If you’re tired of big comic book events, you may not have tried No Surrender and No Road Home. Both series, written by Mark Waid, Jim Zub, and Al Ewing, capture the scope of serial comic book storytelling in weekly 12 issue chapters. Neither event took over the entire Marvel line, but they certainly raised the stakes so high it was hard to put them down. Now collected in trade paperback format, Avengers: No Road Home is here to enjoy in one sitting.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
The team that brought you AVENGERS: NO SURRENDER re-unite for an all-new weekly AVENGERS adventure! Night has fallen across the universe. Now seven Avengers – and one new addition – journey forth to bring back the light. But when the threat they face has destroyed even the Gods…will anyone make it home?
Why does this matter?
This story arc deals heavily with Hercules and his fellow gods of Olympus essentially changing the status quo of these often underused characters and raising them up to be an important figure going forward. This series also features excellent art by Paco Medina and Sean Izaakse. I mean show stopper art, people!
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
I love the idea of this and No Surrender and how they take a handful of Avengers and thrust them into a side adventure most of the Marvel universe characters don’t know about. It still matters, but isn’t forcing you to buy tie-in after tie-in. This collected volume alone offers an epic ride of twists, turns, and surprising developments. The title of this collection is a hint at where it all starts as Hercules’ family on Olympus have all been vanquished. A villainous goddess named Nyx has shown up to enact revenge for being imprisoned.
It’s hard to read this series and not marvel and how good of a handle these three writers have on the characters. Hercules is the perfect amount of pompous yet endearing. Rocket Racoon is the perfect amount of sassy and grumpy. Every character that appears sounds like themselves, which means a lot to a longtime reader like myself. As the story unfolds we catch up with characters like Scarlet Witch and Hawkeye, helping to flesh out what the team will be once the characters realize the tragedy that has occurred. A major new addition to the Marvel universe in Conan the Barbarian also appears and his integration is about as fun as comics can get.
The creative team commits an entire chapter to Conan’s homeland in this collection, essentially telling a side tale and building up Conan and Scarlet Witch’s relationship. Scarlet Witch is blind and also trapped in Conan’s land, but has the aid of the barbarian. Writers Al Ewing, Jim Zub, and Mark Waid make this a fantasy tale that could only be told in a Conan comic thanks to dangerous cities, magic looming behind every shopkeep door, and the like. This issue succeeds largely because it steeps itself in Conan storytelling while also giving Scarlet Witch and Conan moments to bond and become allies. They may not fully trust each other, but the adventure they’re on is bringing them closer. By the end, it’s safe to say Conan’s inclusion into the Marvel universe via this series is a great one. They closed the book on something incredibly hard.
The series as a whole contains big twist, a villain that seems unstoppable, and some great teamwork. Being an Avengers book it’s good to see teamwork, or at least bonding, taking place throughout the collection. Added to this is how profound the book feels, especially in the last chapter. It is incredibly thought-provoking, especially for a longtime comic book reader. Vision is going up against Nyx in a fight for reality and he does so with words and a clear sense of vision. The basis of the story is about creativity coming from positivity, light, and ideas. Vision is basically facing off against a villain made of darkness and he combats her in the best of ways: positivity. Ewing, Zub, and Waid should be commended for making this book simple in its messaging, but complex at the same time.
Art is by Paco Medina, and it delivers on a style one would expect from a superhero comic. One element that’s striking is energy effects. I think it’s easy to forget how far coloring has come in comics as these effects by Jesus Aburtov have varying looks thanks to shading and use of translucency. This issue uses a lot of long panels that are a bit unusual but help create a dramatic effect that works. Medina draws five of the issues, Sean Izaakse draws four, and Carlo Barberi draws one. Together this team delivers on an event caliber story and great superhero storytelling.
— Sean Izaakse (@SeanIzaakse) April 26, 2019
Izaakse is the real deal and then some especially in the final chapter. From the opening that honors the art of comic book storytelling with panels coming into focus, sketches of the character, and then making him come to life in color, to some vivid eye-catching moments of Vision talking to the villain at hand, this book is filled with excellent collages of heroes filling the page, looking dynamic as hell, and bringing it to Nyx. There’s a double page splash of action, nods to the past, and incredible art. Bravo Izaakse. Color artist Marcio Menyz with Erick Arciniega do well to capture the bright colors of the superheroes on the pages and add nice depth where needed. Vision’s face comes to mind as an extra dynamic due to the colors.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
The story sort of drops you into the lives of the main players, but doesn’t give much context as far as when this takes place or why other heroes like Iron Man don’t show up. Speaking of the opening issue, the art is quite bright and positive, yet there’s some dark stuff that goes down. It takes away from the gravity of the situation and feels too positive when we’re supposed to feel like the world is ending.
Is it good?
I had a blast with this series and I simply can’t wait to see what Waid, Ewing, and Zub cook up next year. It’s a miniseries event format that works thanks to its ability to honor characters we love and push the needle as far as progress for a slice of the Marvel universe.