Finally, ideas that writer Mark Waid and artist Mike del Mundo have built for months pay off in an eruption of action. Six issues worth of ideas are brought into a crescendo with this final issue. This issue feels appropriately grand for one of Marvel’s flagship titles, its heroes locked in an apocalyptic battle across time and space, with generations of Avengers facing off against generations of Kangs. Avengers #6 wraps up the opening arc with explosive action that never loses sight of the careful character work done so far in the series.
So far in the series, Waid has done an admirable job varying his pacing and storytelling, making a six-issue arc not feel overlong. This issue feels most like its predecessor of all of the issues so far. Some minor beats are revisited, such as Spider-Man forgetting that early Hulk is not stupid. For the most part, everything introduced in previous issues has been cranked to eleven. Still, its continuity with the previous issue makes this issue feel like, for the first time, that the story may have dragged out a little too long and that perhaps with a little more editing this story might have concluded in the last issue.
The art feels chaotic and disorienting, mostly to good effect, but at times a tad difficult to follow. This issue has quite a bit going on, with three different Avengers teams, several iterations of Kang, and a whole lot of minions and time travel, that it is easy to get lost in everything. Yet, del Mundo’s art fits the madness of the story: faces distort, Spidey’s lenses turn into large ovals that take up half his face in alarm. It is expressive for character work and dynamic for action. Sometimes, del Mundo’s art is a little difficult to tell the difference between flooding water and swirling blasts of energy outside of the color. Yet, the art’s trippy liveliness helps make this story epic as well as energetic.
Once again, the creative team’s capacity for keeping the focus on character in the midst of such chaotic action impresses. Besides the core team introduced in the first issue of this volume, founding Avengers Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Giant Man, and Wasp each play integral roles, as do other past Avengers. Even between the past and present teams of Avengers, no one ever really feels lost in this series, as if they have no role to play. These last couple of issues seem to anticipate the rumored focus on legacy coming soon from Marvel, with Thor Odinson and Jane Thor symbolically linking hammers to take out an enemy together. This is a book with a clear sense of its own history, as it makes a point that the whole of what Waid and del Mundo work on now is built on a foundation of the original Avengers and, without that, the whole thing falls apart.
It’s a nice homage to Giant Man’s diminished status (no pun intended) in both popular culture and in Avengers lore that he is underestimated so much in this issue (“Despite his size, he is the least among them,” says one character). He is often a character whom, due to past handling, writers do not seem to know what to do with. In Mark Millar’s Ultimates, he is depicted as an abusive husband who gets pummeled by Captain America. In a welcome turn for the character, that Pym is overlooked by the villains leads directly into his playing a large role in saving the day.
In the end, it is the focus on the characters more than the contrivances of the story that have kept this whole arc from flying completely off the rails. This story is nailed together by a million tiny character interactions such as the one we see here between Steve and Jen. Time travel stories, perhaps more so than other science fiction plots, can get lost in their own self-explanation, but in the end, it is the characters we love and keep us coming back to these books. Avengers #6 never loses sight of this.
The ambiguity of the issue’s closing scene highlights an ongoing struggle with time travel: resolving one problem inadvertently raises at least one more. There is no right way to mess with the timeline. In addition, the brief appearance of Doctor Doom potentially sets up the appearance of the Infamous Iron Man next issue, so more adventure appears on the way for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Issue six, like the rest of this volume so far, has been the good kind of crazy with its tripling up on Avengers teams in its time war against Kang in his various incarnations. As a reader, I look forward to whatever insanity lies ahead.
Avengers #6 brings "The Kang War" to a satisfying, epic conclusion. Once again, both writer Mark Waid and artist Mike del Mundo anchor enormous action with small character moments.