Review by Frank Plowright
Jason Aaron began his Avengers run seven volumes ago with a look at a superhero team existing a million years in the past, a time before humanity evolved, yet most having counterparts in the modern day Avengers. One of the exceptions was Phoenix, and her growth is addressed in the opening chapter, although without answering every question that arises. Still, it removes a little mystery as intended, and is nicely drawn by Dale Keown.
The title story picks up where The Age of Khoshu ended, and the celestial force known as Phoenix now nesting outside the Avengers HQ before settling on a new host. The Phoenix will choose, and it’s summoned an assortment of Earth’s heroes and villains to slug it out and determine a winner. While the plot at first seems it’ll be a replay of Starbrand Reborn, the difference is in the detail, and this is instead a replay of a far older story called Contest of Champions. Aaron has fun with the different match-ups, some short and comical, others longer and verbose, but there’s never a predictable outcome, no matter how obvious it may seem before any individual contest begins.
The bulk of the pages are drawn in his clear and dynamic style by Javier Garrón, who makes the most of the assorted battles. When he’s not on board the equally talented Luca Maresca matches his style impeccably.
It’s going to be an avid Marvel reader who knows every character Phoenix summons, and a downside is Aaron not making concessions for any other type of reader, but he doesn’t concentrate exclusively on the combatants. Some Avengers are discarded at the start, and they’re joined by some pretty smart and powerful people in attempting to find a way of at least edging Phoenix away from Earth. Multiple surprises occur, not least a major change to Thor’s background being dropped here rather than in his own title, and with a larger than usual cast to cope with, Aaron’s narrative captions capture everyone the way you want to hear them.
At the end of the day every superhero fan loves this sort of slugfest, wondering who’d win if Captain America fought Black Panther, and Aaron delivers it, even if the ending is rushed, although it comes with a neat epilogue. There’s also a bigger picture to be anticipated. Will it manifest in World War She-Hulk?