New Avengers #1 & 2, by Jonathan Hickman and Steve Epting
I already declared that I wouldn’t be following Jonathan Hickman’s run on Avengers due to its four-dollar price tag and bi-weekly publication schedule. It would take a truly spectacular run to make me shell out eight bucks a month for corporate spandex, I declared, and Avengers‘ first issue, while entertaining, definitely wasn’t that.
And I had pretty much decided that New Avengers, though only shipping once a month, wasn’t going to be worth my time either. It was guilt by association to some extent, I suppose: Marvel’s been comparing the two series’ relationship to the way Hickman’s Fantastic Four and FF interacted. Which means that you really do need to read both books at least part of the time if you’re going to get the whole story, and I could see the funnybook bills mounting in ways I didn’t like.
Plus, to be honest, the first issue of New Avengers really didn’t set my world on fire. In spite of its focus on the Black Panther (one of my favorites), and in spite of some very cool individual scenes…
…I found the issue as a whole a bit dull. I do like the moral dilemma posed in the above panel, but five seasons of Fringe already plumbed those depths. And the rest of the story centered on a group of Wakandan students proving themselves in some kind of high tech tribal test that I didn’t find all that interesting. They seemed like obvious cannon fodder, so I didn’t care that much when they died (Oh! SPOILERS! I guess.). And the world-destroying threat in black leather hip huggers…
…just felt kinda old hat 14 years after The Authority. So I decided not to bother with the series. But then issue two came out on a week when I didn’t have much else to read, so I picked it up anyway, and… Whaddayknow? It was good!
Once the Panther summons the rest of the New Avengers line-up to Wakanda to help deal with things, the story heats up fast. Not because of the situation itself, exactly, but because of the characters involved in it, and how they react. The problem, it seems, is that dimensions are colliding and self-destructing all along the multiversal string, with the collisions centered (as always) on Earth. Our Heroes can avoid the destruction of their universe, but only by destroying whatever alternate Earth is on a collision course with their own. Reed Richards sums up the problem in his usual cheery manner:
Which brings us to the rest of Our Heroes! In addition to the Black Panther and Reed, there’s Tony Stark, Dr. Strange, Namor, Black Bolt, and Captain America. The current line-up of the Avengers Illuminati. The secret heads of the super hero world, possessors of the Infinity Gems of Thanos, and the brain trust behind some of the most disastrous decisions of the past decade of Marvel spandex publishing. Not all of these men get along anymore, and (though he needs them now) the Panther finds the very idea of the group disgusting.
So right off the bat, the fireworks begin. The Panther threatens, once the current crisis is averted, to kill Namor for the Wakandan blood that’s on his hands after their war with Atlantis (actually, it’s more of a promise). Black Bolt cracks that table they’re all sitting at by uttering a single period. This gets across the point that he, for one, is willing to destroy a world to save his own. Namor seems all about it, too, and Stark’s at least willing to consider the possibility. Cap’s not down with that plan at all, however, and gives one of his usual rousing speeches about taking the moral high ground and finding another way. They all agree, and get to work on a plan to avert the coming disaster. Cap has, once again, rallied the troops.
Then, of course, Reed and the Panther set about figuring out how to destroy a planet behind his back.
Hatred, intrigue, and well-intentioned backstabbing, with nothing less than the fate of the universe at stake! Now, THAT is worth four of my corporate spandex dollars. Hickman’s been hinting in interviews that this book will be a sort of realpolitik look at global super-heroics, and if this second issue is any indication of how he’s going to handle the idea, then I think I’ll be sticking around for awhile.
At least until the whole beautiful ugly thing gets tripped up in some massive crossover bollocks, and I quit reading in disgust.
Combined score for the two issues: