In the wake of "The Age of Khonshu," a far greater threat looms... Mephisto! But with the returned Phoenix waiting in the wings, too, at last the time has come that even the Avengers may not be enough to save the day!
“The Age of Khonshu,” concluded last issue, is going to be a tough act to follow up. But lo and behold, writer Jason Aaron and artist Ed McGuinness are definitely cooking up a worthy sequel. Avengers #38 serves as a buffer between major arcs, an epilogue for “Khonshu” and a prologue for next month’s cataclysmic “Enter the Phoenix,” connecting the two stories together but also continuing to plant seeds for Aaron’s overarching Mephisto subplot.
Aaron, it seems, is on a mission to give the devil his due and position Mephisto as the Marvel Universe’s pre-eminent Big Bad. (He’s The Devil, after all – why wouldn’t he be?) And even as he positions Mephisto as the underlying force behind both “Khonshu” and the upcoming “Phoenix” (as well as many other of the Avengers’ recent woes), Aaron also cannily weaves Mephisto as a subtle yet key influencer of Marvel moments past. Always whispering in someone’s ear, always plotting – going all the way back to the Death Celestial that crashed to Earth eons ago (retconned in Aaron’s opening arc on this title).
The stakes rise as the team, Iron Man in particular, realize the weight of the forces arrayed against them. Meanwhile, Black Panther makes Moon Knight a surprising offer he can’t (or at least shouldn’t) refuse in the wake of “Age of Khonshu.” Aaron’s take on T’Challa is superb, continuing the trend of elevating the character to that of key Marvel player that has taken place in recent years. Honestly, with him on the team, there’s no reason anyone should bet against the Avengers. The question Aaron poses is, how will the team possibly win? And therein lies the hook.
There’s an immensely chilling subplot involving Mephisto tricking a weary traveler some two centuries ago into sacrificing is soul and family that serves as a neat and tidy metaphor for dealing with the devil – but also connects to modern times. I’m not a fan of tying Howard Stark to Mephisto, as it fundamentally alters his character, though. I’d like to reserve judgement until Aaron plays his final hand as far as this subplot is concerned; he’s all about the long game (see his mammoth seven-year Thor run), so I don’t believe Tony’s dad is being recast as an ubervillain just yet.
Art-wise, Ed McGuinness and inker Mark Morales (along with colorist Jason Keith) continues to spin wonders on-page. It’s nice to see McGuinness exceling with quieter, more down-to-earth scenes, though – he typically punches biggest with rock-’em sock-’em wide-screen action beats. But it’s nice to see him flexing with these quieter scenes, too, showing off his range. I wouldn’t mind seeing what he could do someday with a smaller, more intimate title – he has the chops for it.
Under Jason Aaron’s stewardship, Avengers has become home to only the biggest, wildest, over-the-top ideas. Because for this team, nothing less should do. Sometimes those ideas have come up a tad short of their intentions, but as it goes on, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that Aaron is the writer to beat as far as The Earth’s Mightiest Heroes are concerned. How will it all turn out? It’s too early to project, but all signs are pointing to a run for the ages.
Avengers #38 highlights all of the strengths of the current run: big, sweeping ideas and huge action scenes coupled with well-crafted, intimate character beats. If you've been unsure about this title, now is the time to jump on!
Avengers #38: The House is Burning
- Writing - 9/109/10
- Storyline - 9/109/10
- Art - 8.5/108.5/10
- Color - 9/109/10
- Cover Art - 9/109/10
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