Avengers #3 begins with a quick one-page recap for those hopping on board a little late for Marvel NOW!’s relaunch of the series. Reiterating the need for a larger team comprised of Earth’s mightiest heroes, issue #3 is a showcase for the team’s increasingly inclusive membership that’s now filled with more of Marvel’s superheroes, well-known and not.
Ex Machina’s unveiling of humanity’s replacement is interrupted as Captain America reaches the scene of his last defeat, a terraformed Mars location teeming with life. The Avengers, a much larger team now with its new additions, teleports behind him granting him support against the likes of Ex Machina, Aleph, Abyss, the mind-controlled Hulk, and Ex Machina’s created lifeforms. Captain America frees the holdover captives from the last battle, which escalates the battle until Captain Universe, in her newest incarnation, puts an end to the conflict with what could be one of the most anti-climactic sequences seen in comics this year.
It’s a head-scratching issue that, because of the story arc’s buildup, feels like an incredible letdown. After two issues of hearing Ex Machina revel in his world-changing plans, he and his sister Abyss suddenly lay down their arms at the mere presence of Captain Universe. And who is this new Captain Universe? Even those familiar with the various characters who’ve acted as the Uni-Power’s previous hosts may close the covers on this issue wondering if they missed something — the new host, the repeated and curious mentions of pie, and the character’s self-attribution (or revelation?) as a deity create a maelstrom of confusion with no immediate recourse.
If this isn’t issue #4 accidentally branded as #3, then it almost feels like Jonathan Hickman found out he had a three-issue limit on the story arc after he finished writing the second issue. Avengers #3 rushes to its conclusion like a runaway train crashing into a ditch absent some onboard passengers. The newly introduced trio led by Ex Machina looked like it had big plans, but for now, they’re relegated to a plot point justifying the Avengers new team makeup. Aleph’s inability to accept its new program gives Captain Universe an opportunity to blow something up, but it’s not satisfying because it just sort of happens.
By the issue’s end, it’s clear the air’s been let out of the tires, but it looks beautiful thanks to Jerome Opena’s artwork, which is at its best in this issue. Opena does action well, and his characters are easy to distinguish from each other which makes reading issue #3 easier. The colors by Dean White, Frank Martin, and Richard Isanove have a quality to them that makes colors pop without oversaturation. They’re almost muted, in a way, but the effect on Opena’s pencils make the illustrations look refined and polished.
Avengers #3 is a bittersweet issue where Tony Stark and Steve Rogers’ vision of a bigger team becomes reality as characters use their powers creating synergy and potential teamups between previously unrelated Marvel heroes. It ends with ominous foreshadowing, but some readers may be too preoccupied with unresolved questions and plot points that stick out but don’t really catch. On its own, it’s a solid issue, but in comparison to what preceded it, it just falls short as if its potential wasn’t realized.
Avengers #3 (2012)
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Words: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Jerome Opena
Colors: Dean White, Frank Martin, and Richard Isanove
Letters: Cory Petit