“The Final Host”
Writer: Jason Aaron
Pencils: Ed McGuinness
Inks: Mark Morales
Colors: David Curiel
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy’s Cory Petit
Cover artists: McGuinness & Morales (regular)/Aaron Kuder, Greg Land & Jay Leisten, and Esad Ribic (variants)
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $4.99 US
Here we go again — another relaunched title, coming on the heels of the temporary restoration of the original numbering. I took a peek at a couple of chapters of the “No Surrender” storyline that wrapped the previous Avengers titles, and it didn’t go much for me. When I heard Marvel planned another first-issue cash grab with this latest Avengers run, I figured I’d take a hard pass, but then I saw writer Jason Aaron and penciller Ed McGuinness were involved. McGuinness’s bright, cartoony style has an appealing old-school vibe to it, and Aaron has proven himself to be skilled when it comes to playing with Marvel’s cosmic concepts. This “debut issue,” such as it is, is a lot of fun and feels a bit like a Bronze Age Avengers epic. But at the same time, there’s a certain simplicity to it as well that’s in keeping with its throwback qualities, and ultimately, it doesn’t feel terribly inventive.
One million years ago, the Celestials first visited Earth, posing a potentially cataclysmic threat to the planet, but fortunately, there was a group of remarkable beings — Odin Borson, Lady Phoenix, original sorcerer supreme Agamotto, the Ghost Rider, the Iron Fist, the Starbrand and the Black Panther — there to greet the cosmic giants and oppose them. Today, another such event is about to unfold, and it comes just as Dr. Strange and T’Challa investigate the remnants of that prehistoric event and as Captain America, Iron Man and Thor reunite.
McGuinness’s bombastic, larger-than-life style is perfectly suited to super-heroes, so he was a great choice for this new Avengers. Given the trend of A-list mainstream comic artists to disappear a couple of issues into such stints, though, I’m concerned his presence won’t be felt for long on this title. Hopefully, that won’t come to pass, as he handles the huge, cosmic characters and concepts upon which this story is founded. I particularly enjoyed McGuiness’s work on Incredible Hulk years ago, so his depiction of the Hulk-like Starbrand from 1,000,000 years ago was quite pleasing. He also brought a lot of personality, bluster and scene-chewing charm to Odin in those scenes as well.
As the story shifted to the present day, though, I found McGuinness’s work to be a bit more restrained and less intense. It’s clear and capable and colorful, but at times, it almost looked like the work of another penciller. The bar scene featuring Cap, Tony and Thor often looked more like it had been rendered by Todd (Young Justice) Nauck, and while he’s a delightful, fun artist in his own right, I was here looking for McGuinness. I don’t know to what to attribute the slight deviation from his recognizable style. Perhaps his pencil lines didn’t mesh well with the inks of Mark Morales, but since that didn’t appear to be the case in the opening scene, I suspect it was something else.
Speaking of that Avengers “trinity” reunion scene, it felt rather forced and forgettable. I realize its purpose was to bridge the tumultuous events in the three characters’ recent history with this restoration to a more familiar status quo, but really, it felt unnecessary and ended up coming off as filler. That being said, I think overall the comic feels like it’s worth the stepper cover price of five bucks, given the extended opening scene with the prehistoric Avengers, the Strange/Panther team-up and the cosmic scope of the story.
I absolutely love the concept of the Prehistoric Avengers. It’s ridiculous, I know, and it’s simplistic, but it’s colorful and fun as well. The concept reminds me of Geoff Johns’s Lanterns of Many Colors, which arose in the lead-up to Blackest Night. That was such a simple but obvious idea that it really energized the Green Lantern brand. With these Avengers from 1,000,000 years ago, I love the dynamics among them, notably between Odin and Phoenix. This young, vibrant incarnation of Odin is a lot more fun than the stern, aged one with which readers are familiar.
The oddest choice for this new Avengers lineup is Robbie Reyes, the current Ghost Rider. It seems clear he’s here to mirror his prehistoric counterpart, but I suspect the character’s turn on TV in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. might have been a factor as well. It seems that any contribution he could make could be fulfilled by Dr. Strange, but it remains to be seen if he’ll fit in. I was pleased with She-Hulk’s appearance, but it seems Aaron has disregarded how her storyline resolved in her own recently cancelled title. That struck me as odd, given how he went out of his way to address recent continuity with the Cap/Tony/Thor scene.
The biggest liability of this comic is how apparent it is that outside influences are dictating its makeup. Coinciding with the release of Infinity War, Marvel clearly wanted an Avengers comic with a cosmic-level plot and with a cast of characters that reflects the popularity of the cinematic incarnations of its properties. Thor with short hair. Black Panther at the forefront. And Captain Marvel, who’s about to be introduced to the world in her own movie in 10 months (probably around the time the collected edition of this storyline will be available). Corporate concerns rarely lead to stronger, focused storytelling, and I worry the weight of other-media interests will hamper the storyline as it develops. 6/10