“Avengers #1” has been one of the most anticipated books of the year. Writer Jonathan Hickman has been riding a rocket to the top of comics since his breakout hit The Nightly News was released in 2006. He is coming off a wildly successful and critically acclaimed three-year run on Fantastic Four. Now he’s been handed the keys to the proverbial Ferrari. Avengers is currently Marvel’s most valuable property, undisputedly enjoying a period of public awareness and excitement unmatched in decades, if ever.
So, what does the rising star do with the Ferrari when handed the keys? He promptly crashes it.
As he did with his run on ULTIMATES, Hickman shows his affinity for making things terrible right off the bat. The core Avengers team, composed of the same roster as the blockbuster film, runs into something so immensely powerful that they get their collective clocks cleaned with barely a batted eye.
Having been roundly routed, Captain America is left with a decision to make. How do you defeat a threat so strong that even the combined might of Earth’s mightiest heroes is insufficient to combat?
Solution: “Get Bigger.”
Hickman likes to structure his narratives around a single thought. In his first Fantastic Four arc, the concept that was so appealing was Reed Richards’ desire to “Solve Everything.” Here, Captain America’s driving thought process is one of broadening the base of support. The roster that has been announced for the title is one of the largest in many years, with an eighteen-member roster.
This is particularly interesting given his comments on a recent CBR Q&A, Hickman said that “…one is progressive, more global group (Avengers) and the other is an old boys network (New Avengers) is worth noting. There’s a point being made. Perhaps I’m going to hammer you over the head with it. Perhaps that’s why I’m not worried about it.”
If you read more than comics, or paid even the slightest attention in the latest electoral cycle, this is essentially a mirror held up to one of the core disagreements between modern-day progressives/liberals and their counterparts in America’s conservative community. What we are looking at is a contrast in organizational principles. The Avengers, by virtue of Steve’s intent to increase the size of the group, reflect the progressive idea that a larger and more capable organization is better equipped to solve high-level problems.
In an interview on Marvel.com, Hickman described AVENGERS as “… a hopeful book. It’s optimistic, it’s about the world that we want to have and the world that we can have, not about the world that we do [have].
The smaller group composed of the most influential players that will feature in NEW AVENGERS would seem likely to be the counterpoint that a small, devoted group of rugged individuals are best positioned to effect large-scale change.
That Steve Rogers finds himself torn between these two different approaches to problem solving is emblematic of the enduring divide that exists in the populace, not only in America, but in many struggling nations around the world. Why the dilemma is important is extremely well put to him by Tony Stark in one of the great character scenes in the book. He reminds Steve “how things keep escalating, how the world is ever more dangerous, how threats are more frequent, how our enemies are seemingly endless.”
Since Hickman already intends to beat us over the head with this point, I won’t double down and do it myself. What I will say is that with this sort of subtext, given Hickman’s penchant for highly relevant subject matter, AVENGERS may well be one of the most interesting books in Marvel: NOW!.