As part of writer Jason Aaron’s current WAR OF THE REALMS event book, the Avengers find themselves right at the heart of the battle against Malekith the Accursed. AVENGERS #18 extended the reach of the event by introducing America’s newest heroes, the new Squadron Supreme, into the conflict. Now, in AVENGERS #19, Aaron adds even more players into the mix.

AVENGERS #19 focuses on one of the new Agents of Wakanda, Gorilla-Man. Typically, this is a character who spends most of his time in the background. However, this time around Gorilla-Man has a surprisingly organic and meaningful role.

Artist Ed McGuinness is at his best here in AVENGERS #19. Every page is crisp and clean, telling Aaron’s script in a masterful fashion. Couple those pages with Justin Ponsor and Erick Arciniega’s superb colors and you’ve got yourself a nearly spotless issue.

Agent Gorilla-Man is On the Job in AVENGERS #19

AVENGERS #19 opens with the Avengers in action, fighting in the War of the Realms. As the narration plays out, I thought, “Oh, I guess we’re focusing on Blade or Ghost Rider.” I was wrong. The scene immediately transitions to a zoo, where Ken Hale — aka Gorilla-Man (who’s narrating) — and Ursa Major (the bear guy from the Winter Guard) are having a less-than inconspicuous meeting.

Turns out that Ursa has been doing some undercover work for the Avengers. He briefly updates Gorilla-Man on the vampire situation in Russia, and the two share some witty banter. Right before the two can have a drink together, Ka-Zar shows up to take Gorilla-Man back to Avengers Mountain.

AVENGERS #19 page 7. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Though Doctor Strange safely evacuated everyone in NYC to the Mountain, the Avengers now find themselves under siege by frost giants and dark elves. Black Panther tasks Gorilla-Man with getting the Mountain’s defenses up. In the process of doing so, Gorilla-Man is attacked by dark elves. And while he’s able to complete his mission, he’s nearly killed.

Fortunately, Gorilla-Man is actually immortal. As part of this near-death experience, however, he apparently speaks with a god. I’m not sure what this “god” told him, but for whatever reason, Gorilla-Man now believes he serves Dracula. And Sarge (the evil hell hound) couldn’t agree more.

Adding a Surprising Layer of Depth

While the initial Agents of Wakanda issue (AVENGERS #12) was interesting, I wasn’t sure just how much I’d care about all those guys in the long run. They seemed cool, but I’d rather get more prehistoric Avengers tales than stories about this mismatched team. AVENGERS #19 quickly changed my mind, though.

I’m not surprised that Aaron was able to make me care about Gorilla-Man. I’m surprised at just how well he did it. I went from hardly caring about this guy to now having a keen interest in his progression. If you knew next to nothing about Ken Hale, that’ll quickly change following AVENGERS #19. Aaron doesn’t divulge loads of his backstory, but we get enough hints and nods that we can read into Gorilla-Man’s character well enough for now.

AVENGERS #19 page 15. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

With all that Aaron accomplishes with this character in such a short time, I found that Ken is, simply put, a likable character. He’s not a genius or the greatest fighter around. He’s just a guy who seemingly turned around his life in a very substantial way. He went from hardly caring about the world to now having a vested interest in helping it. Sure, we don’t see all that progression play out, but Aaron’s writing is so smooth that it’s easy enough for us to figure out. I can’t wait to see what Aaron does with this character next.

The Art in AVENGERS #19 is Bananas!

I knew from that first opening, two-page spread of the Avengers that AVENGERS #19 would treat us well. Seeing the team looking all epic like that never fails to amaze me. Ed McGuinness, Justin Ponsor, and Erick Arciniega had me hooked from the very beginning, and they hardly lose any steam moving through this issue.

Given this entire issue revolves around Gorilla-Man, it’s only fitting that he looks completely outstanding. I feel like drawing a gorilla is something you could actually mess up somewhat easily. Luckily, that was hardly the case here in AVENGERS #19. Every panel featuring Gorilla-Man feels lively and fun, even in the dourer moments featuring the character. He’s got a simple, yet crisp design.

AVENGERS #19 page 25. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

And let’s not forget the dozens of other heroes appearing in AVENGERS #19. Between Captain Marvel soaring through space and Captain America assembling his Jotunheim strike force, there’s tons of typical superhero goodness to gawk over. The colors especially help each image and character pop. Ponsor and Arciniega are completely on point here; they balance between bright character colors and dark, shadowy decors with ease.

Simply put, AVENGERS #19 is pretty much another pitch-perfect issue, artistically speaking. Sure, there are a few odd panels here and there, but you’ll hardly bat an eye at those. McGuinness’ emotive drawings are at their best here, and Ponsor and Arciniega’s colors complement his work magnificently.

What’s Next for Gorilla-Man?

I’d really love to know who this “god” was that spoke to Gorilla-Man and what the hell he or she told him. I don’t think he’s brainwashed into believing he serves the Legion of the Unliving. That said, I have absolutely no clue as to what could be at play here. Maybe it’s that Gorilla-Man is actually undead, and that’s why he’s immortal. I need answers, Aaron!

Speculation aside, AVENGERS #19 is another success in my book. Jason Aaron took a very passable character and made him genuinely enjoyable and likable. He added depth to a character whom I thought would hardly ever receive so much as a passing glance. And McGuinness, Ponsor, and Arciniega bring nothing but their A game. Between AVENGERS #18 and #19, these guys are on a hot streak.

We still have a War of the Realms to worry about, though. We’ll have to deal with that before we get anymore Gorilla-Man goodness.

Thank You, Justin Ponsor

As I write this review, the news hit me only a few hours ago that the immensely talented Justin Ponsor passed away on Saturday, May 18, after a long and hard battle with cancer. Needless to say, I’m deeply saddened by this loss. Literally every book I own with Ponsor’s name on it features artistic gold, front to back. That’s largely thanks to him. His mark on the industry won’t soon be forgotten.

Thanks for everything, Justin Ponsor.

AVENGERS #19 by Jason Aaron, Ed McGuinness, Mark Morales, Justin Ponsor, and Erick Arciniega
AVENGERS #19 comes is a surprise issue. Aaron has little to no trouble evolving the character of Gorilla-Man and making us care about him. Not to mention, the WAR OF THE REALMS tie-in aspect of this issue is flawless. On top of all that, you get to look at pitch-perfect pages from McGuinness, Ponsor, and Arciniega all day long. What's not to love?
98 %
Surprising and Completely Enjoyable

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