Very recently, we saw Jonathan Hickman taking the helm for the Avengers and this week, in a possibly confusing fashion, we also see him re-launching New Avengers.
The thing that strikes you immediately is that unlike Brian Michael Bendis' recent runs on Avenegrs and New Avengers, Hickman is creating two very distinctly different books. Flashing back to a quite a significant moment in the Marvel Universe, we are reminded that Black Panther previously made a moral stand against what became the Illuminati. This was the moment when the self-appointed strongest in the world were deciding its fate, and as a result Wakanda withdrew further from the fray.
Jumping forward to a more present moment, we are also given a very teasing single page with Reed Richards accepting the fate that everything dies, but without anything further we are left to wonder.
The main story revolves solely around the Black Panther and a number of Wakandan youths who are exploring their surroundings - and also their minds - in a test to prove their worthiness for greater things. All is going well until what can be described as an other worldly influence threatens to end the existence of the planet. Although it is merely a minor plot to go over at the moment, it will no doubt have a greater influence in the longer term, as this attracts the attention of the Illuminati. Their arrival in Wakanda (less the presence of Professor X for obvious reasons) leaves the Black Panther with a very difficult dilemma as to where his next steps lie.
The buildup through the comic leads you to believe that there will be a large deal of opposition to them however the cover, a lovely image provided by Jock, suggests strongly to the contrary.
For the rest of the issue Steve Epting has the pencils and I have to say I really liked his style for it. For once, it shows three variations on style to illustrate different points and ideas. This was a really nice touch I felt as the haziness of the past was met with the clarity of the immediate present. There is a lot of detail conveyed in all of the frames both directly and indirectly which means the reader is far more involved in the issue as a whole. A good example of this is when Panther enters the main story and he isn’t actually draw in, a lot of this is provided through use of shadow and empty space to provide the detail in the depiction.
I also liked the effort that was given at the end of the issue to re-introduce the Illuminati as well but without giving a huge reveal until the final page. Previous readers will have still known who they were but it was also something for new readers to take on board as well. The gravitas of the arrival was deepened by the simple use of a few panels.
As a package Hickman and Epting work really well together - after all this is the coupling who killed off the Human Torch and changed the line up of the Fantastic Four. The comic will no doubt be of high quality and this is the perfect point to pick it up and get on board with it too. There is some history behind it all as well but this is slowly being given to the reader so fans and newbies alike should get on well with it. I highly recommend that you pick this one up, regardless of whether you are also reading Avengers.
Matt Puddy is gearing up Superior Spider-Man next week...