New to Comics is a segment where I look at various comic books, explaining their background, reviewing them, and breaking them down for readers unfamiliar to the medium. The title is a reference to a former university project that I carried on as its own site for several years before laying it to rest.
Avengers: Endgame will be hitting the small screen in the UK on Monday, so really, it’s the perfect time to continue our read-through of Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers saga, starting with volume five: Adapt or Die!
Published by: Marvel Comics
Written by: Jonathan Hickman
Art by: Esad Ribić & Salvador Larroca
Real Name: Robert Bruce Banner
Affiliation: The Avengers
First Appearance: Incredible Hulk #1 (May 1962)
Dr Robert Bruce Banner was one of the world’s foremost experts on nuclear physics, and his vast knowledge and prowess in his field taking him into the employ of the United States military, in the hopes he would gain funding for his other, more humanitarian projects, in turn. There, Banner was stationed under Airforce General Thaddeus ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross, who had him work on an experimental Gamma Bomb. During this time, Bruce met and fell in love with Ross’ daughter, Betty Ross, starting a relationship that would endure despite Bruce’s dark future.
When the day came about to test his new bomb, Banner was horrified to see a young man, Rick Jones, had broken onto the testing grounds. Sacrificing himself to save Rick, Banner rushed onto the grounds and pushed Rick into cover, but was caught in the explosion. His cells irradiated by the Gamma radiation, Bruce was cursed with a monstrous, dim-witted alter-ego with God-like strength; becoming an anti-hero of sorts, ‘the strongest one there is’… the ‘Incredible’ Hulk!
WHAT’s THE STORY?
Adapt or Die consists of two primary stories. The first is a one-shot called ‘The Rogue Planet’, which sees the Avengers relaxing after the events of Infinity before their celebrations are interrupted by a visitor from the future as well as the warning that a ‘rogue planet’ is headed towards Earth.
The main meat of the story, however, is obviously the ‘Adapt or Die’ section, which covers four issues, and deals with a new take on the classic Avengers foe the Super-Adaptoid as well as more time-travel hijinks.
The super-adaptoid is an android with minor shape-shifting abilities and the power to copy other peoples powers. It was originally created by the villainous scientific society A.I.M. In later years, the abilities of the Super-Adaptoid have also been transferred to people, like the Spider-Man/Avengers enemy Norman Osborn (the Green Goblin), but that’s a story for another time. The Adaptoids present in this series are once again Androids created by A.I.M.
As for the time-travel portion of the story, Adapt Or Die was marketed as the Avengers series’ answer to the All-New X-Men story, in which the classic X-Men from the sixties comics were brought forward to the present, where they had adventures alongside the modern-day X-Men, some of whom, like Angel and Beast, were their own older counterparts. They stayed in the present for several (real-time) years, before finally being sent back to their own time period to keep the timeline intact.
WHAT’s THE PLOT?
Fresh off of their defeat of Thanos and his armies, the Avengers take some time to relax. But their respite is interrupted by the arrival of Iron Man 3030, who has a dire warning about the fate of the Earth, as well as a group of Avengers seemingly from the past. However this grouping of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes – Captain America, Iron Man, Thorr, Ant-Man, Wasp and the Hulk – are a bit more sinister than the heroes the world knows and loves!
IS IT ACCESSIBLE?
Like every new story in Hickman’s Avengers epic, it’s generally accessible presuming you’ve read the prior volumes.
Rogue Planet, in particular, is meant to be a good jumping on point, as part of the ‘Marvel NOW!’ initiative, but in truth, the issue quickly winds away from its time-travel storyline and begins to focus on the greater storyline, tying the events of both the main Avengers series and New Avengers closer together than before (much like Infinity, before it). So if you’ve not been reading New Avengers, you may find yourself a bit lost when Tony Stark starts to seem more focused on something called ‘Incursions’ than the problems on hand.
WHAT’s THE VERDICT?
This comic comes quite close to being a refreshing classic superhero story that I often wanted from this run. A brief respite not overtly concerned with collapsing universes, and instead tuned into a more simple Avengers story. Alas, that is not the case, as the Avengers vs. Avengers storyline takes the backseat to more talk of Incursions and multiversal dilemmas.
Which is fine; that’s what this run is about, but it does once again feel like Hickman has a narrative he wants to tell, and bar a few characters here like Iron Man and the Hulk, the majority of the Avengers could be swapped out for literally any other hero, and it would make very little difference. The Avengers feel unimportant in their own comic, and character work is once again pretty lacking outside interactions based around those two aforementioned characters.
What’s more irksome is that the Adaptoids, who inspire the title of the story, don’t even come into contact with the central Avengers at any point here. It’s meant to be their arc, but they’re introduced as set-up essentially for New Avengers. That’s the problem here. There are some fun moments, and it’s generally a well-written comic without too much hyper-intellectualism, but a lot of what goes on is purely set-up for Hickman’s clearly favoured New Avengers storyline.
But we’re over the half-way point now, so things will ramp up soon.
NEXT CHAPTER: Infinite Avengers