Continuing the trend of getting to know these new members of the Avengers roster in Jonathan Hickman’s excellent new Marvel NOW! series, the latest issue focuses on arguably the most mysterious member of the team, Captain Universe. After her appearance in ‘Avengers’ #3 lead to the surrender of Ex Nihilo and his crew, we finally find out more about what makes this All-Encompassing Avenger tick.

In the last issue, we discovered the origin of the new Imperial Guard member from Earth known as Isabel “Izzy” Dare, also known as the new Smasher. It was revealed that the college student and astronomer from Iowa became this new heroic version of herself after finding a pair of goggles that belonged to the original Smasher Vril Rokk. After finding the goggles, she then became an Avenger through a connection between her sick grandfather and Captain America. Her story was a connector between Marvel’s Earth and the universe at large.

Now, in this new issue, where as the last story connected two parts of the Marvel Universe, this one contains the whole universe. After the relatively easy victory on Mars, Tony Stark and Steve Rogers task Shang-Chi, the Master of Kung Fu, with delving into the psyche of Captain Universe, who is essentially the embodiment of all things in existence, in order to find out more about the person under the mask.

Firstly, props to Shang for breaking out pie as a bargaining tool. Even the embodiment of the whole universe enjoys talking over dessert, and he had enough foresight to know that. It made for a cute moment. Also, in regards to Shang, I like that Iron Man and Captain America trusted him to deal with Captain Universe instead of calling in Iron Fist, Doctor Strange, or some other Avenger who deals with this sort of thing as well but has been more heavily featured in storylines.

Next, I see that the Superior Spider-Man has made his way into ‘Avengers’ now and I loved his introduction. I still don’t know too much about Sunspot and Cannonball, but I am very much in favor of they’re interactions with Octo-Pete and the resulting banter between Spider-Man and Tony after the incident. While I love seeing the Avengers come together to kick butt, and it’s awesome to see their interactions when they’re not on the battlefield.

Finally, the man made by Ex Nihilo plays an important role in this issue. The being known as Blackveil and Captain Universe help Tony hit a breakthrough in communication, but the message that they decode isn’t exactly a happy one. In addition to that message being decoded, the readers can do some decoding of their own thanks to the beautifully designed chart in the back of the book containing the Builder Machine Code. This was a great flashback as it reminded me a lot of those decoder rings that used to get advertised in cereal boxes and comic books back in the day.  I found myself decoding messages in this issue left and right thanks to this chart. It added another level of child-like fun to this comic. I might even go back and decode Blackveil’s dialogue in previous issues if I have some free time later on.

It’s really fascinating to see how many storylines Jonathan Hickman can juggle. I admire very much the scale of the story and all the planning that went into this before pen could even touch paper, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to good things about this book. Under his guidance, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes are grander than ever before, and things haven’t even gotten fully started yet. I feel like a transition from zero to sixty is coming really soon, and I’ll be welcoming it with open arms.

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