Heroes Reborn #1 Review

by Charles Martin on May 05, 2021

Heroes Reborn #1 Review
Writer: Jason Aaron
Penciller: Ed McGuinness
Inker: Mark Morales
Colourist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Bear with me here. I am reviewing Heroes Reborn #1. But I can't do that without talking about Jason Aaron's Avengers. I'll keep it as brief as I can.

I started out optimistic about the current volume of the Avengers. Then I got disappointed, then I got bored. Then I started enjoying it again, but in a contemptuous "Mystery Science Theater" way that I doubt the creators would appreciate. 

In the Avengers, the world was always in imminent cosmic danger. But it never seemed to matter. It barely mattered within the title and it didn't matter at all to the rest of the Marvel universe, which ignored Celestial invasions and vampire wars and Khonshu conquering the Earth and all the rest of it.

Those crises hardly seemed to matter to the heroes, either. The team was staffed with flat, cinematic renditions of Marvel's a-list. They sassed each other constantly (sometimes cleverly), saved the world in over-the-top ways, ignored any developments being done in their solo titles, and, frankly, did little but wait to react to the next crisis. 

I found that lack of agency immensely frustrating. So I'm cautiously optimistic to see that the premise of Heroes Reborn seems aimed straight at the "passive Avengers" problem.

These Avengers don't have any real impact on the Marvel universe. Well … what if they were deleted from it?

The world is … changed. Better? Worse? Definitely different. Earth's mightiest heroes are the Squadron Supreme of America, working for President Coulson and tackling an onslaught of different mashup supervillains. 

There never were Avengers. The people who should be Avengers are here, but … lesser. Tony Stark's a weapons tycoon. Carol Danvers is an insubordinate fighter jock. Thor (wait, does he call himself Thor?) is a self-pitying drunk.

But somebody shares our awareness of this world's wrongness. Blade is on the case, piecing together the puzzle and surveying this world's non-Avengers. 

Blade's detective work develops at a brisk pace. The chronology is wonky, but the scene order makes sense from a narrative perspective. Blade has time for a visit or at least a line for all of the non-Avengers as his investigation builds up a good plot.

He also has time to confront Nighthawk, a move that may end up doing more harm than good by tipping his hand to the Squadron.

Bold, speedy world-building has never been a problem for Jason Aaron, and he does a great job of it here. The shape of the Avengerless world is sketched out in fast, confident strokes.

Speed and confidence are not always assets, though. Mr. Aaron also uses the broadest of brushes to introduce his villains, stuffing their dialogue with corny scenery-chewing. It makes them sound immediately, classically villainous. It's also, in my opinion, boring. 

But the author's good plotting work (and the more grounded voice he creates for Blade) reassure me that the cheesiness of the bad guys is a put-on. I may disagree with how far past the top Mr. Aaron takes it, but it's clear he's doing it intentionally.

On the visual front, Ed McGuinness is doing his Ed McGuinness thing in an almost completely positive way. His big, burly characters fill the panels to bursting, but he makes space for critical background details where they're most needed. He has a solid rein on the flow of the story and keeps it moving logically from panel to panel.

His artistic teammates are also on point. Mark Morales lays in heavy but skillful inks that reinforce the strength of the art while leaving plenty of space for Matthew Wilson's colours. Those colours do heavy lifting, making the settings real and putting the vibrant finishing touches on the characters. 

Is it as much of a treat as I think it is to colour a crazy rainbow-zapping hero like Dr. Spectrum? Or is it more of a headache-inducing challenge? Either way, Mr. Wilson does great with it here.

The visual aspect of this issue that disappoints me slightly is the paucity of AU design tweaks. In an alternate universe situation, people can -- should -- look different. But this issue's few design changes all go to the mashup villains. (And there's not even enough for all of the baddies; Doc Spectrum's opponent sports a straight 616 look.) Everybody else looks exactly the way they did the last time Mr. McGuinness drew the Avengers, barring some incidental clothes changes.

Back to the big picture. "What would the Marvel universe look like without the Avengers" is a meaty, evergreen premise. But this event isn't exploring it in a vacuum; it has to qualify that premise as "What would the Marvel universe look like without Jason Aaron's Avengers?" 

And the problem is, we're already pretty clear on that because the Avengers and the rest of the Marvel universe have been living in nigh-separate bubbles for two and a half years now. 

Will this event change that? Can those bubbles get back together and make it feel like the Avengers are part of a shared universe again? I truly hope so.

Cautious optimism is the rule of the day when Blade finds himself in an Avengers-free version of the Marvel universe. He wastes no time sinking his teeth into the mystery of the missing heroes, and the Squadron Supreme can handle the usual cavalcade of over-the-top villainy. The verbal and visual storytelling is strong, and the possibility that this event can steer the Avengers back into communion with the rest of Marvel is too good to resist. This is a story worth following -- cautiously.

Our Score:


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Charles Martin's picture
Most of the villain mashups don't interest me. Gimme more Silver Witch right now, though, please!