It’s been a couple years since I read the first crummy volume of Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers and I think I’m just about ready to face the second. Maybe I was wrong and Hickman needed some time to get going, maybe his writing got better, maybe I’d find a new appreciation for his Marvel stuff now, maybe… not. The Last White Event (which sounds like something the Klan would attend) is yet another poor Avengers book to add to the pile of crap Avengers books Marvel has, and continues to, put out.
From my understanding of this odd tale: Earth is evolving into a new phase and is somehow becoming sentient - this process being called a White Event - and something called a Starbrand - a being with the power equal to the power behind the White Event but with the aim of potentially destroying the planet rather than cause it to evolve - is formed. There is a Nightmask - the dude with the glowing tattoos - who was born 47 days ago (he’s an adult by the way) to shepherd the Starbrand into fulfilling the White Event. Or something.
This volume introduces us to the Starbrand, a nerdy university student who doesn’t realise he has the power (of Greyskull) to destroy the world, who fights the Avengers - they’ve got to have something to do in their own book!
I could sort of follow along with Hickman’s ambitious if convoluted story and, now that Secret Wars (the final chapter in his Avengers run) is almost upon us, I can see this volume is a building block in the overall story - I just don’t care. White Events, Starbrands, sentient planets - I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Hickman is a great ideas man but he’s a lousy writer. His Starbrand character really doesn’t seem interesting at all, despite all the importance suddenly heaped upon him. And all this talk of other new things, White Events and so on - meh. I can too easily take it or leave it.
Rounding out this underwhelming volume are two issues, the first of which might well be the most forgettable superhero comic I’ve ever read. It’s about a father and daughter sharing a secret about some person somewhere who does something - again the Avengers are background characters in their own comic - and then it’s over. No idea what was accomplished or why.
The other issue has the Avengers trying to do an Ocean’s 11 and failing. They try to pull of a heist in a casino where a black market auction is taking place, except all the baddies, mostly AIM personnel, know who they are despite trying to keep a low profile. They play casino games and win some, lose some, then fly away at the end. While not as bad as the last issue, it certainly feels as throwaway.
On the one hand I think Hickman’s big, cosmic ideas are well suited to the Avengers title. They should face massive threats and be challenged. Dustin Weaver and Mike Deodato’s delightfully cinematic art backs up this approach. It’s just Hickman’s limited writing ability that gets in the way of realising that in a compelling comic. He’s all surface texture, like those symbols representing the characters at the start of each issue (what, I’m not going to read it if my favourite character’s not in it?) - style without substance yet again and the effect is like reading an outline rather than a finished comic.
The Last White Event is like a game of sci-fi D&D where the Dungeon Master is intoning an incredibly boring story except you have no choices - you just have to sit there and listen to him drone on without any control over what to do next. If that sounds appealing, Hickman’s Avengers might be for you. Me, I think it’ll be at least another two years before I attempt Volume 3!
As with the first trade, this is better than I expected and does have warmth for it's characters within the cosmos-spanning set-up here. Most of the characters are new though, or at least new spins on very old ones - as the New-Universe themes bleed into `our' Marvel universe. This certainly isn't a `done-in-one' adventure and will probably be better viewed in the entirety of the story that spans much more than the issues collected here. What is interesting is the Shang-Chi sidelined storyline that actually on first viewing looks like it should have been printed in the `Secret Avengers' title but on reflection highlights the way A.I.M. are being built into a major villainous force in Marvel these days. This could be where all that begins...
A new threat that emerged in volume 1 is on the rise, and it spells certain doom for the entire Planet Earth. Can the Avengers, with its new, bigger roster, save the day?
This volume starts in a distant part of the universe(s) in a place called the Superflow. It's quite confusing to begin with, but if I've called it correctly, it's kind of a central monitoring station/hub for all the multiple universes. We were introduced to the Builders in Volume 1 - well this place is connected to them somehow, probably kind of like 'Head Office' of the Builders. Maybe, I'm just speculating at the moment.
Anyway, the Superflow is alerted to the fact that many universes are dying, but we discover that Universe 616 (containing our favourite Marvel superheroes of Earth 616) is also going critical. So they initiate what is known as a White Event.
Cut to Avengers Tower, and Earth's Mightiest Heroes are learning about Nightmask, or Adam, who was birthed in volume 1 by Ex Nihlo, a Builder. He and Captain Universe are explaining the meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything when they are alerted to an incident that has occurred in a nearby college campus. There's a blast radius of 1 mile and over 3000 people are dead.
Racing to the scene, they find a skinny naked youth at ground zero who doesn't have any clue what's going on. His name is Kevin, and he's the most powerful being on the planet, and subsequently smacks the Hulk into orbit and isn't phased when Thor gives him his best wallop with Mjolnir.
Kevin, we learn, is a Starbrand. Each planet has its own Starbrand, created by a White Event - an intervention of sorts (I think) by the Superflow when universes are dying. Starbrand's are supposed to save their planets/universes, but in order to do so, they are given the power to destroy a planet.
Kevin is transported to Mars by Adam where they meet up with Ex Nihlo again, and we learn more of his plan to transform the Earth into a sentient being, whilst the Avengers are left to ponder what to do next, including an undercover mission to Hong Kong to investigate an arms deal with AIM which is all linked to this White Event.
I found this volume slightly confusing at the start. It took me three or so reads (no bad thing) to get my head round it. I wasn't overly impressed with volume 1 in my review of it, but volume 2 is improving now that things are coming together. I would give it 3.5 stars if I could. I'm still getting to grips with this super race of interdimensional beings who can create universes and life etc, but I guess it's no different than the concept of the Magratheans in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, which I love.
The artwork by Dustin Weaver is amazing and is light years better than when he worked on Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic a few years ago (and I liked that work too - I'm assuming it's the same guy).
Jonathan Hickman likes his Marvel characters to have their adventures in a more cosmic setting, this is obvious to me. His work on FF two years ago had me flinging those comics away as everything was making my head sore. Now however, I'm starting to enjoy his work on this title and also the New Avengers (which is connected to this storyline as well).
It has been a gradual liking though. I'm reading the individual comic issues so I'm probably somewhere close to the end of volume 3, and it's leading up to Marvel's big event of the year; INFINITY. My taste for the whole thing is improving so who knows, maybe volume 3 will get 4 stars.
But for now though; volume 1 = 3 stars, this volume = 3.5 stars. My favourite part in this book is the Hong Kong trip for the extra half mark.
This book lacks and real characterisation. Something that I think worked really well was that when Bendis was writing we saw the lives of the superheroes when they did and didn't have their costumes on. This story is let down by this and the story is rather dull with the last story leaving me thinking, What was that about?