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“A-Next” #11

By | August 20th, 2022
Posted in Reviews | % Comments

The late nineties of superhero comics have always been such a fascinating wild west to me. I know so little about this period that is building off the industry’s most significant recession. With so few eyes drawn to it, it’s ripe for uncovering fascinating hidden gems or unreadable stinkers. This year I’ve dug up the series and burgeoning franchise “A-Next” to sink my teeth into. Which category will this spinoff-of-a-spinoff fall in? Let’s find out together, dear readers!

A-Next #11
Scripted by Tom DeFalco
Plotted and Illustrated by Ron Frenz
Finished by Al Milgrom
Colored by Bob Sharen
Lettered by Jim Novak

The interdimensional excursion rages on in this issue as we start to find out a little more about the Thunder Guard. DeFalco is smarty in fleshing this side out so that they feel like genuine threats than simply palette-swapped throwaways. We see a Thor analogue who is named Donar, which is the High German name for Thor I found out after a quick google, which works on an extra little level if we see these villains as Neo Nazis. Frenz and Milgrom render him with a suitably imposing height, towering above the rest of the heroes, including Thunderstrike. This Donar feels like the Darth Vader of this narrative too, as he seems to be forceful yet hides a hidden sorrow, and hints at a greater “master”, the Dictator Doom. It’s an easy comparison to make, especially with Kevin/our Thunderstrike having connections to his alternate father and Donar, but it works well to give readers an easy yet compelling narrative to follow.

Back at the resistance base, DeFalco has Kevin really grappling with the fact that his evil alternate dad just killed his alternate best bud/secret crush. It’s emotional but never tries to poke fun at itself or expose the ridiculousness of the situation, which works to heighten the drama. The gang are all discussing an infiltration of one of Doom’s rallies in the base. Frenz and Milgrom work well at making the room feel crowded without having to populate it too much, using close-up camera angles and smaller panelling that implies a sense of claustrophobia.

Moving right on into the heat of the action, we see the Doom rally in full force, looking about as fascistic and evil as they come.
There’s many fun details in this scene, like zeppelins flying overhead with spotlights shooting in every direction, as well as a giant D that appears to sit atop a broken swastika. Clever imagery from the art team here. Not everything is steeped in grim darkness, however, as we get a lot of heart from J2 as always, in the background communicating with Captain America to make sure everyone is in position. DeFalco continues to shine with this character, balancing his relative youth to the rest of the team and fearlessness to express how afraid he actually is. Captain America asks him “You okay, Juggernaut?” and upon seeing Donar, Overman and Deadeye storming forwards, he gulps in reply “N-Not quite, sir”.

Before too long, battle ensues, which Doom reveals he (of course) had anticipated. Building off last issue, the Avengers fight against the same analogues they struggled with in the last issue, and get to celebrate in both physical and emotional victories. For example, the creepy Scott Lang analogue Pincer goes all out yucko-mode on Cassie, who ignores this and smakes him directly in the kisser. On top of this, she voices about how much she values her relationship with her actual dad back on her usual earth. It’s satisfying and fun, but we get the same scene more than three times over with different characters, and it feels a little predicatable before too long.

In the midst of everything, Captain America takes on Doom before he is able to use the Universal Cube. Although this Doom is built up as a frightening, Emperor-type figure, everything he says feels like it has come out of the machiavellian notebook, and the character feels more like an archetype than anything particularly interesting. Still, this does lead to Cap swinging his shield over to American Dream, giving this character a chance to step up. This feels long overdue, as she’s always felt a little second-wing in issues prior to this. Frenz and Milgrom have a blast giving her a scene where she bounces the shield off three different surfaces before it swings back and hits her foe square in the face. It’s drawn out over three panels, so there’s a real weight to the sequence, rather than just following speedlines in one panel.

The real emotional scene of this issue is when Kevin confronts his father Eric in a beam struggle, which feels a lot like Frenz and Milgrom had been watching whatever anime was contemporary at the time, and I love it. Kevin manages to overpower his father, who has become remorseful and tragic, seeded since the start of this issue. He regrets everything that has happened in this world, and it’s a genuinely touching scene, before begging his unknown foe to slay him. Kevin reveals his true form as his son, and DeFalco wisely lets the dialogue go silent for multiple panels as the two embrace in one of the most touching reunions of the series. The way that Frenz and Milgrom draw Kevin’s fingers tightening around his father’s back in the last panel genuinely makes me emotional, even as I type this.

The issue ends with a sharp cliffhanger, as Crimson Curse, someone we’d seen so little of to this point, wrestles Doom into the Universal Cube, making it… implode? It appears like the threat has been finished at the expense of this mysterious Avenger, and it seems like so much is left hanging in the air for *checks notes* one more issue of publication?! On top of that, Kevin makes the decision to stay in this universe with his father, which feels earned, but honestly, dear readers? I have no idea what to expect from the final issue of “A-Next” volume one next week. Let’s find out together!

//TAGS | 2022 Summer Comics Binge | A-Next

Rowan Grover

Rowan is from Sydney, Australia! Rowan writes about comics and reads the heck out of them, too. Talk to them on Twitter at @rowan_grover. You might just spur an insightful rant on what they're currently reading, but most likely, you'll just be interrupting a heated and intimate eating session.


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