving to the stars for fresh storytelling ideas, and making Izzy the first human Shi'ar Superguardian is another move toward that end. 

Pushing the Avengers beyond Earth means pushing the definition of the team as Earth's Mightiest Heroes. Avengers #5 introduces a new female Smasher to the Marvel universe that already shows a lot of promise. She's got major leadership potential, and her ascension in the ranks of the Shi'ar Imperial Guard is another example of human influence reaching farther into space. Avengers #5 succeeds as a stand alone issue because of it's self-contained focus on Smasher, but also serves Jonathan Hickman's greater narrative that spans Avengers and New Avengers and the greater Marvel universe.


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