Today, Mikyzptlk and Spencer are discussing Avengers 14 , originally released June 19th, 2013.
Mikyzptlk: We are now 14 issues into Avengers and its been one hell of an…interesting ride. There’s been plenty of highs and a few lows, but throughout the series there has been the promise of the Infinity event. This event has kept my interest quite high for this series, but I might be nearing my limit as truth be told, I’m itching to get to the big event already. Fortunately, this issue does enough to keep me sated as they use the cast of the Avengers in some pretty creative ways while presenting some more intriguing mysteries.
Our story begins in one of Ex Nihilo’s origin bomb impact sites in Chhatarpur, India. As established in previous issues, Ex Nihilo intended to bring the world sentience using various bombs for various purposes. The apparent purpose of this site being “self-repair.” The beings who evolved out of the origin bomb’s explosion (I’ll refer to them as Blockheads for obvious reasons) build some kind of machine capable of sending out a signal…somewhere, that drains 90% of the planet’s energy grid. This is causing all kinds of issues that the Avengers are helping to clear up. Over on A.I.M. Island, those wacky scientists have used that wacky signal to wake up something potentially wacky.
If memory serves, that’s the…item, that A.I.M. recovered at the origin bomb site that was, at one point, unknown to our heroes. What could it possibly be? Well, I don’t know. Actually, I don’t know much about this title at all. I mean, I know about this title since I’ve been reading it for what seems like forever now. Has it really been 14 issues? I guess what I’m trying to say is, I just really want to get on with it already. Jonathan Hickman and Nick Spencer have been telling quite the competent tale, but I’m just getting a bit tired of waiting for whatever-the-hell to finally happen. I feel it’s important to express how I’m feeling about this book in general as that definitely has a way to color my opinion of the individual issues.
Alright, so that aside, let’s get into what I liked about this issue. The individual sites of the origin bomb explosions are getting more and more definition as the story progresses. It’s clear that some kind of picture is forming here, I’m just still not sure quite what it is. Is the Earth still evolving to become sentient, or has that process been stopped with the destruction its “brain?” What kind of signal were the Blockheads sending? It seemed like it failed as illustrated in the picture below.
Did they get their signal blocked? The caption reads “repair failure” so maybe that beam of energy was meant for something else entirely. If so, why did it fail? Does it have something to do with the red halo? I’m not sure what the hell is going on exactly, but I’m still interested in what’s going on…for now, anyway.
Really, the best part of the issue is watching the Avengers do their thing. Usually, when you think about superheroes doing stuff, you think about them punching or ray-blasting their way out of trouble. Here though, Hickman and Spencer really explore the powers and abilities of our heroes in some pretty fun ways. We have Kinda-Sorta-Iron Man and Captain Marvel out in space doing…spacey stuff. On Earth, we have Smasher and Eden rescuing planes as they’ve been losing power due to those signals I mentioned earlier. While Smasher helps the plane land safely, Eden teleports the the passengers safely off before anything can go catastrophically wrong. Oh, but my favorite part of this issue has got to be the way Falcon’s admittedly silly skills are used to great effect.
More like, nice thinking John and Nick. It was quite a lot of fun to see the different ways these writers came up with to use our heroes when, for the most part, there wasn’t really anything to punch. I mean, there’s still a thing or two to punch, and punch our heroes do, but a lot of this issue was the Avengers responding to various emergencies happening around the world. I think it says a lot about our writing team that they can make something as simple as watching our heroes respond to a few relatively normal crises interesting. There was one more interesting bit that came from Captain Universe, or I guess just “The Universe.” Nah, I’m sticking with Captain Universe. Anyway, here she is.
Alright, so something is trying to “remake the world.” I’m pretty sure that something is Ex Nihilo. I mean, he’s already admitted exactly as much fairly early on in this series. It’s gotta be him right? Then again, this whole scene is presented as somewhat as a mystery so I’m thinking there’s still room for surprises here. Alright Spencer, what’s your take on this issue? I know I had a ton of questions, so I’d imagine that you do too. With all the mystery still surrounding this series, is it effective in retaining your interest, or are you getting a bit impatient like I am?
Spencer: Nah, I’m not getting impatient, not yet. I could be wrong, but this issue feels like the point in the story where all the disparate clues that have been seeded throughout this run so far are starting to come together—and it’s not just the “Prelude to Infinity” tagline on the cover making me say that. The various Origin Bomb sites are getting into contact with one another, A.I.M.’s secret egg is about to hatch, the entire Avengers roster is coming together at once, and as you pointed out Mik, even Captain Universe feels the need to step in and take action herself, which she so rarely does. Things are just starting to get exciting, Mik!
Of course, we still don’t know much of the specifics of what’s going on, but my read is that the Blockheads are living embodiments of self-repair—much like the Zebra children are living embodiments of self-sustenance—and their blocked beam isn’t a message as much as it’s an attempt to repair something, likely the Earth itself, or at least the “living consciousness” of the Earth that Starbrand destroyed back in Issue 9. If the Earth itself is trying to evolve, then that seems like a pretty vital component. Of course, their attempt to repair it failed, so what does that mean for the world?
Speaking of Blockheads and Zebra children, I enjoyed the peeks into the various Origin Bomb sites. Life is springing up in all of them, and much like the abovementioned specimens, the various forms of life there seem specifically evolved to display the trait of their Origin Bombs. I imagine Hickman and Spencer could give us an arc based off each group of creatures, but it’s nice to see them picking up the pace a little, bringing the communication bugs and the Blockheads together to double-team the Avengers. The bugs’ message—the one that brought about global chaos—seems to have been directed towards the other Origin Bomb sites, but what does the message say? Why was it blocked at first?
So yeah, I guess there’s still more questions in play than I thought at first. The progression of Avengers’ central mystery actually reminds me of Nick Spencer’s other series, Image’s Morning Glories, which has run two years while giving us only the most minimal of answers behind its countless mysteries. Honestly, I rarely know what’s going on over there, but it doesn’t matter, because it’s so suspenseful and the characters are so interesting and well-fleshed out that I think I’d continue to read it no matter how incomprehensible it becomes. Spencer brings that same element to this book; the Avengers themselves ground this book even as the sci-fi elements get grander and grander.
Mik, you were right to praise the Avengers’ inventive rescues. When I was a kid, my entire understanding of super-heroes boiled down to fighting, but protecting innocents is truly the number one priority, and the team proves most reliable—and entertaining—in this regard. It also gives us more chances to see the various Avengers interact with one another, which gives us such gems as Manifold’s hesitance to return to his home country (“you cannot imagine what a beer costs [there]”), more Bobby and Sam banter, Clint referring to Captain Universe as simply “the universe”, and my personal favorite:
I love Captain Marvel’s indignant little grunt there when Iron Man asks her if she can make the throw: “Of course I can throw this nuclear core into the sun, Tony, why wouldn’t I be able to, huh?!”
I also loved Bruce Banner’s role as chief science guy in this issue. It’s great to see Banner—not Hulk—contribute something worthwhile to the team, but it’s also a telling moment when Banner asks for help from Tony; if he wants to work with Stark of all people, then things must be desperate!
Meanwhile, Stefano Caselli takes over art duties after Mike Deodato’s four-issue stint, and he proves fairly capable. His early pages with the Blockheads are appropriately full of grandeur, and with all the space given for those scenes to play out, they ended up looking quite awe-inspiring. Unfortunately, his faces are a little more hit or miss. While some turn out great—I particularly love Captain Marvel’s mask and Smasher’s gritted-teeth of determination when she rescues the plane—others just look off, and as the issue continues on, the art just starts to look messier.
By the time this panel rolls around, the difference was jarring enough that I had to go back and check the credits to see if another artist had taken over mid-issue (that’s a big negative on that one). Manifold’s face is off enough, but poor Shang-Chi makes out the worst; not only is his face strangely misshapen and his hair a weird style, but he appears to have been drawn as a white guy instead of an Asian. This portrayal continues throughout the rest of the issue, and it’s…upsetting, to say the least.
Still, this issue provides a fine start to the “Prelude to Infinity.” And sure, there’s still a lot of questions up in the air, and perhaps even more to come, but it also appears as if at least some answers are right on the horizon, and either way, I can’t wait for my next chance to dive into this mythology again.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?