This is it, folks! The actual end of the next generation of Avengers! No more “Avengers Next”, just Avengers Last! Yes, we’ve reached the final issue in my coverage of the overlooked MC2 team, and it has been a hoot! We’ve seen legacy heroes fight legacy villains, we’ve witnessed tight relationships formed in the midst of despair, and we’ve stood in awe of alternate realities and world-warping gods! We didn’t see the bit where Captain America turned into a star and nearly was devoured by Galactus, unfortunately (hit me up on my non-existent Patreon for that). But now, we reach the end, to see why Earth always needs its Avengers. Hold tight, folks, and jump with me one last time into the abyss.
Written by Tom DeFalco and Ron Lim
Illustrated by Ron Lim
Inked by Scott Koblish
Colored by Rob Ro
Lettered by Dave Sharpe
The issue starts where every good Marvel Comic does: opening on our heroes with their backs against the wall. The Earth is slowly being turned into a replica of Asgard by Loki’s daughter Sylene and the only folks left to stop her are a depowered Kevin Masterson, the newly reformed Warp, Jarvis, and Mainframe. The first page disguises a Jim Shooter-era recap narration by having Kevin give the play-by-play to the heroes, and though it comes off as thinly veiled, it drops us into the action quick-smart. The colors here have a somber quality about them, with Ro setting the scene in dim, soft lighting that makes it feel like the twilight before a momentous battle. Lim and Koblish also do some solid work with body language here. Masterson feels resolved and confident, standing strong and tall, whilst Warp is splayed all over the place, coming off as nervous but hopeful.
DeFalco makes sure to give Sylene and Ulik their very own moment to stand above the rubble and chew scenery, with Lim and Koblish almost giving them a super-villain Bert and Ernie dynamic in how they stand next to each other. I mean that in the best possible way, promise! What’s even more fun in this scene, however, is when the heroes warp into the picture with the cavalry: used supervillain gear. DeFalco loves and excels at putting little continuity easter eggs in his comics. We see this with Kevin attacking Sylene not only with the old golden Iron Man armor but also the Grim Reaper’s scythe, and it makes for some creative battle scenes and deftly clicks the satisfaction switch in my brain. Lim and Koblish have fun with Warp’s ability, playing up the drastic differences between environments like Sylene’s cave and desolate moon rock, plus giving Ulik a fun slap of astonishment across his mug.
The other big plot point in this issue, of course, is Juggernaut and Thena being trapped in Sylene’s reality-warping engine. Due to some Marvel mystical science, these two are essential in creating a new Asgard (don’t ask, just go with it). We don’t see much of Thena, which feels like a missed opportunity for a character who was such a big-deal reveal earlier in the series. However, we get a great moment of J2 living up to his full potential, with Tom DeFalco supplying some fantastic, invigorating narration. I’ll just leave it here for you to soak in:
“Completely unaware of the battle raging above him, J2 slams against Sylene’s makeshift cauldron. Again! AGAIN!! AND AGAIN!! His father was known as the unstoppable Juggernaut. An adjective J2 has finally earned!”
Lim and Koblish go completely ham on showing just how much J2 is exerting, shoving the camera further and further into his face like a wrestling promo. What makes it work so well is that it builds off the classic Marvel hero formula established by Spider-Man way back in “The Final Chapter”, which it feels like DeFalco is homaging. Like Spider-Man, J2 is facing unbelievable odds but overcomes them simply because he can’t afford to fail. Rob Ro does some beautiful ethereal coloring in the outskirts of this scene, not only charging the mystical element of what’s happening but also giving J2’s success a fairytale-like characteristic, with lots of pastel colors intermingling on a white background.
In the midst of all this, the heroes are battling against Sylene’s forces, initially struggling but gaining a leg up once J2 dissipates the cauldron and all the energy clones. The battles are fun but one particular aspect of the series I want to hone in on is the role that Spider-Girl and Sabreclaw play as newcomers to the team. As I speculated in previous entries, Spider-Girl is fun but ultimately feels like she’s a part of this book because of her enduring popularity. Other than a well-delivered kick and some banter, she doesn’t have a lot to do in this issue and the series overall. Sabreclaw, however, has had almost every hero doubt his sincerity and put him down over the span of five issues, and still holds strong. DeFalco even has him suffer a near-fatal blow, but he still holds steadfast. In the end, he feels like a worthy addition to the team in the legacy of Avengers welcoming redeemed villains. As American Dream monologues in the final scene, “These guys might not be your ideal team of Avengers… TOUGH! They answered the call. They did the job”. That, to me, encapsulates what this sequel series seems to be positioning as its thesis: the Avengers aren’t just heroes with glowing, spotless resumes. They are the people who are willing to fight for those who can’t. It’s powerful stuff!
In the end, the heroes win out against Sylene, justifying their existence once more as being necessary for large-scale threats. Kevin Masterson is depowered by Thena and takes down Sylene, whilst Mainframe finishes the job by dropping his replication satellite right the heck on top of her. It’s fun big budget stuff, and Lim and Koblish are adept in rendering huge cosmic smackdowns like this: utilizing camera angles and panel positioning to fit a bunch of dynamic heroes all on the panel at once. “Avengers Next” may not be game-changing by any means, but stacked up next to its contemporaries in the dreary year of 2006, it holds up as a classic superhero story, paying respects to all the timeless and classic ideas that made Marvel Comics such a success in the first place. Thanks for coming along with me for the ride, folks, it sure was a wild time here in the distant future of MC2.