Avengers Annual (#1, 2021) – Jed MacKay

3 out of 5

This starts out very strong – very character based – and then just turns into a fight comic. I accept that a lot of hero books have this as something of a requirement, but the book kinda of shuts off at this point and goes on autopilot, skipping past some developmental beats and going whole hog on some nonsense comic book logic. The fight is not unentertaining, and with Travel Foreman on art duties we get solid, weighty figures and choreography, it just kinda renders the opening pages as somewhat moot, except in the thinnest sense – character A made such and such statement, so now it can get uttered again in a more evil context. There’s nothing wrong with pulling a move like that – as there’s nothing wrong with fight scenes – but again, it’s the comparison.

So we start with a ‘synthetic human’ lecturing / questioning some humans on the nature of soul – how it’s defined; how to determine whether or not it exists; and as this is part of the Infinite Destinies annual crossovers, we then flip to Iron Man and Cap, post their relative annual adventures, discussing the still undiscovered stones – like the Soul stone. That’s a good way to sync these two disparate throughlines. Now when Tony talks about creating a process to track the energy signature of when the stones bond with their hosts, and we flash back to that synth, getting soul-blasted with the Soul stone… we feel like we’ve achieved a good intertwining of characters, through pretty organic means. Jed MacKay’s dialogue is, as ever, strong (and I loved the Morrison-era X-Men callout), and he does a good job of presenting the corrupting force of the stone via the synth’s internal discussions with its “voice.”

Until, y’know, he turns evil and the Avengers have to fight. This feels like it just happens; we’re missing the moments when that internal conversation would actually need to convince this chummy robo fella to go to the dark side and kick some spandex butt. And I guess, after a billion years, Tony will never really learn that you don’t start a discussion by aiming your blasters at someone. But anyhow, the scuffle begins, and then it also just ends, because this has to be To Be Continued into the next issues in the event – some Black Cat books. Thus the whole back half of this annual, while being surely solid by typical comic standards, isn’t nearly as compelling or strong as its front half.

The Infinite Fury backup must also necessarily come to an end… and also has to lead-in to Black Cat. But at least we get some quality wrapping-up that justifies the story; unlike a few of the annuals preceding this one (and sort of this one included), in which the featured events felt somewhat pointless, overall, to Infinite Destinies, Fury’s tale feels like it needed each of its pieces (or maybe 6 out of 7 of them…) to get us to this conclusion.