New beginnings for a comic series can either fizzle the power of what came before or send the title down a new road of greatness. For the former, see Jason Aaron’s run on Incredible Hulk, and for the latter, we have writer Jonathan Hickman’s new dawn for the Avengers. The first two issues of Avengers employed layered and complex stories that easily bridge the worlds of action and plot. Now Hickman releases New Avengers #1, and it looks like he’s doing it again.
The Illuminati, the group of heroes that attempted to make themselves the secret defenders of the Earth, have been reassembled. Iron Man, Professor X, Namor, Black Bolt, Doctor Strange, Reed Richards and Black Panther were gathered together in an attempt to be a governing force over Earth’s heroes. The only hero who saw the danger in such an idea was T’Challa, aka Black Panther. He walked away, leaving just a warning that this idea can only end in disaster. Hickman uses this initial meeting to set up the first issue of New Avengers. Black Panther remains isolated in Wakanda, attempting to heal his country from the effects of the X-Men’s rampage during AvX.
Members of his tribe have found a machine at the end of a set of games that are traditional in Wakanda. Solving a riddle, the three have won a chance to explore another planet in a distant universe. Before this honor can be bestowed on them by Black Panther, an alien race shows up on the other side of a dimensional wall looking to ready a world for Rabum Alal, a supposed world eater. There is a brief battle that takes the life of the three tribes' members before Black Panther can knock out the alien leader, resulting in the explosion of a planet from another dimension. Jump ahead 24 hours, when Black Panther brings together the Illuminati while asking his goddess for forgiveness for “what he’s about to do."
Confused? Don’t worry, so was I. Not a bad confusion, more an intriguing type. Who was this race of aliens? Who is Rabum Alal? Why has Black Panther gathered the Illuminati and what is it they’re going to do? This is what Jonathon Hickman excels at. Secretive plots that still drive a story forward. Slowly unfolding tiny plot points that will come together into a bigger picture which will become clear as the story arc continues. New Avengers reads like Hickman’s Avengers, as something slightly deeper and a bit more challenging than standard comic book fare. I can’t wait to see what he does next.
Using Steve Epting also takes New Avengers to the next level. Epting did some magical work on Captain America and he brings that same artistic force to New Avengers. His skill with shadow comes in very handy with the Black Panther work, as does his eye for detail. Epting pencils to his writer, where Ed Brubaker’s Captain America was dark noir, New Avengers is epic in the Greek Theater tradition, so Epting draws that way. The characters are slightly bigger than life, and a feeling of melancholy lays over the entire issue.
Jonathan Hickman’s New Avengers is a darker themed and very exciting new road for the series.
(4 Story, 4 Art)