The cover for "Avengers" #14 has a "Prelude to Infinity" banner along the top. As a result, you might assume that "Avengers" #14 has nothing to do with the past 13 issues, and that everything's been pushed to one side to lead into this upcoming event. Fortunately, that assumption is wrong; Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spencer and Stefano Caselli's "Avengers" #14 builds right off of the past 13 issues, as the mystery of the Origin Bombs is further explored and all the sites begin to fully activate.
What's nice about "Avengers" #14 is that right off the bat, the entire cast is back. Hickman and Spencer give the impression that this is something big, that everything up until this point has been preparing for this moment. In the past I've noted that Hickman's "Avengers" run has felt like something that would be better when read as a whole than issue by issue, because the big climax kept getting put off. Well, the good news is that the climax is hopefully making an appearance now. With strange things happening all over the globe, and the purpose of several of the Origin Bombs finally getting revealed, it's easy to feel a little excited at this point in the game.
The one downside to Hickman and Spencer finally bringing the entire cast back together is that it feels like most of them are little more than glimpses on the page. There are a couple of small exceptions here and there -- Eden's little speech about Australia, or Thor's reaction to the nuclear power plant that's starting to overload -- but most characters just get a line or two. There is one big exception, though, and that's Bruce Banner. His reactions and puzzling out the situation is getting a lot of attention this issue, and it makes me wonder if Hickman and Spencer are setting him up to be part of the ultimate solution.
For now, though, it's easy to sit back and enjoy in the big picture and how it's pulling together. Hickman's always been a great idea man, and learning the different purposes of the Origin Bomb sites is one of those, "Oooh, that's cool" sort of situations. Caselli's art in the Chhatarpur, India sequence in particular brings that idea home, between the beautifully intricate construction and the strange multi-headed beings that are putting it together. Caselli in general does some strong work here; I like how he puts a page together, and when the team enters a battle he stages it in a way that lets our heroes suddenly look very small and puny, surrounded by their foes. I'm looking forward to whenever Dustin Weaver returns for another story arc, but I do hope that Caselli is brought back on a regular basis for the other issues. His smooth, expressive art feels like a good match for both Weaver as well as the title in general.
"Avengers" #14 feels like it's suddenly back on track again, and I'm always in favor of that. How this ties into "Infinity" or where it will end is anyone's guess. For now, though, it feels like business-as-usual, and that's the best result you can hope for when you see a crossover banner on a title you read. Fear not! Crossover-itis hasn't set in just yet.