*of course, huge spoilers ahead*
New Avengers #15
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Simone Bianchi
Coloured by Adriano Dall’Alpi
Cover by Bianchi
Dated May 2014
The good news: unlike the main Avengers title, New Avengers has embraced its core concept (for better or worse) and avoided pointless, clichéd diversions.
The bad news: we’re still struggling to understand many of the fundamental basics that this series has introduced. The mystery isn’t simply “why is the everything dying?”, or “who caused this?”… we’ve got “who are the Black Swans?”, “who is Rabum Alal?”,”who are the Ivory Kings?”, “whatever happened to Dr. Strange?”, “where did the Black Priests come from?”… and so on, and so on.
We recently discovered that the Mapmakers were stray new model adaptoids sent through interdimensional space by AIM, but that’s one of the few, rare steps the plot has advanced on. At this point, we don’t need any new mysteries. This title has not moved from its initial concept and fifteen issues later it’s safe to say we’re all a little fed up. Look, it’s a good idea. I like what’s going on. This is a high stakes scenario with everything on the line and the entire Marvel multiverse hanging in the balance. What we need is some solid development and a few bloody answers! What we don’t need is pointless, endless pseudo-science talk and more things to question…
…which is exactly what we get here.
We all know what The Bridge is. If not by name, then we can at least tell what the Illuminati’s favourite little device does. Hickman once spent almost an entire issue explaining to us that it is “like a mirror”. This time, he spends the majority of the issue telling us “it can see through time”. Fine. That could have been said in a single panel, perhaps explained in an entire page, but no… this is a Jonathan Hickman comic book and if something obvious can be said three different ways, he’ll find a fourth way to say it.
So what do the Illuminati decide to look at? They check out what happened to Black Swan. What we get is a super quick tale of her grabbing some sort of vial before retreating into her mysterious library as her world is destroyed by the Black Priests. Oh right, I forgot, “what is that mysterious library all about?”
If you want us on the line, don’t just bait the hook, drop the damn thing in the water every now and then—don’t tell us the worm is awesome, show us!
Looking into another dimension, we see Black Swan talk with alternate reality Manifold, Reed Richards and Tony Stark. A lot is said, but nothing we actually care about. She, maybe, used Manifold to teleport them all off world, which was then subsequently destroyed? It doesn’t matter, Manifold kills Richards and Swan kills Stark. The Illuminati are watching all this from The Bridge and they are shocked. We, the readers, are not.
In a clumsy ending, the Illuminati storm their Necropolis headquarters to check on Black Swan, who has an Emma Frost-like costume now and looks like she’s ready to burst with some sort of power. She makes some threats about Rabum Alal landing and destroying everything. The Illuminati tell her she shall remain imprisoned. I’m still scratching my head, wondering why such a pointless scene was included.
In the “epilogue”, Terrax and a now-normal looking Black Swan have a telepathic conversation—lots of words, very little substance. If we learn anything from this scene it’s that something strange is up with the carbonite-frozen Thanos cube. Otherwise, more dribble about everything ending and crap like that.
Honestly, at this point, I don’t care anymore.
I’m happy that this volume of the Avengers (and this title, New Avengers) is something different. I’m glad that it’s trying to reach new heights. Marvel’s flagship team should be taking on the grandest of challenges—the most imposing of calamities. At this point, however, I’m just getting sick and tired. The pseudo-science blather, the endless mysteries to keep track of (and the lack of hope that anything will actually be answered), the countless scenes that go nowhere or result in nothing more than a simple explanation—really, Hickman is spinning his wheels and he’s asking a great deal from the readers.
In order to enjoy this series, we must buy into Hickman’s newly created mythos, keep meticulous track of all the new concepts and characters (which he explains either poorly, slowly, rarely or not at all) then wait patiently as he repeats himself again and again, hoping that something will move forward, someday. There’s a lot to like about Hickman’s work on this series so far, but boy does it frustrate.
I mean, are we honestly expected to watch the wheels spin until another Marvel Event comes along to finally explain everything and close the run? At this point, Marvel is/was asking readers to pay for two monthly titles that did little more than point to something exciting and tell us “now that will be fun!”
I don’t even want to comment on Simone Bianchi’s art. It’s fluid and nice and occasionally pretty ugly but always enjoyable. Great. Good for it.
Let’s move on to the next issue, I’ll bet it’s a real hoot. Something might actually happen!
New Avengers #16.NOW/#1
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Rags Morales
Coloured by Frank Martin
Cover by Mike Deodato and Frank Martin
Dated May 2014
I’m sorry folks. I’ve become a sarcastic, bitter bibliophile. Thing is, I’m sitting here trying to read, explain and review every issue of Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers run (including New Avengers, Infinity and anything else that pops up). Apparently, doing so results in making one sarcastic and bitter. And tired. And fed up. And broke. Just… downright cranky.
Now here we have another .NOW/#1 issue, only published a few months after the Avengers had theirs. It’s a stupid gimmick, because although this is the beginning of a new arc, it’s not a great place to jump on. The only place to jump into New Avengers is the real first issue, and that was sixteen issues ago.
Now that we know the Illuminati can see through space and time with The Bridge (a handy little tool Reed Richards built to, y’know, see through space and time) Black Panther has decided to do some research. It seems most incursions end with the Earths crashing into each other and everything going ka-boom. Sometimes Mapmakers come along and wreck the place; sometimes Black Priests do the job. Well, it turns out there’s one special place that has a number of tricks up its sleeve, so Panther and Namor peer into the looking glass.
This strange Earth is one big Justice League homage. We have Sun God (Superman), The Rider (Batman—he’s even named Wayne), The Jovian (Martian Manhunter), The Norn (Dr. Fate), Dr. Spectrum (Marvel’s favourite term for a Green Lantern wannabe) and Boundless (Flash, of course). We also have Squadron Supreme (heck, Hyperion is a key player in Avengers), but whatever; apparently you can never have too many Justice League pastiches.
So, in classic New Avengers tradition, we get everyone’s favourite “everything dies” scene. Except he says “everything lives”…but really the message is exactly the same. They want to prevent their world from ending prematurely of unnatural causes. Darn those pesky incursions, eh?
So The Society (as they are called) head out to their incursion site, beat up some Sidera Maris and eventually blow up the dead, incurring Earth that threatens them. Their technique? Dr.Fate The Norn puts on a fancy helmet and apparently “pays the ultimate price”, splitting into three, speaking some fancy words and levelling the incoming Earth. Black Panther and Namor comment “well, that is different”, but I don’t know what they are talking about. The Black Priests do that all the time. In fact, the Black Priests look pretty darn similar too! The Norn, did he create them? Only time (and many issues) will tell!
Now this was a genuinely interesting issue—it didn’t answer anything but it introduced us to new (who am I kidding?) characters. We’re told that this Justice League Society just might hold the key to fending off the incursions. It provides some mystery, but not without a point in the general direction of answers. The Rider even goes so far as to mention the ways they’ve staved off destruction in the past (moving a planet through time…sure, why not).
My question is: why the Justice League? Once again Jonathan Hickman has free reign to create something new and completely original and he settles for heavily tread ground. In the early days of this series we got new things like Builders, Ex Nihilo and Black Swan. Now we get evil clones and DC copies. Has Hickman run out of steam? I assert my opinion that he has the end game in mind, but he’s just spinning his wheels until we get there.
Rags Morales fills the art duties here and does a laudable job. This isn’t his finest work, but it’s also clear that care went into it—when Rags rushes, you can tell. This one took time.
I have no idea what’s going on with that cover, though—it’s got everything wrong with it. It’s a Mike Deodato drawing (that I am not fond of), Dr. Strange is prominently displayed though absent inside and a major focus seems to be on some cityscape, which has no bearing on the story whatsoever. Generic, ugly and plastered with a big fat #1—I’m sure all the kids will save their lunch money for this one.
As you can see, despite a neat little push in a seemingly interesting direction, I remain a bitter, grumpy, tired out reader. I mean, what are the odds that the Illuminati will eventually have to face these new heroes? Pretty good I’d say. And having to choose between destroying their planet or letting both die? Oh that’s a for sure. Perhaps they’ll rumble over a misunderstanding, perhaps they won’t like the tough decisions. Perhaps it will take forever to finish this story arc, by the end completely wearing out any interesting qualities sown here.
Only time (and many, many issues) will tell…