Graphic Novels Review: Avengers: Time Runs Out Vols 1 and 2

Avengers: Time Runs Out Vol 1

Avengers: Time Runs Out Vol 1 - Credit: Archant

The Avengers refuse to accept that everything dies, but can even the world’s greatest heroes prevent the end of reality itself?

Avengers: Time Runs Out Vol 2

Avengers: Time Runs Out Vol 2 - Credit: Archant

(Panini Books)

Eight months from now, and reality itself stands at the precipice of total annihilation.

The efforts of the Illuminati, a secret gathering of superheroes, have failed to prevent the growing number of incursions between parallel Earths, dimensional collisions from which only one version of our planet survives, and the multiverse itself is dying.

In the wake of the Original Sin and Axis events, friendships have been shattered, someone else wields the hammer of Thor, and the Fantastic Four are no more.

Former heroes have become outlaws, new alliances have been formed, and those who stand against the darkness prepare for a final assault. It is the end of days, and time has indeed run out not just in our reality, but in myriad parallels across all of existence.

This is the momentous conclusion of Jonathan Hickman’s genre-defining run on the Avengers franchise, a magnum opus which has thrust him to the very top of the team’s all-time great creators, and which will lead in to the continuity-twisting Secret Wars saga, said to bring about the next phase in the evolution of Marvel Comics.

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But before the birth of the new, comes the death of the old, and this is where it happens.

There is so much here which will make you sit up and take notice, and not a panel is wasted in the narrative process.

Part of the fun in these books is working out how the shift in status quo came about before it is eventually revealed (in the next volume of Avengers World fact fans!), and how far the protagonists are prepared to go to ensure their planet’s survival.

The formation of the ruthless Cabal by Namor the Sub-Mariner is a case in point – the likes of death-worshipping Thanos, mad Inhuman Maximus and incursion survivor Black Swan are tasked with destroying alternate Earths in order that ours lives, but nobody said they couldn’t have fun in the process…

It’s been a long time since comics have got me so excited that I’m chomping at the bit for the next instalment, and yet Hickman manages to produce work which is both epic and intimate at the same time, juxtaposing moments of quiet characterisation against sweeping space battles and catastrophic confrontations between super-powered beings.

It’s by no means an easy read. He doesn’t patronise his audience and you have to pay constant attention throughout, but it is perhaps one of the most rewarding superhero sagas of the modern age. Unmissable brilliance from a writer at the very top of his game.