I Am Afraid: Kang War IV Begins - Avengers #4 (Review)
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Mike Del Mundo
Color Artists: Mike Del Mundo & Marco D'Alfonso
Letterrer: Cory Petit
It's Kang's turn. Galactus has been neutralized as a threat. Thanos is in chains; en route to jail at the hands of the Shi'ar Imperial Guard and their Praetor. One by one, this winter, the greatest villains of Marvel are being delivered unto the hands of justice. It's Kang's turn. This is war. Kang War IV.
Alex Ross does not do covers for chump issues. When I saw that he was doing this cover, that was my tip-off that something major was going down. Acting independently, the Vision previously tried to close the circle of time on Kang, abducting him from the future as a babe. This spawned additional Kang's throughout the time stream, and they all came for the Avengers to settle the score. Helpless to do anything to make the Kangs stand down other than to undo the Vision's actions, the team restored the timeline. And then Captain American Sam Wilson came up with a new plan. And here begins our story.
You don't get much better at story-telling than Mark Waid. And he is out this issue in force, with a softly toned tale of Kang's origin. Much like the treatment that Galactus and Thanos have received, Kang is presented first and foremost as a man, before he is presented as the villain. Obsessed with building a forbidden time machine, Kang creates a tool that allows him to emerge as the quintessential Marvel super-villain. But then he sees his own death. At some point in the time-stream where he can choose to live past it, or prevent it from occurring. Kang puts hidden drop-boxes for himself around the planet, and likely other locations throughout the galaxy, in an effort to perpetuate his own immortality. But he senses the Avengers coming. He tries to shrug off the fear. But the actions of the team render him fearful as a massive squad of Avengers shows up at the end. Waid's story allows us to see Kang as a being defined by more than the suit and mask that he wears. The story is told with an elegant tongue that few writers can pull off. The only knock on the story of this issue is that nothing much happens. Waid tells us the lore of Kang, the Avengers show up, and the issue closes out. The book, in fact, is only 16 pages in digital format. But much like the recent Batman: I Am Suicide part 4 story that was told, which was of the same length, those 16 pages do more than a lot of other writers can accomplish in 22.
As was the case with last week's Best Thing I Read, the real story here is the art of Del Mundo and D'Alfonso. I am not sure how Del Mundo pulls off his classic depth of field imagery, but he is back at it again, with blurry foregrounds and sharply in focus backgrounds. The texture of the color in this issue is very matte, and it makes it feel like a vintage comic. Del Mundo uses a ton of horizontal one-panel pages in this issue. It feels a lot like the JH Williamson III take on Batwoman from the first issues of her New 52 run. It's breathtaking. The colors as Kang's weapons arsenal is dissolved before his very eyes is amazing. It's a remarkable bit of storytelling through art and makes this issue ever more special from beginning to end.
This issue is a buildup to an arc that may very well go down as one of the seminal tales if this book maintains this level of quality. I backed off scoring it higher; as it is, this is a pretty standard bridge issue to kick off a new arc. While it is told with just brilliant craft in both the writing and the art, the events of the issue are pretty much the norm. Regardless, I am definitely adding this to my recurring pull-list. Avengers #4 was a great story to read as my opener for this week. Can't wait for more.
SCORE: 8.0 / 10.0
Grab yer backpacks, kids. It's time to go to school. Del Mundo and D'Alfonso are at the chalkboard showing everyone how it's supposed to be done. While nothing much happens in this issue, exquisite craft in story-telling is on display, providing a clear and present danger that the subsequent issues are ensured to be some of the greatest Avengers tales ever told.