In the penultimate chapter of this volume of The Avengers’ opening arc, Mark Waid begins to weave together many of the ideas he has played with throughout this story and brings back some ideas from his earlier All-New, All-Different Avengers. After last month’s quieter, character-focused issue, this issue explodes with action, rushing towards the story’s final conclusion. Last issue’s sweeping, epic retelling of Kang’s story was just the calm before the proverbial storm as Avengers #5 races towards the ultimate confrontation between the Avengers and Kang.
In the conclusion of the last issue, we saw how The Avengers turned the table on Kang by assembling a team from different points in the team’s history. By bringing the whole of Avengers history into play, Waid gets to make use of subtle points of Avengers trivia, particularly with the founding Avengers. Waid and del Mundo’s Avengers already owes so much tonally to that original Lee-Kirby run that seeing them working with the founding Avengers characters is a lot of fun. Waid is a writer who appears to love the history of comics, and in this issue, he gives a sense of the whole history of the team.
Bringing together various generations of Avengers turns out to be a more than just a reversal of the army of Kangs from earlier in the series. It opens up the opportunity for an interesting exploration of the team’s history. The potential issues with time travel are mostly played lightheartedly in this story: there are jokes about time paradoxes and “spoiler warnings” for different characters’ futures. It is easy to forget that, in the context of the Marvel Universe sliding time scale, the difference between the founding Avengers and the current team is only a matter of a few years, not the fifty since Marvel first published the book.
It is a bit odd when you consider that, while for the reader, we are seeing the founding 60s team with the 80s team, from the characters’ perspective, they are teaming with themselves five or so years down the road. Yet, from the reader’s perspective, there is a real sense of the team’s legacy playing out here. It reads as a love letter to the history of the Avengers.
In past issues of this run, I have remarked on how well Waid focuses on a small team or even narrowing his narrative focus on just one character. This issue bucks that trend but maintains the quality. Waid has doubled or tripled the team size for an issue. Instead of one or a few characters, the focus of the story becomes the task at hand, with the various characters involved playing their part in the rush towards the arc’s conclusion. The urgency of the conflict gives the narrative focus, so we get to see the personality of the characters in how they react to the conflict.
Waid does a good job at balancing the many different characters he has to work with here. He not only has a team dynamic but different teams across time. Perhaps because I am a Spider-Man fan, a writer’s treatment of Spider-Man in a team is often my indicator for how well a writer is staying true to the different characters’ individual voices and attributes. Writers often reduce Spider-Man to the comic relief, ignoring all of the aspects the character brings. Waid does play up Spidey’s chattiness to comedic effect, but he also features Spider-Man’s scientific expertise that has become such a central part of Slott-era Spidey.
As always, the work from the art team astounds. Whereas the last issue told a character history through epic, giant-sized full-page spreads, this issue has a lot of action to convey. Del Mundo keeps the artwork interesting and even pulls out a few surprises, such as the stylized version of the team’s catchphrase. The faces are a bit cartoonish, particularly when taking a hit, so it is good that he does not leave them sitting around too much. Even in scenes where the characters are just discussing strategy, everything always feels in motion, hyper-kinetic.
Avengers #5 maintains the epic, fun-filled blockbuster feeling that has characterized this volume thus far. Waid knows when to pump the brakes and when to hit the accelerator so that a six-issue arc does not feel tiresome by the time it nears its conclusion. In this issue, he’s floored the gas and takes the reader on an exhilarating ride. When one of the industry’s top creators takes the helm of one of Marvel’s flagship teams, this is what should result. If you haven’t gotten on board, now is as good a time as any to jump on board this moving vehicle.