10th May2021

‘Heroes Return #1’ Review (Marvel Comics)

by Dean Fuller

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

I mentioned fairly recently that Marvel of late have been muscling in on DC’s territory, with a whole raft of alternate world/ alternate universe/ what if type stuff, across TV, film, and comics. Nothing wrong with that of course, as it gives creators a clean slate to work with, and a chance to write fanboy tinged stories. We all love a bit of that, right? My only gripe sometimes is that we need a little more substance to some of these stories, as once that initial thrill of ‘Steve Rodgers is Iron Man’ wears off, is there a good story in there. This book promises a lot, with Jason Aaron writing and Ed McGuiness pencilling, so we should get the holy trinity of a great idea, great writer, and great artist. Let’s take a look.

Things are very wrong with the world. Blade knows this, but does anyone else? To make things worse, Blade himself can’t remember much. He woke up in an alley in London, contacted Avengers Mountain for help and discovered there suddenly was no Avengers Mountain. In fact, there is/ was no Avengers. Everything is just ‘off’. Blade finds Robbie Reyes, but he’s never heard of Ghost Rider. Dr. Doom is alive, but lost in the democratic elections in Latveria, and now leads the terrorist Latverian Liberation Army. This Doom has the crimson gem of Cyttorak, and is known as Dr. Juggernaut, looking pretty fine as drawn by McGuinness. As Dr. Juggernaut launches an assault on the White House, the U.S’s most powerful hero swoops in. Hyperion. Not MAX Hyperion either, the classic red and gold. Doom has his own group, the Masters of Doom, so Hyperion calls on his Squadron Supreme. Nighthawk swoops into action, taking on The Black Skull, a bizarre Venom/ Red Skull hybrid.

Blade’s fruitless quest continues. No Stephen Strange, a Jennifer Walters but no She-Hulk, a Carol Danvers in the Air Force but nothing more, a Tony Stark still happily shifting heavy weaponry, and no Bruce Banner as he was banished to the Negative Zone by Hyperion after his first Hulk rampage. The Negative Zone is seemingly used as a giant dimensional rubbish bin/ trash can where villains/ threats are tossed like scrunched up paper balls, usually by Hyperion who has no worries with his judge and jury role. As well as Hulk, the Spirit of Vengeance was tossed in there, as was the Starbrand. Blade grows ever more disheartened as he discovers Wakanda remains unknown to the outside world (does it even exist here?), the power of Iron Fist never left Tibet, and Captain America dies in the Second World War.

So, why? It seems with the Squadron Supreme of America there was no need for the Avengers. We all know by now do we not that that they are essentially Marvel’s version of the Justice League. Hyperion/ Superman, Nighthawk/ Batman, Dr. Spectrum/ Green Lantern, Blur/ Flash, Power Princess/ Wonder Woman etc. In this reality, though, Wanda Maximoff was never reformed and is part of Doom’s team as Silver Witch, and Thanos is still running around with his infinity stones. Could he be responsible? Blade continues on, finding an alcoholic Thor that never found his Hammer and so never regained his full memories and powers. So, so far, a whole lot of fun but essentially an extended introduction to this ‘new’ world. Where’s it all going? We get a few little clues at the end. Nighthawk knows Blade, so Blade knows he’s not mad. Nighthawk also seems to know this world is not quite right. Blade’s investigations then help him to realise Captain America is not dead, he was just never found, so he goes to find him. Oh, and drunk Thor finally gets his hammer. Is that a good thing?

I did enjoy this, but it was most definitely glorified fan service. Aaron essentially wrote a DC book in Marvel colours, even down to making the Negative Zone a clone of The Phantom Zone. Seeing the fun tweaks and changes to established characters never gets old, though, and I will continue to enjoy seeing the new versions of other characters as they start to appear, as teased by the character designs at the end of the book. Aaron clearly had fun with this. The art, by McGuinness and Morales, was superb, with typical McGuinness art. Big, brash panels, frantic pacing and layouts, and a sense of movie blockbuster about it. Impressive stuff.

This is a book just having fun, playing with characters and preconceptions, and more power to it. Nice writing, very nice art. What’s not to like?

**** 4/5

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