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.
We’re nearing the end of Hickman’s colossal Avengers run, as we only have one more Avengers story and one more New Avengers story before we hit the Secret Wars prelude Time Runs Out. Today, we’re tackling said Avengers story as Captain America takes in a jaunt through time in Infinite Avengers.
Published by: Marvel Comics
Written by: Jonathan Hickman
Art by: Leinil Francis Yu
Real Name: Steven Grant Rogers
Affiliation: The Avengers
First Appearance: Captain America Comics #1 (March 1941)
As it became obvious America was destined to join the war that had consumed the world in the late 1930s, Steve Rogers became determined to do his part for the war effort. Continuously rejected due to his sickly stature, Steve was eventually found by Dr. Abraham Erskine, and enlisted into the army under ‘Project: Rebirth’. Injected with a serum of Erskine’s own design, Steve was transformed into a super-soldier; his body and mind enhanced to the peak of human potential. But tragedy struck, as Erskine was assassinated, leaving Steve the first and only in the proposed wave of super-soldiers. Fighting on the front lines as Captain America alongside his sidekick Bucky Barnes, Steve was eventually lost at sea, and frozen for several decades.
Eventually awakening in the modern era, Captain America returned to the spotlight as a symbol of hope and American power; his new mission – to protect both America and the world, from any and all threats as the leader of the Mighty Avengers!
WHAT’s THE STORY?
A rather big storyline happens concurrently with Infinite Avengers. One that has direct ties to the events of this story, even acting as a springboard for said events, and yet, it’s barely referenced by Hickman, which is bizarre.
Said story is Original Sin, written by Thor scribe Jason Aaron, which revolves around a murder mystery in the Marvel Universe. The victim of said murder is the enigmatic Uatu the Watcher – a being who watches all the major events unfold on Earth from his home on the moon, and keeps a record of them. The series follows Black Panther, Emma Frost, Ant-Man, Moon Knight, Winter Soldier, Gamora, Doctor Strange and the Punisher as they investigate the murder of Uatu, who has been shot in the head and had his eyes removed. In the process of the story, one of Uatu’s eyes goes off like a ‘secret bomb’, and reveals something to everyone in the vicinity. For instance, Spider-Man discovers someone else out there was bitten by the same spider he was. Bruce Banner discovers Tony Stark might have had a hand in him becoming the Hulk. Thor discovers he has a sister. And Captain America remembers the Illuminati tampering with his mind. Although if you read Hickman’s comic alone, you would never know that that’s how he knows.
Later on in Original Sin, Thor also gets told something so devastating that he becomes unworthy of wielding Mjolnir, and can’t pick it up from where it falls on the moon. The mystery of what he was told dragged on for several years, and was a bit anti-climactic in the end, but served to give audiences a quality story in the form of Jane Foster’s escapades as the Mighty (female) Thor.
Anyway, secrets are out in the open, and that’s what leads us into this comic…
WHAT’s THE PLOT?
After the initial events of Original Sin, Captain America remembers everything about Tony Stark and the Illuminati’s plight against the incursions and worries that without him as their moral compass, they may have done something terrible. With Thor, Hyperion, Captain Marvel, Hawkeye and Black Widow at his side, Cap plans to confront Tony Stark about his secret dealings over the fate of the world. But before the two can sort out their issues, the Avengers are interrupted by the return of the Time Infinity Stone, that disappeared after Captain America wielded the Infinity Gauntlet to stop and Incursion in Everything Dies, which sends them on increasingly distant trips to the future.
IS IT ACCESSIBLE?
Usually, in these posts based on Jonathan Hickman’s run, I say something to the effect of ‘If you’ve been keeping up with Hickman’s Avengers stories then you’ll probably be alright’. This time, things are a little different. As Captain America and the Avengers are sent flying through time, they pop up at several points after departing the year 2014AD – 2062AD, 2436AD, 7059AD, 53042AD and finally the end of time itself. In these different time periods, they encounter characters not only central to the Avengers but also other Marvel properties like the Fantastic Four.
For instance, in one future, they encounter a world that has been taken over by Ultron but also leans into the mythology of Thor and the Norse Gods/Asgardians. In another, they encounter Franklin Richards, the godlike son of Mister Fantastic and the Invisible Woman. Later still, they come across the characters Kang, Immortus and Iron Lad (because frankly, pretty much every time the main Avengers do a time travel story they end up encountering the time-travelling nemesis Kang in some form).
Thus, you need to have some knowledge of who Kang is.
The basic version is this: Kang is a Conqueror from the far future, who has amassed an army of soldiers from different periods with his time-travelling technology and uses said technology and army to conquer other time-periods. In his later years, he grows to become another supervillain called Immortus, who is also an Avengers for, while his younger self goes by ‘Iron Lad’, and was a founding member of the Young Avengers while trying to escape his future as a cross-time conqueror. Time-travel is weird in the Marvel Universe.
WHAT’s THE VERDICT?
Despite the weird and slightly confusing nature of Marvel time-travel, especially under Hickman’s pen, and despite the fact that this is once again a lot of sci-fi talk and little actual action, I actually quite enjoyed this arc.
If you’ve been reading my various posts based around Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers and New Avengers series, you’ll note that I’ve frequently bemoaned the fact that all the character development is seemingly reserved for the heroes of the Illuminati and their adventures in New Avengers, while the main Avengers series mostly focuses on the plot first and the characters second (if that). Here, however, things are a bit different. While a lot of the Avengers who appear here still don’t get a lot of development, the characters of Captain America and to a lesser extent Tony Stark, do.
By pitting these two allies against each other, Hickman gets the chance to explore their contrasting characters, in a similar way to how he explores the characters of Namor and Black Panther in New Avengers. As such, Captain America really gets fleshed out in the context of the Avengers here, especially in the final issue of the story, and at the same time, Hickman also gets a chance to once again ponder the morality of his storyline in New Avengers. Thus, this chapter of the story not only works well to move the Avengers series forward, it also compliments the events of New Avengers better than most other chapters in this epic yarn have.
Furthermore, while I feel that Lenil Francis Yu’s artwork is better suited to street level adventures, like his work on the older New Avengers (which saw a post-Civil War Spider-Man, Luke Cage, Wolverine, Doctor Strange and other heroes tackling criminal organisations and the like), here his rather messy, sketchy, chaotic style compliments the ever-expanding technological domination of the Earth as the characters move further and further into the future. His hasty-seeming drawings make the scenery look sterile and cold like you would imagine an Earth pretty much encased in metal, and ruled by metal beings would be.
It’s far from a perfect comic, and would seem a bit nonsensical when read out of sequence, but as part of a greater whole, Hickman and Yu manage to create a thoughtful, jazzy Avengers story that feels very different from the majority of other chapters in this story (although if you look at any of Hickman’s other works, chances are you’ll find similar sorts of stories going on there. There’s something not too dissimilar going on in his X-Men comics House of X and Powers of X at the time of writing).