This issue marks the end of the first arc of this book, and also the first time the team actually gets together as a whole (and even then, Falcon and She-Hulk are absent) and is a hell of a lot of fun. Al Ewing has managed to effectively tell the story of a superhero team being created on the fly, as well as use as a crossover properly, and give us a good glimpse at who every character is.
This issue begins with a flashback that brings Power Man and White Tiger back into the mix, and shows us a lot more about these characters. Ewing fills us in on White Tiger’s back-story and how her brother was White Tiger before her, and we also learn that Power Man isn’t just a brash jerk, and that he has hidden depths. Then of course, Thanos’ invasion begins and shit is on. Back in the present. Shuma-Gorath is bursting out of the ground and ready to destroy the world. The Avengers are shocked, and unable to work out what to do. Luckily, Blue Marvel smashes through Shuma-Gorath’s eyeball and saves Luke Cage from imminent death.
The involvement of Shuma-Gorath is interesting here not only because he’s a terrifying Lovecraftian horror, but also because Spider-Hero, of all people knows a lot about him and how to stop him. Spider-Hero tells everyone else that what Blue Marvel smashed was just the physical manifestion, and that they also need to fight the astral version to win. Now, the true identity of who Spider-Hero is has been revealed online, but I don’t really want to spoil it, but the fact that he knows so much about magic and the horror side of the Marvel Universe is really interesting, appropriate for who he is, and, if I didn’t already know, it would have me going even crazier with speculation and confusion. To defeat Shuma-Gorath, the Avengers need to save Spectrum from whatever it was that Proxima Midnight did to her, and luckily, Blue Marvel’s powers allow him to do just that, and even better, thanks to him, Spectrum is now even more powerful than ever before. The nature of Blue Marvel’s powers is fascinating to me, I guess I’ll have to track down his initial mini-series.
The fight continues, and gets even worse as Shuma-Gorath starts possessing ordinary people and making tentacles come out of their mouths, which is… eww. To make things even more difficult, Ebony Maw manipulates Doctor Strange into casting a protection spell over the monster. I really love the scale of the threat Ewing has set up here, and what makes it even better is how he writes his way out of it, and how the team defeats Shuma Gorath in both physical and astral forms. The astral form is defeated by Power Man and White Tiger, as he channels his ‘Chi’ into her and allows her to transform into the Tiger God and attack him astrally, this was a great scene, and I think it’s where Greg Land actually came into his own. This is some crazy shit, but his photo-realistic art sold it well.
After this astral version is defeated, it’s fairly easy for Spectrum to beat the physical form. In the aftermath of the battle, Kat Grant asks Spectrum if this is a new team of Avengers, and she initially says no, but Luke Cage interrupts and says, yep, he’s putting the ‘Assemble’ out there and this is a new team.
This was a very enjoyable story, Ewing writes all of these characters really well, and there was a great sense of urgency to the whole thing, with these events taking place in about half an hour. I’m excited to see where this book goes, and hopefully to see Ewing establish what this group is about and for outside of an ad hoc, crisis situation. There are way too many Avengers books and this team needs a real reason to exist, I trust Ewing to come up with a good one. Although ‘because Luke Cage says so’ might just be good enough on it’s own.