This is the first instalment of the Ultimate Graphic Novel collection that I was not aware existed in the past. Everything up to this point has been things I have either already read or had a passing knowledge of by reading about them online or just by simply reading other comics. (Marvel is good at tying any and everything into past events) So the idea of reading something fresh to me was exciting.
Avengers Forever Part 1 collects the first half of Kurt Busiek and Carlos Pacheco’s twelve issue tale of the Destiny War. A conflict with everyones favourite center of the universe character, Rick Jones, being the linchpin because apparently he is super important for humanity’s future. He is our destiny.
I will let that sink in for a second….
Rick Jones is humanity’s destiny…..
God help us all!
The story is exclusively focused on wibbly wobbly timey wimey…stuff even down to the team assembled to tackle the forces of Kang the Conqueror and Immortus. (They are the same guy at different points in time. It is a whole thing) Despite the confusing ground it treads (because, TIME TRAVEL IS CONFUSING!) the book actually ends up being an entertaining read.
- Captain America has been plucked just before the point he decided to become Nomad. Google it (actually DO NOT Google it! It will horrify you!)
- Hawkeye is from the end of the Kree-Skrull war on the cusp of ending being Goliath (DO NOT GOOGLE IT!) and returning to the Hawkeye identity we know and love.
- Songbird from the future where she has mended her ways and is a card carrying Avenger.
- Captain Marvel, also from the future and the son of the original Captain Marvel.
- Yellowjacket from when Hank Pym lost his marbles and thought he killed himself (DO NOT GOOGLE IT!)
- Finally The Wasp and Giant Man (a Hank Pym with his marbles!) are from the present of the time of original publication. Basically they are the level-headed members of the team.
This rather odd matching of time lost Avengers starts off unnecessarily confusing as everyone has to fill in their context for being the way they are, in fact these reasons are repeated ad nauseum over the length of the book. After a while though you become familiar with them and learn to quickly speed up your reading whenever you see someone talking about Yellowjacket being crazy.
Concern is also raised about the impact of the story on the wider Marvel Universe because of the nature of the book’s events and characters. With all the characters being pulled out of various points in time and most of the story happening outside of time there is the niggling feeling that it is all sort of pointless because at the end of the day you know by the end of Part 2 everything will be reset and everyone will more than likely have their memories erased. Despite this, the book remains a fun read. It is a big, stupid action epic. The conflict between Kang and Immortus gives Busiek and Pacheco a certain amount of freedom to do whatever the hell they want. So you have the book opening with an inter-galactic army of Avengers and mad concepts such as a giant sphinx being a time machine. We also get pictures of what has been and what could be with the typical dystopian war torn future being thrown in there for good measure.
Sadly in the second half of the book just as things start getting going, the team has to split up to explore different anomalies in the time stream. This leads to a blatant filler sub-plot that really breaks the pace of an otherwise good book. The team could easily be divided up into two teams rather than three. One dealing with the Nixon Skrull (yup Nixon….Skrull) and the Forgotten Avengers and the other with the war torn future featuring a very broody Black Panda. The Western set adventure even admits to itself that it is pointless and is pretty much wasting your time once the team of Hawkeye, Yellowjacket and Songbird find out their anomaly is just a past Kang being Kang.
Do not let all these negatives put you off however because like I said, I had fun reading this book. I am a fan of time travel stories and all the crazy they usually bring. Kang is one of my favourite Avengers villains and he is on top selfish form here as he basically forces the Avengers to ally with him. Carlos Pacheco’s art is big, bright and colourful, totally in fitting with this larger than life tale of a war across time. It is just with time travel stories as grand as this you cannot help but nitpick.
Avengers Forever Part 1 is made up of issues #1 to #6 of the 1998-1999 limited series. It is available digitally via the Comixology/Marvel Comics Digital websites and apps or in trade via Amazon and the Marvel Ultimate Graphic Novel Collection.