By Jonathan Hickman and Leinil Francis Yu
Infinity #5 saw our heroes defeat The Builders in a somewhat quizzical fashion, but that’s a topic for another review. Avengers #22 picks up right where Infinity left off, with our tired and bloody space soldiers preparing to make one more stand against the forces of Thanos. The Mad Titan has been attacking Earth for some time now, without our Avengers in space even knowing about it.
Avengers #22 is an issue primarily devoted to reflection. Of course, Hickman writes this theme beautifully. Captain America’s words are as inspiring and chilling as ever. Thor delivers an uplifting (and somewhat naïve) speech to Manifold, attempting to encourage the bewildered hero. Manifold’s misery stems from a war that seems never ending. The Avengers just fight and fight, only for another monster set on destroying the world/universe to appear. Hickman delivers this theme perfectly, presenting it as a crisis for the characters, as well as an analogy for modern superhero comics. Hickman once said that popular superhero stories are stuck in a perpetual second-act. Manifold’s desperation and panic is very symbolic of this.
Romance is also in the air. Cannonball and Smasher share a tender moment that’s written well, but falls a little flat. The scene clashes with the overall atmosphere of the issue. In a time where The Avengers are busy mourning, contemplating, and preparing, this little subplot does little to add to an extraordinary story.
Leinil Francis Yu does a stellar job of depicting the pain and heartbreak of the character’s experiences. You can see it in their facial expressions and in the cold darkness of outer space. Hickman often writes superheroes in an over-the-top Shakespearean method, so he needs an artist like Leinil Francis Yu to convey his flair for the dramatic.
Infinity and its Avengers/New Avengers tie-ins have been a great experience and this issue is no different. Even though there isn’t as much action and plot development, Hickman leaves us stirred with some brilliantly handled character moments. This is big event comics done right.