The start of the next arc has been building in the background for a bit, but now it’s here. The White Event…
We start at the superflow of Universe 7109 and a communication station being destroyed by what can only be described as a blue gelatinous blob! We zoom back to the Nexus of all superflows and a bigger station monitoring the communication stations from the various universes. Within, a robot informs the Builder in charge that several communication stations are rapidly going offline. The Builder orders the monitoring station in for a closer look and it too ends up getting destroyed, but not before ordering the remaining communication stations to fire! Fortunately, the communication station of Universe 616 fires in time and is not destroyed by the blue blob’s tentacles!
This is the White Event and seems to power up Nightmask. He is now able to talk to and remodel some of Tony Stark’s machines in order to find “others”. A White Event apparently occurs when a world is on the verge of ascending on a universal scale; it creates/alters heralds to help shepherd in this ascension. A Nightmask is one of these shepherds but there should be others. However (as we’ve been hearing for a while) the Universe is broken, the system is broken, so this was not a normal White Event. Nightmask finds what he was looking for, a Starbrand burnt into the Earth. This Starbrand marks the site of where another shepherd (also called a Starbrand) is produced, however it’s huge and appears to have wiped out an entire college and the surrounding area.
The Starbrand is a person, given the power to defend an entire planet and there are systems in place to select an appropriate candidate. But as the system is broken, something went wrong. The Avengers assemble at the Starbrand site. In the middle of the Starbrand itself, amidst the devastation all around, is a solitary surviving naked man.
Throughout the issue, there have been single page splashes of events occurring on Earth preceding the White Event. A man proposing to his girlfriend; a man telling his friend how he thumped a guy for disrespecting a lady; a man trying to explain to his father he won’t be home for the holidays as he has important work to do and another man explaining an advanced theory in a science lecture. The new Starbrand is none of these men, just a guy that was ignored in background of each of those scenes. And now he has power on a planetary scale…
I admit I found the opening few pages a little tricky. We have these communication stations monitoring the various Universes that are being destroyed – okay, but does that imply that those Universes have been destroyed too? The robot monitor says only around 100 stations remain, has Hickman just culled the majority of the multiverse in a single panel, a la the mutants cull with M day? I don’t know, hopefully answers will come.
There are existing comics within Marvel that span the multiverse like Exiles (not just those that are set in one alternative reality/Universe like Age of Apocalypse). I’ve not read any of these comics, so I don’t know how the “Nexus of all superflows” fits in with existing continuity regarding multiverse storylines within Marvel. As the Nexus features a Builder and they’re a new race created by Hickman for Avengers, I doubt there are any ties to current multiverse characters/stories, which is maybe a bit of a shame but understandable I guess. It would be kinda nice if somewhere along the line a link between the builders and existing canon were made, if only as a nod/reward to readers of multiverse titles and its continuity (if such a link has not already been made).
What the opening pages of this issue successfully do is set up the severity of this event and matches the new ethos of the Avengers, in that problems keep getting bigger. This event spans the multiverse (pretty big!). Although later in the issue Nightmask refers to the White Event being specific to a world. Whether this is just the understanding of one inhabitant of said world and he doesn’t realise it's much bigger than just one world, or a writing slip up I don’t know. Also the White Event is described as the ascension of a planet. I also thought ascensions were good things, the betterment of something – yet it’s being shown as a bad thing. Again this could just be limited understanding on Nightmask’s behalf or perhaps it’s bad this time as the system is broken – maybe I’m being a bit picky!
The issue introduces another new character to go alongside Nightmask. A bit of an ominous introduction though – a guy that has been ignored in life now has the power to defend a planet. So just because he’s not stood out in life in the way the others featured around him have, he going to be bitter and twisted? A source of bad and revenge instead of one for good, seems a bit harsh! Have we got another Alpha/Andy Maguire here?
Finally the art and the “What did the Spider character do in the issue” bit. Well once again, I’m a fan of the art. Nice close ups, nice wide shots. I like how Nightmask’s remodelling is drawn – you can tell the machines are being moved. I like the way Tony Stark suits up – straight out of the movie. As for Spider-Man, well he’s present but doesn’t really do/add much – he does have a one-liner! The story is mainly about Nightmask with a little bit of Iron Man and Captain Universe thrown in, so Spider-Man could have easily been replaced with Hawkeye/Sunspot/Cannonball but then so could most of the characters featured. I hope he’ll get a bigger role in the next few arcs to justify his place on the team, but with such a big roster I guess it’s a case of him having to wait his turn (same for Spider-Woman).
Good build up, but lots of questions. They better be answered!!!
The opening page of the issue (like all issues to date) has featured the Avengers network which tell you who is going to feature in this issue. That network has six spaces still to be filled. Will Nightmask and Starbrand be two of them? Maybe the other shepherds that Nightmask mentioned too?