Since clearly there weren’t enough Avengers titles on stands, Marvel launched Avengers World as part of the All-New Marvel NOW! initiative in the wake of Infinity. The premise is that the Avengers are officially partnering with S.H.I.E.L.D. again to fight bad guys. Avengers writer Jonathan Hickman teamed up with Nick Spencer to start things off with Stefano Caselli on art (so of course it looks amazing). In and of itself, it’s a solid premise with a great creative team and an enormous cast of characters to pull from. What could possibly go wrong?
First off, let me to go on record as saying that most issues of Avengers World are pretty great. The problem is with the overall presentation of the series. In the very first issue, Captain America and S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Maria Hill identified three major trouble spots around the globe (or maybe it was four… This is part of the problem). Avengers squads were dispatched to each location to deal with the disturbances. The teams were all well assembled and the threats were entertaining (except for maybe the A.I.M. plot since the Avengers were fighting A.I.M. in like 37 other series at the time). It didn’t start to go bad until I started forgetting what was going on with some of the stories. And of course I was forgetting. It’s tough to remember a cliffhanger months after you read it.
After the first issue put all the teams together, subsequent issues focused on just one of the teams and their respective mission. A lot of pieces were set in motion and then went a long time without getting any page time. This month’s issue 9 is a perfect example of everything wrong with this series. It’s a great issue. Sunspot and Cannonball are awesome together. They’re my favorite “buddy cops” in comics. This issue sees them sent into the future to stop A.I.M. scientists from sending advanced tech back to the beekeepers of today. When the issue starts, they’re in hospital gowns, and I couldn’t begin to tell you why. It was months ago that we last saw these two because the last several issues have been about the City of the Dead, whatever the hell Shang Chi is fighting Gorgon for, and maybe a third thing because I can’t remember what the hell is going on with everyone in this book. Even worse, after I enjoyed the hell out of this issue, I got super bummed because I know it’s going to be a painfully long time before I get any more of Sunspot and Cannonball’s Excellent Adventure. That sucks.
Avengers World is really good. It’s not wrapped up in the bigger goings on in the Marvel U, so it should be the most accessible of the Avengers titles right now. The problem is all in the execution. If the plan was to showcase the huge roster and wide scope of threats the Avengers face, there are really only two ways to do that.
- Show a new team for every story arc (3-4 issues each) and hop around the world with a revolving cast of heroes and villains.
- Show every team in action for a few pages in every issue, making the book an anthology series of sorts.
As-is, Avengers World is really hard to follow. It’s good, but it’s too hard to keep tabs on everyone when the action and cast are spread out so far. The reading experience will be infinitely more enjoyable once this jumbled first “arc” is over. Take the issues you have and rearrange them in an order that actually has a narrative flow and you’ll be golden. In the meantime, take notes or be prepared to go back and figure out what’s what. Otherwise, you’ll be really confused the next time a group of British heroes shows up.