In the aftermath of the Avenger's franchise-sweeping "Infinity" crossover, Jonathan Hickman and a host of artists bring readers a quieter, smaller story in "Avengers" #24.NOW. At least, that's what I expected to find when I picked up a comic book brandishing a very large "#1" on its Esad Ribic-crafted cover. And after starting out with a peek into an alternate future, the comic slips back into the present day to reveal the quieter, smaller story I was expecting.
At the heart of that smaller story is a host of character interactions as Sunspot offers up a Ferrari to the first Avenger to hit five of the golf balls other select Avengers are teeing off of Avengers tower. Hickman runs his art crew through the assembled Avengers, sharing small character bits, like Falcon and Captain Marvel discussing the need for downtime, Thor manning the grill (which looks not unlike an arc reactor instead of a traditional grilling unit) and Captain America having a discussion with Iron Man about the roster composition, which provides a nice peek into some upcoming shifts out of active duty.
Naturally, this is all temporary as the future threat interrupts the party (good thing all of the Avengers were alrteady suited up) and drops a massive downer on the Avengers: Earth has been targeted for destruction. Again. The projectile bearing down on Earth just so happens to be another planet, a development that affords Hickman the opportunity to tell a big, comic-book science fiction tale in this comic's remaining pages. Hickman gives a few characters a chance to shine, but never really gives the reader a full rundown of who's who beyond the infographic opposite the credit page that opens up the issue. The alternate future Iron "Man" is given the most page time throughout the issue, but given the conclusion, it feels that like that could have been better spent focusing on the roster on hand.
Hickman's story is not given any assistance by the parade of pencilers and inkers that float through "Avengers #24.NOW." Esad Ribic is the only one given credit on the cover, and he clearly contributes to the first portion of the story, which features Iron Man 3030, a future Franklin Richards and someone sporting the Mandarin's rings. Ribic's style slowly melts away through various artistic assists once the issue turns to Thor's cookout, after which style and storytelling become significantly more murky as the issue progresses. One scene, I believe drawn by Mike Deodato, shows Iron Man 3030 discharging some orbs, but the nature of the orbs is lost as the panels rush the action along. Deodato does get to draw some nice mid-action shots of Thor, Hulk and Hyperion, but in moves aside for Salvador Larroca to close out the issue. That final scene is a revealing conversation between Iron Man 3030 and Tony Stark, setting up plot threads to come.
All in all, though "Avengers #24.NOW" falls short of being a great comic for new readers, it excels in being a fine comic to close out the aftermath of "Infinity" while looking forward to what lies ahead for the Avengers under Jonathan Hickman. The issue may have suffered from a crew of oddly mismatched artists, but it doesn't completely jettison the work Hickman has poured into this franchise. As someone who is patient with Hickman's work and appreciates his ability to construct a long story, I can give "Avengers #24.NOW" a bit of a pass, but by numbering something ".NOW" and stamping a huge #1 on the cover, the story needs to be more approachable for newcomers.