Alex Ross is no stranger to comic book fans. The painter and illustrator has co-created some of the most iconic comics including Marvels, Kingdom Come, Earth X and The World’s Greatest Super-Heroes. His photo-realistic cover art has remained popular over the past two decades. This week, he released a cover of the All-New, All-Different Avengers, one of Marvel’s main titles following the major upheaval as a result of the currently ongoing crossover Secret Wars.
The All-New, All-Different Avengers made waves earlier this year when it was revealed that the lineup included newcomers Thor, recently revealed to be Jane Foster, Kamala Khan aka Ms. Marvel and Miles Morales aka Spider-Man. So far, we’d only seen the team drawn by series artist Mahmud Asrar. Yesterday, a Wall Street Journal exclusive revealed a cover done by Alex Ross. I loved his depiction of this new team of Avengers. If there’s one thing Ross does well, it is capturing the gravitas of being the members of a premiere superteam. He’s done it for DC’s Justice League and there have also been many instances when he captures the Avengers perfectly. Here are just 5 of them.
1. All-New, All-Different Avengers
It’s hard to nail down my favourite aspect of this cover, but perhaps I’ll start with the fact that Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel, is front and centre. That’s a big deal. Here’s a Pakistani-American teenager from New Jersey and she’s the centre of the superteam which also has a billion dollar film franchise. I love that Iron Man, despite having been announced to be the flagship superhero of Marvel moving forward from Secret Wars, remains generally in the background. I love that in front of him are Sam Alexander aka Nova and Miles Morales aka Spider-Man. Together with Kamala, this means the three teenagers are in the foreground, and they are the best representations of the diversity found in the US.
Most of all, perhaps, I like how this is a unique situation for Alex Ross. As you will see in the following examples, Ross tends to keep Marvel’s “Trinity” – Thor, Iron Man and Captain America in places of prominence. He recognises that they, more than any other superhero, represent the Avengers. This time around, however, he’s placed all three of them in the background. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not obscured or anything, and Sam Wilson is looking particularly impressive as Captain America. But they’re still in the background. Ross truly understands that this is a new era for Marvel and the Avengers. An All-New, All-Different era.
Now let’s look at Ross’ previous work involving the Avengers.
2. Avengers #4 Homage
This is the slipcase cover art for the Avengers: Vibranium Collection that was released earlier this year. It’s a massive collection that reprints classic Avengers stories as well as more modern ones. Ross’ art is a homage to Jack “The King” Kirby’s iconic cover to Avengers #4, which is also one of the stories reprinted in the collection. Any Avengers fan worth their salt knows the significance of Avengers #4, when Golden Age hero Captain America is revived for the Modern era and joins the Avengers.
3. The Last Professional Work of the late, great John Buscema
This one is a bit of a cop-out since the pencil art was done by legendary Avengers‘ artist John Buscema with watercolours by Alex Ross. It was to be Buscema’s last professional work before his passing in 2002. Together with Roy Thomas, Buscema introduced new characters in the pages of Avengers, including a new Black Knight and Vision, both of whom are represented here. We also see a rare depiction of Clint Barton as Goliath, and strangely enough, no sign of Quicksilver who in this era was practically inseparable from his sister, the Scarlet Witch.
The reason all these Avengers are facing one direction in this piece from 2013? “Invincible” was intended to be a companion piece to his classic 2004 “In the Light of Justice” featuring members of DC’s Justice League of America. Marvel’s “Trinity”, Thor, Iron Man and Captain America take the foreground, but Ross manages to fit in a total of 11 Avengers, drawing from members of the team in the first few years of the team’s history, just before the 1970s.
5. Avengers Assemble
“Avengers Assemble” made its debut at the 2010 San Diego Comic Con, and I got to see it up close in person. Here’s what I had to say back then:
“The art is gorgeous in its complexity and stunning in its simplicity. Janet van Dyne’s Wasp is almost camouflaged in front of the team, but proves her centrality and recalls her later chairmanship by being placed ahead of the “Big Three” of Captain America, Thor and Iron Man. In contrast, the gigantic Goliath aka Hank Pym is kept in shadow at the back, with only his eyepiece visible, perhaps a reminder of how his whole Avengers tenure was marred by him never really being all there.
Perhaps the only disappointment is that members Hercules and Quicksilver are absent from the painting, having joined the team just before the likes of Black Panther and Vision.”