This week, Marvel’s mightiest heroes come face-to-face with an unstoppable cosmic force, as Avengers #40 kicks off the long-simmering “Enter the Phoenix” storyline! How will the Avengers fare against the Phoenix Force, which typically seems to favor possessing mutants to humans? And does the opening installment of the story make us want to come back for more?

We’ve got a review of Avengers #40, as well as a Rapid Rundown of other new Marvel releases, all ahead in the latest installment of The Marvel Rundown!

Avengers #40 Cover
Avengers #40

Avengers #40

Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Javier Garrón
Color Artist: David Curiel
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover Artist: Leinil Francis Yu & Marte Gracia

The current, Jason Aaron-helmed run of Avengers is one that I’ve dipped in and out of since it began in 2018. I haven’t disliked anything that I’ve read of the series, but it also hasn’t particularly grabbed me in a way that compelled me to keep reading regularly. The Phoenix force is a Marvel concept that I’ve always enjoyed in the past, so with the much-hyped “Enter the Phoenix” storyline beginning this week, I thought I’d check back in with Avengers to see what the title has up its sleeve for the cosmic force.

Avengers #40 Page 1Avengers #40 Page 2

As a jumping-on point, Avengers #40 is extremely accessible. The conceit seems fairly straight-forward, and any question about how our heroes ended up where they are are addressed by the helpful recap page. Aaron’s iterations of heroes like Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man hew very closely to their MCU counterparts, with Cap echoing a few of the more well-known lines of dialogue for the character from the movies. Structurally the issue works well, skipping back and forth between a heated (no pun intended) battle between Cap and Doctor Doom and the events that led up to the battle. The full context for the fight is still unclear by the time the issue is over, but enough information is presented that the reader can make an educated guess about what’s going on.

The majority of the issue is made up of fight scenes (both between Cap and Doom and, in flashback, between the Avengers and Namor and his Defenders of the Deep), and artists Javier Garrón and David Curiel deliver strong action sequences throughout. Garrón’s layouts are dynamic, and his figures have an energy to them that propels them across the across the page. The reveal of Cap’s new look (also designed by Garrón) on the fourth page is quite striking as both a heroic moment and a glimpse at just what Cap has to lose depending on the outcome of the battle. Curiel’s colors throughout are on-point, with a lot of fiery oranges throughout Cap and Doom’s battle, and ocean blues during the Avengers/Namor fight, all of which, combined with Cory Petit’s skillful lettering, clearly guide the reader’s eye through the intense battle sequences.

Avengers #40 Page 3
From Avengers #40

Avengers #40 is a really satisfying read. Aaron, Garrón, & co. craft an exciting and accessible first chapter to this latest Phoenix epic, and I’m glad I decided to jump back on to Avengers with this issue. It’s solid enough that I want to go back and catch up on the preceding issues, and I’ll definitely come back to see how the rest of this arc plays out.

Final verdict: Buy.

Avengers #40 Page 4
From Avengers #40

Rapid Rundown!

  • King in Black: Iron Man/Doctor Doom #1
    • So far, this is the best thing to come out of the King in Black event. Christopher Cantwell and his Doctor Doom collaborator Salvador Larroca weave a hilarious tale about a team-up between the titular characters as they deal with a pretty… unusual threat within a dead New York City. It’s as subversive and funny as you’d expect from Cantwell, and Larroca’s penchant for excellent masked character work shows itself here once again. I won’t say anything more about the plot since I’d rather preserve the weirdness of this issue, but rest assured, you can read this without having read the main event. Cantwell will fill you in on what you need to know. —HW
  • Power Pack #2
    • After a great first issue that largely had nothing to do with the current ‘Outlawed’ status quo of Marvel’s young heroes, I was a little concerned that the second issue would suffer a little when that element was brought into the story. How silly of me. Ryan North uses that status quo as a springboard for the Pack’s adventures going forward, as they first (beautifully, hilariously) extract themselves from CRADLE custody, and then go on the hunt for an adult mentor (I’m just saying, I bet Squirrel Girl would be a great mentor). Artists Nico Leon and Rachelle Rosenberg have these characters down, giving each member of the Pack physicality that perfectly mirrors their personality. This is such a fantastic series. —JG
  • Shang-Chi #4
    • Shang-Chi‘s penultimate issue helps regain some of the momentum lost in the second and third issues and leaves the miniseries in an exciting place for its grand finale. Between a clever retcon with Shang-Chi’s family legacy and further incorporating Chinese history into the MU at large, Gene Luen Yang‘s work in building up Shang-Chi’s corner of the Marvel Universe is deeply satisfying and successful. Dike Ruan‘s art on the main story continues to deliver, hopefully ensuring further high-profile work with Marvel down the line. Philip Tan‘s flashback art is slightly less successful but aided by Sebastian Cheng‘s soft color palette. An engaging issue that has me excited for January’s final act. —ZT
  • X-Men #16
    • Who knew that interpersonal drama between literal islands could be so entertaining. Jonathan Hickman and guest-artist Phil Noto unpack the political fallout of the X of Swords event as the Quiet Council of Krakoa tries to decide what to do with their new neighbors on Arrako. It’s largely talking heads throughout, but Noto presents them in a visually-interesting way, and the weight of the subject matter for the characters makes the whole thing feel very dramatic. Scott and Jean’s pronouncement at the end of the issue is also very exciting, and feels very Legion of Super-Heroes-y in an entertaining way. —JG

Next week, the Eternals return, and the High Republic era of Star Wars kicks off!