The latest Starbrand is about to be born... literally! A pregnant Earth woman, Suzanne Selby, is about to give birth to the latest Starbrand, and Gladiator of the Shi'ar will do whatever it takes to stop it!
Fortunately, the mighty Avengers are on hand to protect her from both Gladiator and the former heralds of Galactus, including the Silver Surfer!
But who is Suzanne Selby? How did a woman from Kansas find herself in the middle of a Shi'ar prison? And how is she possibly going to survive the burst of a new cosmic power?!
“Starbrand Reborn” wraps up in a pretty spectacular, if mildly predictable fashion. The latter isn’t a knock, though. The Avengers step up to the plate and do what they do best: protect life despite all odds. Upon discovering the new Starbrand isn’t some lunatic with a god complex but rather a very scared – and very much in labor – pregnant Earth woman, the mission changes and the team adapts to it with all of the heroic aplomb fans would expect. When the odds are stacked completely against them – and make no mistake, the team is up against some serious cosmic firepower – that’s when they shine most and proves why they’re Marvel’s premiere team of heroes.
Throughout this arc, the odds have been disastrously stacked against the team from the start. Yet they’ve prevailed, despite that. Despite being split up, despite Thor being turned into a Brood, despite Blade being mortally wounded pretty much off the bat, despite starting out stranded in a decimated Shi’ar prison galaxy. Oh, and despite three former heralds of Galactus working against them. There’s no other word for it: that’s pretty epic.
In the end, there’s a sadly a casualty. But the table is set for eventual big storytelling dividends to pay out, and if writer Jason Aaron’s Twitter is to be believed, he has some pretty far-reaching plans for Avengers that will play out for a good, long time to come. After the resounding success of his seven-year run on Thor, Marvel clearly feels Aaron has both the vision and the chops to carry their premiere team into the new decade. That faith has perhaps been tested more than once during his rocky first year-and-change on the book, but if “Starbrand Reborn” is any indication, the man has a plan, and when he doesn’t get in his own way with some of his more questionable quirks as a writer, he’s damn good at what he does.
Aaron cribs a page from the Brian Michael Bendis playbook this issue, and relays the final chapter of the story via flashback after all the action has already subsided. Characters ruminate on what happened without getting too exposition-heavy. The effect is one that creates a sense of reflection from these battle-worn heroes that also allows them to look forward without necessarily sacrificing the dramatic stakes of the climax. Some might see this as anti-climactic; in the wrong hands, it definitely could be. But Aaron wisely hides the true ending until one of the last pages, and even though it’s somewhat telegraphed, it still hits hard.
Of the Avengers themselves, Captain America shines most this issue. With so many characters running around, many of them getting short shrift is only natural. And though the team succeeds by (of course) coming together, it’s Cap’s calm demeanor and deep understanding of what must happen to bring the situation to a successful conclusion that’s the issue’s best character beat. Suzanne Selby is given a brief backstory, a quick primer on who she is and how she came to be imprisoned on the other side of the galaxy by the Shi’ar that gives her story a sense of emotional gravity. It’s also a handy parallel to the all-too-familiar news stories that fill our world today about the plight of migrant workers who just want a better life for themselves and instead wind up in horrible and inhuman circumstances. Aaron, though, puts the parallel out there and doesn’t dwell on it or hit readers over the head with it. A lesser writer might have been more forceful with it. Instead, Aaron lets readers draw their own conclusions.
Ed McGuinness gets a bit of assistance on the art chores this month from Francesco Manna, who handles the Suzanne Selby flashback sequences. The artists’ styles aren’t necessarily similar, but they don’t clash, either. McGuinness is still looking a tad rushed (though nowhere near on the level he produced two issues ago, which I’ll still contend was some of the worst art of his career), but overall he still delivers the goods, splashing the page with big, explosive action beats that threaten to jump off the page and punch readers between the eyes. Manna, by contrast, has a somewhat softer touch; his pencils are reminiscent of early-2000s style that’s a bit cartoony but with a slightly rougher edge to it than the McGuinnesses or Madureiras of the era. It fits the sequences he draws well, bringing them a bit more down to Earth.
This issue isn’t necessarily without its flaws, though. The Thor-Brood subplot gets swept under the rug pretty quickly with a casual “Oh Thor’s recovering from that now” and then isn’t mentioned again. There’s no conclusion to Black Widow’s inclusion to the tale; she’s ostensibly filling the rotating team position here but since she’s a stalwart Avenger, it would make perfect sense for her to stick around. (And will we be seeing her cool Widow armor again?) Yet Aaron gives no indication one way or the other as to whether she will. Similarly, the matter of Blade’s mortal wound is never addressed. Did he die? Does he have to wear the Boy-Thing sheath forever to keep from dying? I assume not, but no answers are given one way or another.
Avengers under Jason Aaron's pen has been a tough nut to crack. From arc to arc and even issue to issue, it's been wildly inconsistent. "Starbrand Reborn" is easily the writer's most consistent attempt thus far, though, and if it's indicative of the quality he wants to pull off with this title, then Avengers could be poised to become Marvel's wildest, least-predictable and all-out fun book on the stands. Time will tell. As for this issue, it brings to a head a story that no one was expecting but everyone should love, mild flaws and all. Hats off to everyone involved.
Avengers #30: Cosmic Maternity Ward or Bust
Writing - 9/109/10
Storyline - 9/109/10
Art - 8/108/10
Color - 8/108/10
Cover Art - 8.5/108.5/10
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