REVIEW: New Avengers #1

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New Avengers #1 is the latest Marvel NOW! title, featuring the talents of Jonathan Hickman and Steve Epting. But how new is New Avengers really? Major Spoilers explains it all in this review.

NewAvengers1CoverNEW AVENGERS #1
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Penciler: Steve Epting
Inkers: Rick Magyar with Steve Epting
Color Artist: Frank D’Armata
Leterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover Art: Jock
Editors: Tom Brevoort with Lauren Sankovitch
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99

NEW AVENGERS OR OLD ILLUMINATI?

Jonathan Hickman is a man of big ideas and one of the hottest writers in comics right now. His Manhattan Projects title for Image deservedly made most year-end best of 2012 lists. Coming off a well-regarded run on the Fantastic Four books, Hickman’s new task is to reinvent the Avengers as part of the Marvel NOW! project. His first salvo, the singularly-titled Avengers, has been pretty good through its first two issues. This first issue of New Avengers suffers poorly in comparison.

New Avengers revives the old Illuminati concept (which I’ve always hated, for the record), in which Tony Stark, Black Bolt, Reed Richards, Professor X, Namor and Dr. Strange form a secret cabal designed to manipulate world events. Black Panther refused a berth in the Illuminati, fearing the corrupting potential of such an organization, but by issue’s end, finds himself forced to ask for their aid. This issue is almost entirely focused on Black Panther, as he oversees a little bit of the unorthodox Wakandan educational system before stumbling onto a transdimensional plot that threatens the very Earth itself! But just what this threat comprises is never actually explained. T’Challa stumbles into some sort of portal, running into a nasty lady who calls herself the Black Swan. She utters a threat to planet Earth, he breaks her device, and the problem is seemingly solved. But Black Panther is freaked out for unknowable reasons. Unfortunately, without a reason to be similarly upset, the reader is unlikely to care. Hickman’s words are compelling as ever, but the plot lands entirely flat.

RED ALERT

Steve Epting’s fine art is unfortunately wiped out by Frank D’Armata’s heavy-handed coloring for most of the issue. Epting employs a lush style that is detailed, fluid and exciting. It is too bad that then, when the action moves through a dimensional portal, everything is swamped in a wash of red  tones that overpowers the art on the page. It is an incredibly tedious effect that sucks the joy out of Epting’s pencils.

BOTTOM LINE: THEY CAN’T ALL BE WINNERS

The big problem is the core conceit of this script does not ring true. In the wake of Avengers vs. X-Men, it is a very odd thing to have Black Panther allowing Namor to set foot on Wakandan soil in any context. This is the fish-man that obliterated Wakanda only a few months ago, who is regarded in other titles as an international war-criminal. But here he is, side by side with Captain America, coming to Wakanda. I don’t know why T’Challa didn’t just, y’know… call the actual Avengers instead of the Illuminati. With the threat never getting firmly established, it makes T’Challa’s self-compromise that much more baffling. A weird red-eyed lady is threatening the world with destruction – how is that different from any other Tuesday in the Marvel Universe? The central conflict is poorly spelled out, and that spells doom for this issue. There’s no reason not to expect that Hickman cannot recover from this early stumble… but it is odd to see him stumble in the first place. New Avengers #1 rates a disappointing two out of five stars.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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