25th Jun2021

‘Heroes Return #1’ (Marvel Comics)

by Dean Fuller

Written by Jason Aaron | Art by Ed McGuinness, Mark Morales | Published by Marvel Comics

Although I haven’t reviewed every issue, that would be a bit too much even for me, I have read every issue of the Heroes Reborn/ Return ‘event’. That’s 18 issues in total, and I can honestly say there was only 2 or 3 issues that I felt were reaching, and struggling to stretch out the material. It’s been a decent storyline, added to by a nice interpretation of the Squadron Supreme characters, and some fine Bronze Age throwback style comics from Jason Aaron, clearly having a whale of a time. All good things though must come to an end, and quite often the ending with these things is the hardest part, never quite living up to the promise of it all. Let’s see what the creative team have left in the locker.

So, if you’ve been paying attention so far, this is a world that has been warped and remade in his own image by a bad Phil Coulson, now President, using a hugely powerful artifact called a Pandemonium Cube. Yes, that is Mephisto subtly manipulating events from the sidelines too. As this issue opens Coulson is preparing to launch a nuclear strike on Wakanda, while his official super team, The Squadron Supreme, must deal with a newly aware and angry Avengers team. Quite ironically in a make believe reality such as this, it’s about to get real.

When you have Ed McGuinness on a book, if you are going to write fight scenes you make them BIG. Ramp up the violence, the action, and the stakes. Phoenix fighting Power Princess, Dr. Spectrum against Starbrand, Blur against Black Panther, Blade versus Nighthawk, Thor against Hyperion, the fighting is epic. Captain America, though, he’s only interested in one target. Coulson. Worlds will live, worlds will die….wait, that’s the other guys. True, though. The Squadron truly believe this is the ‘real’ world, apart from sneaky Nighthawk, whereas The Avengers know it most definitely isn’t. Both sides view the other as the villains. Both victims of Coulson’s nightmare. The fighting is tough and brutal, but ultimately the Avengers win, and Starbrand and Phoenix destroy the Cube. Back to life, back to reality.

‘Our’ world has returned. The Avengers have all forgotten what happened, though Blade still remembers. He theorises that because he is magic-based, Coulson’s reality remake powered by Mephisto didn’t affect him. As good a deus ex machina as any. It seems, though, that although Coulson has disappeared, the Squadron haven’t. Whereas before the real Avengers were in ‘their’ world, now the Squadron are in ‘our’ world. Lost. Unknown. Confused. Unlike Nighthawk, of course, who’s as stubborn and angry as always. He liked ‘his’ world, and he wants that back. Whatever it will take. That’s a story for another day. As is the final page of this story. Think Mephisto is bad enough? How about 616 Mephisto’s in the same room. That’s a whole multiverse of trouble right there. Say hello to The Council of Red. They’ll be in touch.

This was a great way to sign off. It all played out pretty much as we expected, fisticuffs and an Avengers victory, but the interplay getting there was fun, as was the big revelation at the end. Both the Squadron’s new status quo and the Mephisto development can play out over the long haul. Aaron has had a blast on this, who wouldn’t, and I think it’s the best thing he’s done for a few years. The McGuinness art was exactly what you know and love, big, bold, brash, and kinetic. It was a fun read, text and visuals both vying for your attention. The Hyperion and Thor double pager was a thing of beauty too. Great way to end a 18 issue storyline.

It’s a whole new world out there. Same as it ever was.

**** 4/5

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