“Cages”, the latest New Avengers comic, serves as an integral puzzle piece to writer Jonathan Hickman’s near-literal Marvel epic to end all epics. Not only does it re-establish key characters as the story skips ahead “Eight Months Later” but it also makes several subtle nods toward how the upcoming Secret Wars endgame may ultimately present itself.
To say that it’s an interesting time right now in the Marvel Universe would be an understatement at best. However, it’s perhaps not the most accessible point to jump in as a first-timer, to which this issue certainly attests. For the casual reader, this issue will raise more questions than grant illumination. For those who have been in it for the long game, there’s quite a bit to sink into. In terms of the week-to-week release calendar, though, it is the exact polar opposite of the Tony Stark from just seven days ago. Without being too spoiler-specific to how the still-unfolding event series Avengers & X-Men: Axis resolves, Hickman’s fast-forwarded tale finds Iron Man far from his self-serving capitalistic paradise and instead the all-but-broken centerpiece of a rivetingly angsty talking head-fest.
Aside from a brief flashback (forward?) allusion, the issue is rather action un-intensive. However, artist Kev Walker excels in handling the gripping character drama. Although not as emotionally urgent as some of his previous story pages since coming on board, there’s still always something about his work that just penetrates to the proverbial core- primally carving away at some inherent realism. In this issue, he invokes maybe the rawest Tony Stark to be seen since the modern-day milestone Civil War: The Confession. Helping cement a certain “classicism”, veteran Scott Hanna assists on inks as Walker takes his turn on some of this volume’s recurring “cinematographic” layout motifs. Either way, he draws delightfully distinct chins and jawlines and the constant refinement of his craft is indeed welcoming on an ongoing basis.
Since the inception of the run, New Avengers has been a relative misnomer as there is little to do with the actual “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” superteam franchise in and of itself. More to the point, it’s the name assigned the portion of Hickman’s narrative pertaining to a self-policing think-tank being decidedly un-Avenger-y. Many just happen to have been at one point or another card-carrying, with Stark being the only current commonality.
All of this being said, considering who visits imprisoned Anthony and the overall tone of the issue’s central conversation, it may have served equally well as a chapter of the adjectiveless core Avengers title. As a related aside, this week’s issue of Avengers also functions as a fantastic companion update to the “where are they now” scorecard. It also features a faction of New Avengers, as denoted in the “Cast” page. Slight irony aside, it does suggest that maybe Hickman has too much story for the average twenty-page delivery system to accomodate. It’s not a bad thing by any means but if this persists, one must wonder how pacing will progress as the sprawling epic funnels into a singular event series by Summer 2015.
CBH Score: 4 out of 5
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