Finally free of re-establishing the divided factions of the Avengers since the “Eight Months Later” timeskip, “You Can’t Win: Part 1” gets right down to the ugly business of getting the band back together. Whether they like it or not.
While “Part 1” rightfully denotes copious amounts of word intensity that one expects from writer Jonathan Hickman, the set-up is punctuated along the way by formidable action sequences courtesy of Mike Deodato and color artist Frank Martin. Dialed in extremely tight for this month-long “crossover within the crossover”, the character drama elevates as well with the S.H.I.E.L.D. Avengers portrayed for the first time as anything other than cold fascists. Well, some of them anyway.
With a cast so large, it really is to Hickman’s credit that he balances twenty pages of script so well. Reed Richards may be the narrative POV of the issue but focus doesn’t rest solely with him as everybody gets some impactful face-time. Moreso than Reed, it is actually the words of his absent daughter, Valeria, that inform the events of “You Can’t Win”. The phrase itself stems from her urging her father and his on-the-run cohorts to instead find a way not to lose in their world-saving-at-all-costs endeavors. While serving as great philosophical meditation in life, it also works as an entertaining strategic exercise within the pages. Framed as it is, it’s hard not to begin winking as Reed’s return “lesson” has all the markings of a “Kirk rigged the Kobayashi-Maru Test”-type scenario written all over it. However, his opponent is the Marvel Universe’s greatest strategist, Steve Rogers. If there’s one thing a lifetime of reading comics has taught it’s that you never count Rogers out. As such, secret trump moves are sort of his thing and this may still prove the case. He can really use it too as he’s in desperate need of breaking out of this obsessively two-dimensional Ahab-esque track he’s been on since the flash forward era began.
Inadvertent or otherwise, the Star Trek nods persist to the crescendo as well. While the aforementioned is more a parallel of how one approaches a “no-win situation”, the issue’s final sequence is more a visual cue. Fraught with bridge shots of looming airships (some even decloaking!), there’s hailing frequencies being opened at comm stations and a hint of maverick swagger as Deodato fist-pumps it into the halfway point. It’s a bit curious, though, that his trademark larger-than-life dynamics only really spring in these establishing shots at the issue’s conclusion. Considering this issue features a Captain Marvel versus the Hulk showdown among other visual spectacles, the layouts all seem rather reined-in except at the end. There’s an amazing full page shot of the War Machine drones mobilizing for battle midway through but the actual high-octane fight choreography, comparatively, could have been far more over-the-top. Maybe he’s holding onto the really good stuff when “Part 2” hits in two weeks. As Hickman positions the Avengers on the road to next summer’s Secret Wars event, the outcome of the next chapter will be very telling indeed.
CBH Score: 4 out of 5
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