What happens in the A.I.M. Island Nation-State Casino does not stay in the A.I.M. Nation-State Casino. Hickman is a harbinger of hijinks, humor, hits, and heroics in this heist-style issue.
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Illustrated by Mike Deodato
As Shang-Chi battles an ancient enemy, the Avengers hang out in Hong Kong’s swankiest casino.Captain Marvel, Black Widow and Spider-Woman find out it doesn’t pay to gamble in the spy business.Cannonball and Sunspot play craps with a bunch of AIM Agents. AND WIN!
In the eleventh issue of “Avengers” by Jonathan Hickman and Mike Deodato we are given a stand alone story featuring: Black Widow, Spiderwoman, Captain Marvel, Shang-Chi, Cannonball and Sunspot. The beautifully designed title page kindly informs readers which Avengers will be the focus of each issue. The names and stylized logos of each of the featured cast members are highlighted in blue, while those of the rest of the team rest of the team remain grey. This user-friendly guide is as handy as a pocket on a shirt. In the labyrinth that is a Hickman ensemble cast book it is a beacon of clarity. This issue does two important things. It establishes a conflict that will surely come into play in the future, and gives readers a glimpse of some of the team’s more minor (read not appearing in their own blockbuster film franchise) characters.
At its heart, “Avengers” #11 is a character building issue. Deodato shifts focus to the figure’s faces, illustrating their expressions beautifully. This book features several full page sized renderings of the Avengers that could serve as concept. That is to say they are detailed. and showcase the subjects in memorable ways. The thought and care Deodato has shown here give faces to the littany of names that readers are bombarded with in this series. The character illustrations here are so thoroughly unique for each character they could grace flashcards used to test your comic knowledge; or more practically, serve as the characters‘ Facebook profile pics.
Hickman’s writing explores the characters that are so beautifully shown here. The pacing of this issue lends itself to the task of introducing these Avengers to the audience. As the story unfolds, it becomes evident that we are witnessing the events of a single night from a variety of vantage points. Each retelling of the night’s events centers on one or two characters. These stories are spliced together throughout the issue, so it seems that they are happening simultaneously. This structure allows Hickman to illustrate how these very different people react to similar events, and allows readers to gain insight to the individual personalities of each hero. The dialogue in this issue is another strong tool of characterization comes through as we move through the narrative.
Hickman references the characters‘ histories without retelling them. For longtime readers with a grasp of past events, these allusions to established traditions of the Marvel universe will serve as reminders of the dark and complex places these heroes come from. However, for new readers these references may seem a bit disjointed, and may appear to be dangling plot threads. Hickman seems invested in building the characters‘ mythos. This issue features another refrain, similar to the ‘there are two Hyperions‘ that we encountered earlier in the run. This refrain is set against the backdrop of Shang-Chi’s battle scenes. Three full pages are dedicated to this internally repeated mantra. The device is more effective here than it has been in the past. Deodato’s action reads smoothly and clearly, and holds such visual appeal that the pages could have worked with no words at all. The mantra repeated here gives the audience a sense of Shang-Chi’s focus and history, and thus makes these scenes even stronger.
Because Hickman makes such an effort to be true to the voice of each character, the issue has several different moods. Carol’s appearances are intense and full of strategy. Jessica and Natasha are set up to contrast one another, and the feeling of interpersonal discord plays well here. Bobby and Sam provide a glimpse of Hickman’s funny bone, which has been well buried for much of the run. Shang-Chi’s scenes reveal a quiet warrior. Moving seamlessly through this array of genre-spanning tones, this issue is unified by a sense of sincerity. No matter how disparate the characters‘ experiences, they equally mirror their subject’s personality. It seems that each character reacts honestly reacts honestly to the events with which he or she is confronted.Continued below
Throughout “Avengers” #11 Deodato provides strong art that moves seamlessly through the tonal shifts of each vignette. There is a hyper-realism to his work that almost makes it seem stylized. Whether he is drawing a close up of Carol’s eyes, or the interior of a private jet, he remains equally committed to capturing detail in a way that makes the world and its inhabitants feel believable.
Set against a diverse amalgam of perspectives “Avengers” #11 spans comic book conventions, offering everything from high-stakes action to boisterous humor. It delivers something for everyone. Deodato’s art compliments Hickman’s careful narrative perfectly. This issue presents an opportunity to get to know members of the team that could have become faceless factotums when set against the names everyone knows crowd. Hickman brings them into the limelight and allows the audience to invest themselves in these characters. This issue may not be the action-packed, A-list, free-for-all that you were expecting, but it builds a strong foundation using character, innovative storytelling, and craft that will serve the title well as Hickman continues to build complex, towering stories.
Final Verdict: 7.6 – Roll the dice, you’ll be glad you did.