I love Al Ewing, but, seriously, I'm having a hard time seeing me sticking with this title past issue #3.
The good news is that Ewing does an impressive job of making the story that seemed impossible to understand last issue clear in this one. The Maker suspects that this Universe is a new one and is searching for proof that other Universes existed before this one. He's doing so by excavating old souls and somehow triangulating them to find older ones. His hope is that he'll be able to map the previous Universes in this way. Sure, we learn this through not one, but two, super-villain speeches. It's normally the sort of thing that bothers me, but, frankly, Ewing manages to sell it here, since the Maker seems exactly like the type of megalomaniacal lunatic given to such speeches. Moreover, it gives us a hint that seems to counter my sense that the inhabitants of this new Universe (heh) remembered the old one(s). If they do, they don't remember the events of "Secret Wars." That said, though, Maria Hill referred to incursions in "Captain America: Sam Wilson" #2, so I'm not sure how people think that the incursions resolved themselves. After all, at some point, someone has to realize that this Universe has two Reed Richards, don't they?
All that said, the bad news is that the Maker's plan raises all sorts of questions that Ewing doesn't answer. First, I didn't quite get why the Maker decided not only to map old souls, but to weaponize this process by turning present souls into crystals and replacing the bearer's head with them. (Again admirably, he somehow manages to sell the process itself, through a pretty great "SCIENCE!" sequence involving the A.I.M. scientists.) Second, we may know more about the Maker's goals, but we know virtually nothing about the Avengers'. Ewing implies that 'Berto might have nefarious goals, even if he manages to pass Dum Dum's inspection in this issue. Moreover, we don't know why the other team members actually joined the team. Why would two young gay guys decide to strand themselves from their family and friends off the coast of California? We have no idea.
Sure, I'll give credit where credit is due and say that Ewing pulls off three explanatory sequences without them seeming excessively expository. But, I would've preferred a simpler adventuring hook that didn't require such effort, freeing up the space to let us get to know the team a little better. I know it's only the second issue, but, with as many new comics as Marvel is throwing at us at this point, it's not exactly a seller's market, in terms of individual creative teams getting to keep readers for long. I'm hoping everyone has, like, dinner together or something next issue so we can start to get a sense of the feeling that Ewing has planned for this book.
** (two of five stars)