Last issue, the Avengers went into space to stop the creators of the Universe, the Builders. The Builders had been traveling the universe in a pathway leading directly to Earth. The Avengers, in hopes to stop them, must stand with the other worlds.
But when the Avengers left, Earth was unprotected. Thanos found this to be a good time to carry out his personal interests on our planet. With his Black Order, he hopes to raze Earth in the meantime...
On the Peak, a group of S.W.O.R.D. soldiers are lying on the floor, dead. A troop of Thanos' lackeys continue to defeat the rival troops and gain control of the level inside the station. But before they can celebrate their victory, Abigail Brand and Sydren, both agents of S.W.O.R.D, blow a hole in the level and kill the cluster of Thanos’ squaddies.
Once a seal is covered on the hole in the station, Abigail orders Sydren to find what Thanos’ goal was to lock his men in a power relay station was. Sydren finds that they didn’t try to access any of the encrypted information on the mainframe. They only focused on what the station is routed for: low orbit tracking, station alignment, and automated targeting system. When Abigail looks out the window of the station, she finds many of Thanos’ herds are right outside the Peak.
Apparently, Thanos’ Black Order felled Earth quickly. Corvus Glaive took the Jean Grey School while Atlantis, already fractured in their war against Wakanda, surrendered to Proxima Midnight. The Ebony Maw has taken over Dr. Strange in his sanctuary, Wakanda managed to repel the Black Dwarf’s army, and Iron Man and Reed Richards defend New York City in Avengers Tower.
But in Attailan, Black Bolt awaits the arrival of Thanos’ ship, which is hovering above his kingdom. When the ship lands, Corvus Glaive steps out accompanied by four guards and two Outriders. Corvus marches into the Inhuman throne room, which is occupied by a large assembly of Inhumans. Medusa orders Corvus to speak and he immediately disrespects Black Bolt by asking where the great Inhuman king he has heard of is. Black Bolt is obviously sitting in the throne in front of him, but oddly hides in the shadows.
“I ask, for perhaps he is a king of little stature. A tiny king of a small, irrelevant kingdom,” Corvus rants. Maximus the Mad retorts, “Building things to last ages does not seem to be a small thing. Attilan stands while the world crumbles…” Medusa defends her husband and asks what Corvus is. He reveals that he is one of Thanos’ Cull Obsidian, but he prefers the Black Order.
Medusa asks Corvus Glaive what he wants and why he is on Attilan, to which he responds that what Thanos has brought a gauntlet to Earth to separate the weak from the strong. Corvus has been sent to deliver the message to Black Bolt that they know his secret and his master has demands. Medusa warns him that others who have come to the throne with demands have lost their lives because of it.
“I wonder, when you correct your children, do you threaten them with candy is they misbehave?” Corvus Glaive asks. Medusa is confused by his statement and Corvus tells his guards to “show this queen how much we fear death.” Then, to every Inhuman’s surprise and disgust, the guards all commit suicide by slicing open their throats.
Corvus Glaive rants that if they kill him, another would follow with the same demands. When asked what the demands are, Corvus explains that Thanos demands the tribute of the head of every Inhuman between the ages of sixteen and twenty-two. Medusa is outraged by this, but Corvus simply tells them that they have one day to decide. “Your people can die a little, or die a lot…,” Corvus exclaims as he exits with his Outriders.
Later, in deep space, the Galactic Council has their first confrontation with the Builder Armada in deep space. The Council Fleet planned on ambushing them, but little do they know that the Builders always cloak the majority of their fleet. When they ambush them, the Council is defeated when they find this nasty surprise and one-third of their forces are lost. Only one of the two Avenger ships escape the slaughter. (This is all a summary of the events of Avengers (Vol. 5) #18.)
Later, the Avengers land their ship on Whaan Prime, which is in orbit above the Agri-World. You may also know this as the Shi’ar. Captain America, Hulk, Spider-Woman, and Thor all walk into the station to find Smasher. Cap confirms that the Quincarrier is wrecked and Smasher says that her leader, Gladiator is allowing them aboard. Smasher also informs them that the Shi’ar, Kree, and every other communications system went dark when they retreated, so she doesn’t know anything about the conditions of the other Avengers carrier.
When the Avengers enter the throne world, they find Gladiator, the Shi’ar king, arguing with Mentor and Oracle, two Shi’ar Supergaurdians, over what to do next in the battle. Oracle stresses that they need to reassemble the Council quickly to strike back. Mentor, though, illuminates that the farming colony they have chosen as their rendezvous point has no strategic value and is under no threat of the Builders.
Sadly, Mentor has spoken too soon, since a man detects four Builder crafts are approaching them in pursuit of a light frigate with a failing reactor. Oracle wants to avoid the battle by leaving, but Mentor reminds Gladiator that seven ships are unable to make the jump. He wants to draw them off and mount a rescue mission. Gladiator stops them by booming, “They want to make us scatter—they want to make us run, so they can chase us down. I will not be beaten again this day.” Gladiator stands from his throne and rallies his troops, saying he is no longer in the mood for running so they will win today or die in the effort. His people are all enthusiastic and Gladiator asks the Avengers if they would fight with them. “You hear that, Hulk?” Smasher questions the muscular, green man. “I think he said get angry.”
So, later in space, the combined forces of the Avengers and Shi’ar confront the four Builder ships. Ex Nihilo, though, remains in Whaan Prime because of Gladiator’s request. He talks with two Shi’ar residents while watching the war outside. Gladiator, Thor, and Hyperion work on detonating the Builder crafts while Captain America, Falcon and Smasher deal with the Alephs.
The war takes a turn when the Hulk jumps through a Builder craft, ultimately demolishing it. “You may have been gods to us once, but we no longer need or want you… We have new gods now,” a Shi’ar man talking to Ex Nihilo declares. Gladiator holds up an Aleph head in triumph while all the Shi’ar warriors raise their fists. They have won.
Sadly, Ex Nihilo points out an Aleph and Ex Nihilo like himself landing on the Agri-World. When they come to rest on grassland, the Ex Nihilo asks the Aleph if he believes in the afterlife. He is obviously bitter towards the Builders. The Aleph orders him to carry out their maker’s commands. “In defeat, at the very least, we wound,” it says.
“I remember when the symbol on my chest meant life,” the Ex Nihilo exclaims as he turns black and launches a dark smoke to cover the Agri-World. The Ex Nihilo we know is appalled while watching this occur and orders the others to get back.
It was apparent to the Avengers and everyone on the planet that the Ex Nihilo started a sphere of decay expanding across the world. Thor and Hyperion try to pile as many people from the planet as they can onto an evacuation ship, but they cannot save the majority of the inhabitants. The Avengers, as they retreat, watch in despair as the world is completely consumed by the black sphere.
Later on Attilan, Black Bolt secretively enters the transportation machine Maximus the Mad made for him. Then, he summons the Illuminati onto the secret planet. They are all puzzled as to why he would transport them there with everything happening on Earth. “Welcome to Attilan, friends…or at least a place that is very near to it,” Black Bolt speaks. Reed is astonished that he is “speaking and nothing is happening.” Black Bolt explains that Maximus found this place, a “pocket reality where all sound is reduced to a single pitch.”
Black Bolt continues to explain his confrontation with Corvus Glaive earlier that day and divulges that he plans on delivering his response in person. Then, he gives Richards a triangular device that apparently carries the hidden archives of Inhuman kings and queens, which is where they will find what Thanos is looking for. All while doing so, Maximus the Mad is watching them. “The tribute is a lie. A convenient one that Thanos is telling to cover up the truth,” Black Bolt exclaims. “He wants to ensure the death of a very specific person.”
Thanos has come to Earth to kill his son.
I am thrilled with this issue. While the first issue was a set-up story, this is anything but that. The Inhumans confront Corvus Glaive, the Avengers win a battle with the Shi’ar against four Builder ships, and Thanos’ true intentions are revealed. How can you complain with that?
I really enjoyed Hickman’s storytelling with this issue. While its tone is detached like the last, it was made up for it with lots of great dialogue. I have really become fond of Corvus Glaive’s character and he has a certain edge in his discourse. But what really impressed me was this amazing quote that I have a feeling foreshadows upcoming stories: “You may have been gods to us once, but we no longer need or want you… We have new gods now.” The old gods refer to the Builders and the new ones refer to the Avengers. The narration is also very amble and navigates the story well.
Initially, the story got off to a running start with Avengers #18, which depicted the Builder’s first battle with the Avengers, and New Avengers #9, which portrayed the battles of each member of the Illuminati against Thanos’ Black Order. Luckily, little page space in this story is taken up with back story from those issues and it is holds itself as a stand-alone story. You know what? This may be the first time a comic book event that has meaningful tie-ins!
Again, like most of my reviews, I have left my opinions of the art for last. Jerome Opena and Dustin Weaver take up the story from Jim Cheung and do an admirable job. Opena mainly handles the battle in space and his art is blockbuster. His great detail portrays the intergalactic segment in the story well. The Avenger’s battle with the Builders is just gorgeous. There are two pages that are divided into three panels depicting the battle that are just mind-blowing. Each of those six panels feels like two-page spreads.
Weaver, on the other hand, handles the battle on Earth masterfully. I have always though Weaver’s panel layout is spectacular and he doesn’t fail to impress me here. He handles Corvus’ discussion with Medusa with great dynamic panels and his architecture of New York City and Attilan is flawless. I was ecstatic with two pages of his in particular: page 8 (not counting ads, background pages or the completely white pages) with New York City burning and the following page where the guards commit suicide.
This event is golden so far. It's a great story with great art. Too bad Spidey isn't here to enjoy it too.