Review: New Avengers #19 – In For A Penny…
New Avengers had fallen into a rut post Infinity with Hickman drawing the plot over needless issues, time and time again showing us other worlds where the incursions of his plot were happening. All of it could have been effectively demonstrated in one issue rather than a few. Thankfully the plot is finally moving again. These incursions can be described as rips between universes that are centred on Earth. When an incursion happens two Earths from different universes begin to collide. As Hickman has it, if the two Earths were to collide then it wouldn’t just be their end but it would also mean the end of every possible universe in the entire multiverse. The solution is to destroy one of the Earth’s before the collision can happen, leaving one universe without an Earth but all of the rest of existence intact. It’s a lot to get your head around and a big obstacle this title has had since its Marvel Now launch. This is comic book weirdness at its weirdest. It is certainly not for everyone, but I personally love it.
Previously in New Avengers the Illuminati had witnessed heroes from two alternate worlds battle to prevent an incursion. The winners of that battle were the heroes of Earth-4,290,001 and now our Earth-616 heroes have to face them in the next incursion to save the multiverse. The hook that separates this encounter is that for the first time since the incursions started, the Illuminati find them themselves coming up against an Earth that also has heroes to defend it. Hickman utilises this to give weight to the proceedings; early on those heroes commenting on whether the Earth-616 heroes are good or evil, “Are they men… or are they monsters?” they ask, and it is fitting because with the amount of Earths the Illuminati have destroyed at this point that distinction does seem difficult to make. It’s this moral compromise that is dealt with over the course of this instalment.
I found it very amusing how similar to DC’s Justice League Jonathan Hickman has made the heroes of Earth-4,290,001. It was a fun distraction spotting the proxies for Batman, Superman, and some choice DC heroes in their ranks.
The story bounds forward by tying in Tony Stark’s recent confrontation with Captain America and by giving us an update on Thanos’ condition in his frozen prison. The urgency of their situation is underlined numerous times in the issue as it moves back and forward from Earth-616 before the incursion to Earth-4,290,001 as they confront The Great Society. The colour work from Frank Martin keeps these time jumps manageable by using a contrasting colour pallet to separate them visually. I’ve commented before on Martin’s colours obscuring detail by how heavily he allows lighting to overtake the natural colours of the hero’s attire, but here it is fine as Valerio Schiti’s clear pencils keep all of the action distinguished and easy to read.
Black Bolt being present in the title continues to confuse me. The New Avengers timeline caught up with the rest of Marvel during Infinity, an event that had Black Bolt go missing. Yet here in the pages of New Avengers he’s still present within the ranks of the Illuminati without much in the way of an explanation for it.
The biggest problem with this book is how dense the story is. At this point there isn’t much room for new readers if you’ve not been following it from the start and that’s despite there recently being a new official jumping on point with Marvel Now Phase Two. If you’re in then you are likely already in for the long haul. If you’re not reading New Avengers there are so many other Avengers titles that are so much more immediately accessible that I’d struggle to recommend this book over them. The story being told is superb though; it’s weird, it’s suspenseful, it’s serious to a fault, and the stakes are as high as they could possibly be. Hickman is playing a long game here, one that I expected to pay off in Infinity but still continues on. Perhaps the “Time Runs Out” event will be when this story reaches its conclusion. Until then there seems to be no end in sight.