The end of Marvel’s Earth is upon us as we enter the final issue of Hickman’s Avengers. Will this book end on a satisfying note or will it fall flat in its attempts? Is it good?
Avengers #44 (Marvel Comics)
There’s a lot here to cover in the story summation, so I’m just going to skip that and get straight into the review this time around. Avengers #44 is a comic that has some good parts to it, some average parts to it, and some parts that are bad. As a lead in to Secret Wars? The comic does a good job setting things up that will lead into the upcoming big event (big cliffhanger, lots of unanswered questions, and other various components). However, as an ending to this series as a whole? It leaves a lot to be desired, honestly. So, let’s start from the top.
Focusing on the comic as a prologue to Secret Wars, it gets the job done. It sets up the stakes for the Marvel world with the end of everything happening around. We see how our “heroes” are reacting, from the S.H.I.E.L.D. Avengers to the Illuminati, and what they are planning to do with so little time left. We see the other Earth that our main universe is facing down in the last incursion, so the comic builds them up as well. Sure, there’s not really much emotion going on in the scenes since the comic is preoccupied with showing characters planning (you think that the potential end of their worlds would give way to parts where the characters express how they are feeling or show the intense drama/feeling of what they are going through, but none of that is apparently important), but from a story perspective, it lays down the groundwork for what we’ll be seeing in Secret Wars rather well. There’s potential for good hype here depending on how you been feeling towards this comic.
However, as an ending for this series, I would say that this is pretty poor. There’s no real sense of finality or closure to the comic at all. It’s very much like Futures End in the sense the comic reaches a point in the story where things have only gotten worse and the comic decides to just end right there. It’s rather disappointing and makes for a very unfulfilling experience if you were just to read this series alone. People insist that there is more to the story with Secret Wars coming and that the comic wasn’t really supposed to have an ending itself (though I’m extremely concerned that this event comic will not be able to wrap up everything in a satisfactory manner), but that’s not the point. I’m judging this comic by itself as a whole as I would with any other comic and in that light, it’s not satisfying.
Oh crap, Thanos’ face froze! Someone help that poor purple guy!
Thematically, pointlessness is probably the biggest key player in this comic. Nothing the characters can do at this point can stop the end of everything, so they’ve pretty much given up outside of maybe trying to rescue just a few people (what great superheroes). Almost the entire fleet of Gladiators is completely wiped out in a few pages, making their attempt to destroy the Earth and save the universe pointless (not to mention the whole plot point felt superfluous in the grand scheme). It’s revealed that Tony Stark had the feeling that everything the characters would be doing in this series would be pointless and wouldn’t be enough to stop the end of their world. Therefore, mind wiping Captain America, building bombs to destroy worlds, committing mass genocide, inadvertently creating the Cabal, and so much more… has been pointless. Some say that’s the point of the story (everything dies!), but does it really make for a story that’s good or even really matters, especially when superhero comics do have that tendency of just going on and on (the opposite of everything dies)?
But moving beyond that, what else is there to the issue itself? Character-wise, it’s still very limited and hollow. It’s limited in the sense that there’s not a whole lot of characterization or moments when the characters can be themselves. It’s hollow because the characters never express emotion or real opinions; everything they say is technical, something that is meant to sound profound (like the scene in White House with Black Panther) and/or plot related. You never feel the gravity of the situation from the people, since they themselves seem almost completely emotionless at points. The only people who have anything really character-focused or show emotions are Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, but it mostly just extends to them yelling at each other or beating the other up. It’s kind of empty and considering how long this whole bitterness has been going on, feels rather tired and played out except for the two punching each other (though that’s a bit tired as well with the whole hero versus hero thing at this point).
The only appearance of Smasher in the comic. Glad she contributed so much this series.
Then we get to the writing. The pacing is much better in this issue than in most of the series up until now and that’s mostly because there’s actually a lot happening. There are a lot of scenes that are very heavy on the story, which makes for a much more filling and meaty comic than usual. The dialogue is pretty much devoid of character and emotion (besides the opening and ending scenes with Steve and Tony) while indulging in a lot of discussions that are only plot related or where the characters try to sound profound and deep. The story structure is well put together, with no issues when it comes to transitioning between scenes or ever feeling like it’s hard to follow. There are areas of the writing that feel better than usual, even if it still has some faults to it.
The artwork is split between Stefano Caselli and Kev Walker. Stefano is the better artist of the two and does the best work in the issue, with characters are that are drawn pretty well in their musculature and body moments. Some women do look slightly lanky in areas and the facial reactions feel limited, but the character drawing by Stefano is good. The same goes with the tiny bit of action he gets the draw in the book, which looks rather epic in scale (the entire space fight and the attention to detail are wonderful). The layouts are well constructed and the coloring isn’t too bad. His work overall is pretty typical for superhero line work, but Stefano gets the job done well and I would say has a better showing here than in previous issues he drew.
Kev, on the other hand, has a far more cartoonish vibe to his work in areas with how characters look and emote in the book. This often leads to moments that don’t feel as serious as they could and make the characters look far stranger than they usually look (see Captain Universe’s appearance in the book) with goofy expressions and off looking fighting. It gets worse as it continues on in later parts of the book though, since the penciling seems to degrade in quality. Musculature looks very unrealistic or odd (like Steve’s head at one point being too small for his body), people bend in ways they shouldn’t, the inking and coloring look off in certain pages, and the lack of backgrounds become more apparent. Honestly, I think someone who fit the more serious tone would have been a better for the comic.
Is It Good?
Avengers #44 is a comic that I am very mixed on. On one hand, as a prologue to Secret Wars, it does a pretty solid job building things up and leading into it. There are improvements to the writing in some areas, like the pacing most noticeably. But on the other hand, the issue is a very poor finale for this series as a whole and it lacks in a lot of drama. This is the end of the world as the characters know it, but there’s so little passion, emotion, or feelings here that it doesn’t do a good enough job of making you feel the desperation and horror everyone should be experiencing. As such, it’s hard to really give this a strong recommendation (or even condemnation) in the end. All I can say is that if you made it this far, you might as well read the issue regardless.
A comic like Avengers #44 that ends a 77-issue run is bound to be divisive. Check out Robert’s Second Opinion review of the issue.