Written by: Johnathan Hickman
Art by: Stefano Caselli
By this point it should be a given fact that a Hickman comic will not read well in single issue format. I’ve heard a lot of people complain about the current Avengers and New Avengers books for this very reason, though throughout it I’ve remained confident that when the payoff came it’d be worth it. In this regard, I feel I’ve been proven right, ever since Time Runs Out began and Secret Wars was announced as the eventual endgame to all this it feels like the books have really increased in quality. While some narrative flaws still persist in this issue, it is nonetheless a great issue with some epic and satisfying conclusions to one of the books longest storylines.
With the conflict between S.H.I.E.L.D and the Illuminati coming to a head last issue, Hickman now turns his focus towards the conclusion of another storyline, T’challa and Namor’s feud and the Cabal. Given the strength of this storyline throughout the book this allows for a lot of stand-out moments and a truly epic end to the grisly tale. A lot of character work is involved in making this conclusion so satisfying, something I feel has been disappointingly absent so far in favour of big sci-fi moments, so by grounding this epic war in interesting character pieces Hickman manages to give us one of the best issues of the series so far. While some issues still remain, such as the at times sluggish pacing with a lot of the “smart man” dialogue feeling like unnecessary padding (leading to this book costing a hefty $4.99 for a few extra pages) it’s nice to see Hickman invoke some character into the story, helping me feel more involved in the events as they occur.
While it’s nice to see some consistency in the art in the form of Stefano Caselli, I’m just not sure he’s the right fit for the book. I’m a big fan of his work and have liked him in the past on book like Amazing Spider-Man, however at times his often cartoonish art style seems a little conflicting with the very dark tone of the book. On the plus side, his pages towards the end manage to make the big, epic moments feel truly big and epic, ending the issue on a powerful note which is sure to have some big consequences in the remaining issues.
In conclusion, it truly feels like we’re heading towards something to remember in these final Avengers issues. I’ve put a lot of faith in Hickman though the course of his time on Avengers and I’m truly glad that it seems to have been worthwhile. He’s making some big splashes at the end of this run, and with Secret Wars looming on the horizon it seems that the long game he’s been playing is going to have been worth it.