This week, a new team of Avengers from across the multiverse starts to take shape with the debut of Avengers Forever! Does the debut of the next epic for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes deliver?

We’ve got a review of Avengers Forever #1, along with a Rapid Rundown of other noteworthy new Marvel releases for the week, all ahead in the latest installment of The Marvel Rundown!

Avengers Forever #1

Writer: Jason Aaron
Penciller: Aaron Kuder
Inker: Cam Smith
Colorists: Jason Keith and Tríona Farrell
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover Artists: Aaron Kuder & Jason Keith

I’m a sucker for a multiverse story. Always have been. The past few years have been a great time for them, too, between comics, movies, and TV shows. When Avengers Forever was announced as a series bringing together Earth’s Mightiest Heroes from multiple Earths, I was pretty instantly onboard. Jason Aaron and Aaron Kuder (henceforth, Jason Aaron Kuder) are top-notch creators, and the Marvel multiverse is one that I’m less familiar with than the one over at the Distinguished Competition, so I was excited to explore it and see what it has to offer. Unfortunately the first issue of the series left me somewhat wanting.

There are some standard tropes to a multiverse story that are on full display in Avengers Forever #1, for good or ill. Namely I’m talking about the introduction of an alternate universe version of a familiar character, and the teasing out of what’s similar and what’s different about them. In this instance we get an alternate Tony Stark, who on Earth-818 is Ant-Man, not Iron Man (though he does team with an iron ant nicknamed Shellhead, which is fun). The concept is solid, and its explanation in the context of the story makes a lot of sense.

However, there’s a delicate balance to be struck in executing this trope – in my opinion, anyway – between keeping the core aspects of the character intact while still switching things up in an interesting way that makes readers want to learn more, and without over-explaining the changes to an overly cutesy, Geoff Johns-ian degree. It’s that last bit that I think Aaron falls victim to, telling readers every detail of Tony’s Ant-Man origin, leaving very little to the imagination to fill in or speculate on. It’s frankly a bummer to have it all laid out as plainly as Aaron does it, and it takes away some of what’s fun about reading a multiverse story. It’s a tough balance to strike, and having to do it in the opening pages of an event series, and in a way that also introduces an entirely new world, is a tough task that I’m not sure this Tony Stark Ant-Man is up for.

(Speaking of things being overly cutesy, the title of this issue is “Where ‘Hope’ is a Four-Letter Word,” and there’s no way to get around talking about the fact that residents of Earth-818 literally use ‘hope’ as a curse word. Multiple times, as an all-purpose stand-in for normal profanity. It’s cringe-worthy the first time, and it only becomes more-so as it continues to happen. Admittedly, that little detail certainly didn’t help things.)

The issue truly comes to life in the second half, though, as Earth-616’s Ghost Rider and Deathlok take the focus for an extended sequence that’s high-energy and more than a little Fury Road-esque in the best way. Aaron Kuder, inker Cam Smith, and colorists Jason Keith and Tríona Farrell do great work throughout the entire issue, but it’s during this sequence, Robbie Reyes’s flaming Hell Charger tearing across a barren landscape, War Machine drones in pursuit, that the visuals take center stage and the issue’s pace picks up. Ghost Rider and Deathlok are poised to play a pivotal role in this series and its overlap with the ongoing Avengers series, and they’re clearly the stars of this first issue, so fingers crossed that that bodes well for the rest of the series.

Avengers Forever has all the potential that a multiverse contains, but unfortunately its debut issue was a fairly by-the-numbers affair, with some lackluster writing throughout, though the whole thing is buoyed by fantastic artwork. Ideally now that the opening chapter is out of the way things with the new characters will improve, though if there are more earths with more alternate versions of familiar heroes yet to be introduced, and they’re all presented as clunkily and over-written as Tony ‘Ant-Man’ Stark’s intro here is, this series might end up just being a slog. The trio of returning characters in the final pages of the issue do offer some hope (in a good way, not in a ‘swearing’ way.)

Final Verdict: Browse, but mainly for the great artwork.

Rapid Rundown!

  • Avengers #51
    • Following that pretty awesome anniversary issue earlier this month, we’re finally diving into the first confrontation between the Avengers and the Masters of Evil. Like most issues of this run, it doesn’t feel as epic as advertised, but is frankly still readable and fun enough to make it feel worth it. Juan Frigeri is a great addition to the series following his work on Guardians of the Galaxy this year, providing great character moments and big action that one would expect from this series. Again, it doesn’t feel as no-holds-barred as the previous issue since the rest of the Masters of Evil will be off fighting the rest of the Avengers in the next issue; it doesn’t feel as life-and-death as was promised, and that’s a shame. —HW
  • King Conan #1
    •  I’ve never been a Conan guy, but Jason Aaron and Mahmud Asrar’s twelve issue run felt like a definitive take on the character, one that weaves his past, present, and future into one full story. This new series was announced a while back but experienced a hell of a delay due to things you don’t need me to tell you, and I’m glad it’s finally here. There’s just nothing like an Aaron-written Conan story. The writing is juicy and Asrar’s art is impressive, with him even colouring a few pages here that highlight big events in Conan’s life. This is apparently only a six-issue miniseries, so I’m going to savour every second of this team’s farewell to the character. —HW 
  • Ms. Marvel: Beyond the Limit #1
    • Everyone’s heading into the multiverse, and why should Ms. Marvel be any exception? The superhero with the power to embiggen headlines another title, and this one features a heck of a hook: after an experiment being conducted by her cousin in Chicago goes awry, Kamala Khan finds herself embroiled in what appears to be a Bollywood musical – complete with songs, costumes, and inexplicable special effects. This issue does take its time getting to the main event, but when it arrives, its well worth the wait (which can also be said for this slightly-delayed first issue). The script by Samira Ahmed is intriguing and filled with potential, and in this first issue alone, Andrés Genolet and Tríona Farrell get the opportunity to show off multiple incredible costumes for Kamala. Rounding out the team is the always-excellent Joe Caramagna, whose lettering goes just as hard as it needs to in order to convey that the characters have broken into song. Move over, Rogers: there’s a new Marvel musical in town! —AJK

Next week, the future of the Marvel Universe begins in the Timeless one-shot!