*of course, huge spoilers ahead*
New Avengers #6
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Pencilled by Steve Epting
Inked by Rick Magyar
Coloured by Frank D’Armata
Cover by Jock
Dated July 2013
In case you’ve forgotten: Reed Richards, Iron Man, Beast, Black Panther, Namor, Doctor Strange and Blackbolt have gathered together to deal with a bit of a problem. Earths from different dimensions keep crashing into each other, the result being either one dies, or both. The heroes have done everything they could think of to handle the situation nice and heroically, but times are tough. They’ve captured a black and white vixen named Black Swan who seems to know quite a bit about these unfortunate incursions, but all the information she gives is very cryptic. Trying to decipher her mysterious messages is like trying to understand a Jonathan Hickman comic book. Hey now!
So the gang decides they need to build an antimatter injection system so they can blow up these invading Earths. Turns out they got the plans for this kind of bomb from Black Swan, and she’s very proud of them. And look! Another incursion, this one occurring in Latveria! Let’s see that bomb put to use!
When the team arrive, they don’t seem all that worried. But Black Swan is, because usually the sky turns red. This time it’s blue. Apparently that means “Mapmakers”, as the team watches an invading army come from the other-dimensional Earth to attack Castle Doom. For some reason, Hickman decides that the Avengers won’t go into battle and he lets Doom and his heir (the ever-lovable Kristoff Vernard) to handle the enemies themselves. I’ll admit it seemed strange, but it was also awesome to see Doom and Kristoff take on the small army themselves. Hickman knows how to make certain characters seem cooler than ever.
So these “Mapmakers”… what’s the deal? Black Swan explains: they are an army that will land on an Earth and wipe it clean—destroying all life, you know the drill. When an incursion occurs, they invade the new Earth and launch a piece of their now-dead planet towards it. This chunk of dead-Earth acts as a beacon, so they can come back and start the whole process over again. Apparently this is unnatural and against the judgement of Black Swan’s “Rabum Alal”. She also calls these Mapmakers “Sidera Maris”…
Well, it’s all very confusing but it makes the “Avengers” job easier. The other Earth in this incursion is already dead—they blow it up and nobody gets hurt. No big deal. Except Kristoff later finds the chunk of planet that had landed on Castle Doom—remember, that’s the Mapmaker’s marker!
Oh and when Black Swam is returned to her cell she telepathically communicates with the captured other-dimensional Terrax. Yes, she’s telepathic now. Why not?
If you’re confused, don’t worry, so was I. Am I. I am…I mean…heck I don’t even know anymore. I’m all for new mythos and characters, world building and braving new territory but whatever Hickman’s been doing in the pages of this book and its sister title, Avengers, is beginning to be a little too much. Builders, Alephs, Ex Nihilo and Abyss, Rabum Alal, the Black Swans and now Mapmakers, Sidera Maris… I can’t tell if this is all so unclear because it’s a mystery and my head can’t keep these new concepts straight, or if it has all just been poorly explained. One can only read on and hope to keep track of everything.
I like the complexity, but there’s a line between intricate and overwhelming. There’s a line between ambiguous and impenetrable. There’s a line between enjoyable and frustrating. This series is dancing around all of those lines.
New Avengers #7
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Mike Deodato
Coloured by Frank Martin and Rain Beredo
Cover by Mike Deodato and Frank Martin
Dated August 2013
Let’s take a break now and find out what all of our “Avengers” (remember, these guys were once called the Illuminati, now they don’t really call themselves anything, but the book is called New Avengers, so whatever) are up to.
Iron Man is out in space for some reason—something Guardians of the Galaxy related I’m sure (but I haven’t read those issues).
Reed Richards is shooting himself back and forth throughout the multiverse to simultaneously be with his family and here for this book. I haven’t read the issues of Fantastic Four that were published at this time so I don’t really know what the story is there, but at least Hickman tries to keep continuity, even if the explanation isn’t really an explanation at all.
Doctor Strange is “indisposed”… and surrounded by demons. Mysterious!
Beast decides to chat with Black Swan and teach her Latin, while she teaches him a few far out languages.
Black Bolt sits on his throne in Attilian, helping his crazy villain brother Maximus build something that looks like it will be dangerous. More secrets!
Black Panther and Namor decide to talk it out because their kingdoms have been in quite the scuffle. Apparently Namor flooded Wakanda? When did this happen? Most of this issue is taken up by Black Panther talking in circles and figuring out if he should accept Namor’s peace offering or let his sister (the current Queen of Wakanda) go to war with Atlantis. It’s a barely realized plot point that takes place behind the scenes in this series, not really affecting anything and referring to huge battles and such but never actually showing them. Really, this is Hickman’s tired excuse to ramp up the rivalry between Panther and Namor. It’s lame and clearly filler.
Oh! And Doctor Doom invites Reed Richards and Doctor Strange over for dinner, which seemed neat at first but then proves to be a complete waste of time. They tough talk each other, Doom doesn’t get any info he wants and Reed and Strange teleport out of there all cool and collected like they’re just playing some big game of chess. All style, no substance—complete baloney.
Catch those credits above? That’s right, folks. Steve Epting is out, Mike Deodato is in. If you’ve been following these articles, you’ll know that Deodato had recently infected the main Avengers title as well. And I hated it. His work is just as bad here. Damn.
Everything about this issue sucked. The dialogue was written quite well, until you realize none of it really mattered. Yes, the characters all sound right and they say cool things—but nothing actually happens! More hints at secrets and mysteries…oh goody. What a waste of $4.
New Avengers #8
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Mike Deodato
Coloured by Frank Martin
Cover by Deodato and Marte Gracia
Dated September 2013
If I was irked by the waste of time and money that was New Avengers #7, then #8 has me downright angry. I think it took about five minutes to read. Let’s cover the bases, shall we?
Reed Richards and Tony Stark meet up—turns out Iron Man had been in deep space, met up with a Watcher (the Watcher?) and found the dead corpse of The Living Tribunal. Bold move, Hickman, but one panel does not an issue make. Reed and Tony then spend a few pages (not just panels) basically saying “we need a plan”. Oh, and “the system is broken”…let’s not forget.
Switch to Blackbolt and his mad brother Maximus. Seems they’ve been working together (as unlikely as that sounds, given their history) and Maximus has built a few crazy contraptions. One is a terrigen mist…something. Bomb, maybe? The other is a portal to a place where sounds are rendered without pitch—a place where Blackbolt can freely talk. Oh, then Medusa comes by and she and Blackbolt talk for a few pages (not just panels) without actually saying anything.
Next up is Namor and Black Panther. Remember how their nations are at war? While Namor (surprisingly) calls for peace, Panther tells him that a strike force has been sent to Atlantis. And by “tells him” I mean takes 6 pages mulling about, avoiding the point.
Then we get four pages of silence where we see various villains (that will play huge roles in the upcoming Infinity event) touch down on Earth, ready for battle.
While this isn’t necessarily a “poorly written” comic book, it is easily one of the most infuriating. Dialogue is flashy—and yes, appropriate to the characters, but contains absolutely no substance. What might have taken only a single panel to explain in a comic from the 80s, here takes at least 4 pages.
Now I like Hickman’s “forward thinking” and “long-time planning”, but when you’re thinking about the story you want to tell in five months, you tend to forget about what you’re saying in the moment. This issue is one of the most blatant examples of filler I’ve ever read. When you’re out of ideas and have time to kill, write a few scenes where characters talk without consequence and tell the artist to draw huge pictures to cover up the space—right?
The more I think about this issue, the angrier I get.
Mike Deodato’s interior art sucks. His cover sucks.
This issue sucks.