Back when Marvel NOW was announced, we were informed that Jonathan Hickman, who had a good run with ‘Fantastic Four’ and ‘FF’, would be switching teams. He had been called up from Marvel’s First Family to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Last month, we saw where he would be taking the main team in ‘Avengers’ #1 and #2, but this month we were turned on to wheeling and dealings of the new New Avengers team.
Hickman assembles The Illuminati, a group of heroes consisting of the mightiest of Earth’s Mightiest that came to prominence during the events leading to ‘Civil War’, as the focal point of the series. They are summoned by Black Panther, the one member of the group who greatly opposed their existence when he was invited to join, because worlds are literally colliding and they are the only group that could potentially stop it. Featuring a roster of Captain America, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Black Bolt, Namor, and Mr. Fantastic, they come together because a being calling herself Black Swan has appeared in Wakanda. Black Swan has done some serious damage like killing some of the nation’s brightest and strongest warriors, and revealed a prophecy of worlds dying. Now charged with the mission of trying to prevent this destruction, the brightest minds in the Marvel Universe have to explore every option to keep their world alive at all costs, even if it means bringing out the weapon of one of their greatest foes out of the armory and into play.
When the titles were first announced, the writer described ‘Avengers’ as the way we want the world to be and ‘New Avengers’ as the way the world is and that “one book is about life, one is about death”. After having read two issues of each, he really wasn’t kidding when he described them as total opposites. However, both feature some of the biggest Avengers stories ever told. These might be the most massive story arcs that I’ve seen outside of a crossover event actually.
Like ‘Avengers’, ‘New Avengers’ is complex and has many layers at play at once. For instance, there’s plenty of bad blood between T’Challa and Namor after ‘Avengers Vs. X-Men’, but they have to put differences aside for the greater good of the planet. Also because of AvX, Illuminati member Charles Xavier is dead, yet he held an integral part of their plan to undo the prophecy. Time is not something that they have much of, so they have to deal with this detour swiftly. Everything going on in the first two issues of this series has a heightened sense of urgency that keeps the reader on the edge of their seats craving the answer to the question, “What happens next?”
In addition to the urgency created by the events of the story, the cast is an interesting one to bring into play. I’ve been a fan of the Illuminati team since I picked up their issues from ‘Civil War’ that revealed that they have been running things in secret since the Kree-Skrull War. Each one is a great leader and each one represents a unique part of the Marvel Universe, but it’s a case of too many cooks in the kitchen and eventually they’ll come to blows over something, probably at the least convenient moment, and that’s something I’m looking forward to seeing.
Another thing that carries over from Hickman’s ‘Avengers’ is the excellent graphical elements in the book. This is especially showcased in issue #2. The simplistic minimalist portrayal of the title pages and the charts are aesthetically pleasing. The interior artwork, done by previous Hickman collaborator Steve Epting, is gorgeous as well. The cover art by Jock is poster-worthy, but the cover of two reminds me of a high school cheerleader’s Facebook photo. It’s not something that I ever imagined the leaders of the Marvel Universe doing.
In general, this title is enjoyable so far. It’s definitely really dark, in both content and art style, but in a good way. I’m enjoying unraveling the layers of ‘New Avengers’ and hope that Hickman keeps delivering such excellent stories for all the Avengers teams that he’s writing.
New Avengers #2
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Steve Epting, Rick Magyar, & Frank D’Armata
Cover Art by Jock