Review: AVENGERS #44

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AVENGERS #44
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Stefano Caselli, Kev Walker
Published by Marvel Comics
Release Date: April 29, 2015

…and all things must come to an end.

Hickman’s epic Avengers run, and arguably parts of his Fantastic Four run and time in the Ultimate Universe has been leading to this point. The point where everything comes down to two universes. One last incursion. The point where everything explodes in mayhem.

And the point where two “brothers” have it out…possibly one last time.

Yes, Avengers #44 is the launch point for Secret Wars but it is also the bookend to stories Hickman started in issue #1 of Avengers and early on in New Avengers. This isn’t the time to walk into this series, but readers who have been along for the ride and have been waiting for punches to be thrown since Civil War will be satisfied by what they find here. Much of the rest of the story is preparation for the end, as the 616 Reed Richards and the Ultimate U Reed Richards go about planning for survival. Their methods are slightly different, and I can say there is one hell of a battle brewing for Secret Wars. Hickman has crafted this series well and while this final issue felt like it may be stalling at some points, the finale did not disappoint and I am more intrigued by Secret Wars than I have been previously. Avengers #44 is a launch point for the big event that will be taking Marvel over very soon, and some readers may be disappointed by the lack of true conclusion here. In a sense, it feels like Secret Wars will be issue #45 of Avengers, where perhaps questions about the mayhem occurring at the end of the issue may start to be answered.

This issue is well scripted, and plays heavily on the relationship between Steve and Tony. These icons, and their relationship, is known across multiple mediums now, and Hickman writes the tension well. While Steve may be older and not a super soldier anymore, the iron spirit is there and he clashes with the “Superior” Tony very well. There is power in their words as they take barbs at one another and I was impressed by how well Hickman balanced their very personal conflict while there are universes colliding around them. This laser focus on a single conflict makes the madness occurring on the macro scale all that much larger when Hickman pans back out and it is a well executed storytelling tactic. There are some well written callbacks to the beginning of his Avengers run in this issue and he has certainly set the board nicely for Secret Wars.

Stefano Caselli and Kev Walker are tasked with bringing this volume of Avengers home and they execute their tasks well. Walker handles much of the conflict between Steve and Tony while Caselli handles the other storyline and they both provide strong work in this issue. Walker’s pencils are looser than Caselli’s, but considering the story he is tasked with telling, it works. His story is much more raw, more emotional, and he delivers. Caselli’s crisp, photo-realistic work is as good as ever and he is further cemented as one of my favourite artists in comics. There are several jaw dropping grand moments in this issue and this duo is certainly up to the challenge. It’s a damn good looking comic and the story flips between the two artists in logical ways that do not disrupt flow too badly.

Avengers #44 brings the volume to a close with a bang and acts as quite the prologue for Secret Wars. While it isn’t possible to say that Hickman’s work on Avengers is really done as this series will rely on Secret Wars to provide an actual conclusion, I can definitely say this Avengers volume closes as large in scope as Hickman began it. There are parts of the issue that feel a bit drawn out for the sake of fleshing out the scope of this event, but overall it is a well crafted comic. This is a big picture book and the flagship of the Marvel Universe, and I am more excited for Secret Wars than I have ever been. Bring on the mayhem, Hickman. I’m ready.

The Verdict: 8.5/10

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