Avengers #1

Marvel’s Fresh Start initiative kicks off this week with a book seemingly “one million years in the making.” Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness debut Avengers #1, and, for the first time since last fall’s Marvel Legacy one-shot, we are re-introduced to Earth’s Mightiest of one million B.C. We’ve been clamoring for more of these guys — a Mjolnir-wielding Odin, Agamotto, Ghost Rider atop a mastodon, and predecessors to the Iron Fist, Black Panther, Phoenix, and Starbrand — since that teaser by Aaron and Esad Ribić soooo many months ago. And although, at the time, I had promised that I’d catch myself up on Kirby’s Celestials, I apparently was too busy being distracted by behind-the-curtain Marvel drama to read any of The King’s Eternals saga. And I’m guessing Marvel was too busy screwing shit up to worry about it either; we still don’t have a decent collected edition, other than a long out-of-print omnibus that is scarce even among the price-gouging eBay resellers.

But one way or another, I’m going to make it happen. Because along with rumors of the Eternals joining the MCU, Aaron and McGuinness seem boldly intent on adding significantly to a carefully curated Marvel mythology that, after Kirby, has pretty much only been trusted to the likes of Roy Thomas and Neil Gaiman. And this first issue of Avengers definitely feels significant.

Hyperbole aside, it does feel like I’ve waited too long for Aaron to take the reins on Marvel’s flagship team book. He was the “X-guy” going into Avengers vs. X-Men, and he teased us with his ability to mold universe-changing storylines for the full Marvel pantheon in Original Sin. And after a tumultuous few years for Marvel’s big three, Aaron seems like the right choice for getting the band back together. Following the “No Surrender” storyline (which was a nice tribute to the Avengers teams past and present), this Fresh Start initiative gives Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor the opportunity to form an Avengers core that is not only more readily marketable, but, in the hands of Aaron and McGuinness, more central to the company’s Legacy, both in the real world and the fictional.

To call this new Avengers run one giant tribute to Jack Kirby really isn’t that much of stretch. In the present day, the three principals, all characters co-created by Kirby, are grabbing drinks and talking themselves into reforming the team. And they’ve all had a shit time of late: Cap hasn’t been an Avenger since his evil alter-ego took over the country in Secret Invasion; Tony is fresh out of the coma he’d been in since the end of Civil War II; and Thor, well, he’s still dealing with the fact that he’s been “unworthy” since Original Sin, and just had to deal with the death of Jane Foster. Kirby’s heroes have seen better days. They need each other as much as we need to see them back together.

And in the distant past, the Avengers of one million B.C. prepare to deal with the prehistoric first visit from the Celestials, the ramifications of which will be dealt with millennia later when our age’s Avengers receive the Final Host. This Celestials and Eternals business may be the most underappreciated part of Kirby’s contribution to comics. Much of this, of course, is due to the fact that he never really had a chance to finish his story. Reading his Fourth World stuff for DC, and, especially, the first run of Marvel’s Eternals that followed, seems to verify that the King was as much a Chariots of the Gods nut as Ridley Scott or the producers of Ancient Aliens. It’s a concept that most Marvel editors and writers probably didn’t feel comfortable dealing with, or simply didn’t know how to integrate successfully. Even Neil Gaiman’s story a decade ago, meant to re-incorporate Ikaris, Sersi, et al into the Marvel canon, never seemed to go anywhere.

The Celestials arrive in Kirby’s Eternals #2 (1976)

I have a good feeling about this. I feel pretty comfortable that we’re not going to get Deviants and Eternals rammed down our throats the way Marvel tried to do with Inhumans a few years ago (which didn’t work out well for anyone, fans or Inhumans). And I like the fact that we’re getting new attention to Marvel cosmology on a Starlin-esque level from an established writer like Aaron. So after reading this book, make sure to pick up the Avengers Free Comic Book Day special edition this Saturday, and then join me in box-digging for some additional background on the First, Fourth, and Final Celestial hosts.

April 25 | New Release Highlights | May 9