Iron Man and Captain America form a new team of Avengers in the first instalment of Jonathan Hickman’s run

(Panini Books)

WHEN the Avengers first assembled, the threats they faced were invariably the targeted machinations of supervillains of all persuasions, and nothing an alliance between the likes of Thor, Iron Man and Captain America couldn’t deal with.

But as time progressed and the team expanded its ranks, the scale of the conflicts they faced also grew in size, with homicidal robots, reality-warping man-gods, time-travelling dictators and alien invasion forces becoming par for the course.

Now the stakes have been raised once again, and new menaces require a new style of Avengers. As a result, Steve Rogers and Tony Stark resolve to shape an “Avengers World” which sees the recruitment of additional members including Hyperion, Smasher, Captain Universe and former New Mutants Cannonball and Sunspot, drawing on a wide pool of superpowered talent to tackle even bigger challenges.

Strange things are happening on the surface of Mars, as a trio of ancient and all-powerful World Engineers arrive with the intention of reshaping the Earth as a utopia bereft of human life. But as the Avengers strive to defeat Ex Nihilo and his allies, they begin to realise that this is just the first stage in a bigger plot, as the consequences of “origin bombs” fired at the Earth begin to be revealed. What is the White Event, and how will it change the world as we know it forever?

Writer Jonathan Hickman comes to the Avengers following a momentous run on the Fantastic Four, and in the wake of the decade-long run of Brian Michael Bendis decides to do something completely different, planting the roots of a mammoth cosmic epic which will play out over the next few years.

Part of his vision includes bringing some of the elements of Marvel’s late-eighties New Universe across to the mainstream, but instead of merely tapping into whatever sense of nostalgia surrounds that failed project, he enrichens these ideas and uses them as a template for his overarching narrative.

This is by no means a simple read, unlike Bendis’ dialogue-heavy stories, and offers a depth and breadth to the Avengers franchise which will have implications for other Marvel books as well. Quite where Hickman is going with the concepts and characters introduced here will not become clear for sometime to come, but don’t let that put you off getting on at the ground floor for what could realistically be one of the greatest Avengers stories of all time.