When a comic book is enthralling during the low points, that’s when you know the writer is a keeper. Anybody can write heavy action, and it also doesn’t take a great writer to pen absolute convoluted confusion and pass it off as deep. However, when an issue is mostly a conversation, one drenched in science and mythology, and you hang on every word, that’s good stuff. New Avengers #5 is just such an issue. Very little movement or action, but oh does writer Jonathan Hickman keep you hanging on his every word.
The Illuminati are having an off day. The secret hero team composed of Iron Man, Reed Richards, Prince Namor, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Beast and Black Bolt, had gone to a parallel Earth to destroy it. Hopes were high that this sacrifice would end the destruction heading to our earth. The Illuminati met with Terrax, the herald of Galaktus, a world eater of parallel worlds. This herald informed our heroes they would be smart to allow the destruction of this world. Heroes are heroes. Instead, they fought.
New Avengers #5 opens a week after that showdown. The alien woman, the one Black Panther watched destroy a parallel earth, is now a person of need. Our heroes are stumped. How can they stop the incursions that threaten our world? How can they know when they will happen and how these incursions should be reversed? The key to it is this alien woman, who we learn is a Black Swan. Hickman unleashes not just her understanding of the events, but also the Black Swan’s origin and the start of death itself. As always, heady stuff from Hickman, but executed perfectly.
I am usually not a fan of gratuitous exposition. In lesser hands, the lengthy conversation between the Illuminati and the Black Swan begins to feel easy, as though the writer wants to just tell you so he doesn’t have to show you. Hickman is simply too good for that. He deftly weaves examples with exposition so what you experience is a learning event, a visual and written history lesson. By the end of New Avengers #5, the stakes are higher and the difficulties tenfold. Hickman does a great job of creating tension and giving our heroes problems they can’t easily solve.
Steve Epting’s art is always good, but here, he really gets to shine. Epting loves the use of shadow. Characters standing in it, shadows falling across faces, dark tones highlighting a scene. Issue #5 is almost completely that style. The black and white of the Black Swan, the dark tomb where the issue takes place - it all feeds into Epting’s high abilities with darkness and light.
As always, the character forms and faces are top notch and what little action there is jumps off the page. Epting inked this alongside Rick Magyar. The two have flawlessly heightened the pencils with solid, heavy inks. Frank D’Armata’s colors were put to the test. With such limited actual color, he really used the palette to give depth to the mostly black and white art.
New Avengers continues to outdo itself. Just when you think Jonathan Hickman can’t top himself, he does.
(5 Story, 4.5 Art)