*of course, huge spoilers ahead*
New Avengers #24
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Valerio Schiti
Coloured by Frank Martin and David Curiel
Cover by Gabrielle Dell’Otto
Dated November 2014
In Avengers #35 Jonathan Hickman had me convinced that everything was now on track. The pieces were in place, the pace was painstakingly pushed and plenty of plot points were positioned just so. His Avengers run was finally reaching its apex and I figured it would be smooth sailing until the inevitable lull of the middle-of-the-arc issues. I’m sad to report that that lull has come all too soon. When one attempts to read New Avengers #24, all of the thrust we experienced last week is moot. Until the very last page, this is book proves to be thoroughly unpleasant. This is not the book I was hoping for, but unfortunately, it’s also not all that surprising.
Let’s begin our tale jumping off the awesome concept we were introduced to at the end of last issue: the shiny new Cabal. This time, Namor has freed Thanos and his friends, introduced them to Black Swan and Terrax and let everyone loose to destroy worlds across the multiverse—in effect saving their own. We open with Namor sitting down to dinner with Dr. Doom, explaining that *shockingly* the Cabal is out of control and actually enjoying the destruction. Who would have thought? Doom refuses to help, because in his words, “Doom is no man’s second choice”. This scene would be perfectly fine if it didn’t take up a good third of the book, filling the pages with pompous drivel and failing to make a solid point until at least the fifth page. Again we are introduced to the scene-chewing dialogue and twisting, go-nowhere conversations Hickman is so fond is constructing. Again we groan as the characters blather on.
Moving on, we get to watch the Cabal take down an alternate Earth, this one inhabited by the X-Men. Though Hickman has free reign to create any sort of crazy alternate reality he likes, he once again settles for the mundane and gives us an almost exact replica of the team we are familiar with. For a series that has relied so heavily on alternate Earths and endless possibilities, Hickman has shown a minimal amount of creative effort on all fronts. Again and again I find myself disappointed with these “alternate Earths”, which all seem to be different spaces for familiar faces. I grew up on a steady diet of Exiles, Earth X and Age of Apocalypse, so perhaps my dissatisfaction was inevitable—but Hickman has a huge playground filled with some of the best toys in fiction, and he chooses to stay inside to watch reruns.
Either way, the scenes portrayed here are upsetting, to say the least. First, Hickman tickles my fanboy bone by mentioning that these X-Men are championed by Xorn and Zorn, the pair of brothers in desperate need of a reality that treats them right (let us not dive into the mess that is the Earth 616 Xorn). Of course, any hope of seeing these heroes in action is immediately dashed in favour of a puppet show performed by Terrax using the brother’s empty skulls. Thanos then commands Xavier to beg for death and we get to watch that. No fun. No fun at all.
Our next pointless scene follows Black Panther and his sister as they attempt to take back the Necropolis while the Cabal is away. They figure if they can steal back the anti-matter injection bombs, they’ll have the upper hand. Why anyone is surprised to find Maximus hanging around, having betrayed the Illuminati, is beyond me. He’s Maximus the Mad—betrayal is his thing! From here the Panthers get their butts handed to them by Proxima Midnight (who just happened to be on guard as well) and big brother BP takes off to find Reed, leaving little sister Shuri behind to certain slaughter. Nothing accomplished there, let’s keep moving…
The final scene takes of back to Castle Doom—and it’s the only saving grace of this issue. You see, Doom turned down Namor, but that doesn’t mean he’s out of the game. Remember way back in the first story arc when the Mapmakers attacked Doom and he recovered their beacon? He put it in the hands of the Mad Thinker, who extrapolated the appropriate algorithm (or some such science non-sense) and figured out a way to track the Mapmakers back to their source. This means Dr. Doom is closer than anybody else to finding out the secret of the multiversal collapse. The final pages reveals the extra ace up his sleeve and I have to admit, it made me nearly forget the transgressions of issue I had just read. Yes, Dr. Doom has in his captivity (or perhaps service) the Molecule Man. We knew a new Secret Wars was on the horizon but this—this!—makes it legit. And no, this isn’t some energy-form, modern redesign either—this is straight-up classic purple and green Molecule Man. I swoon.
This fact alone renews my faith is the direction of this story. There are a lot of exciting things about to happen over in Avengers, and right at the last minute Hickman shows his hand and brings this title up to speed. Though the story seems sound in the long run, I still fear for the quality of what is to come. Fanboy pleasing story twists aside, I’m reminded that Hickman has trouble constructing tight individual issues.
And did I mention that Valerio Schiti is back on art? I should have, because he is and it’s awesome. You can be sure that no matter how far off course Hickman gets, no matter how long he drags on or dulls his story down, with Schiti on board it will look exceptional. Of that, we should all be very thankful.
There are still seven issues of New Avengers and seven issues of Avengers left until we get to the big event. Let’s hope Hickman pumps the pace, pushes the plot twists and keeps us all generally entertained. If he drones on and on, wasting space (and our money!) all of this initial interest will be for nought. Now is not the time to slow down!