by Jonathan Hickman (Writer), Mike Deodato (Artist), Frank Martin (Colorist)
*If you follow Infinity, I strongly urge you to read the final issue of the event before reading this issue. You have been warned.*
The Story: Being done with the invasion of Thanos and the war against the builders, the Illuminati returns to their present affairs as they are warned by what might be much more dangerous for their universe.
The Review: With a pretty big event now being done with, it’s the job of New Avengers to provide an epilogue and perhaps a new way to envision what just happened in the Marvel universe. While this series did suffer a bit from some of the threads of Infinity, can it actually provide some form of satisfaction with some of the elements of Hickman’s large story?
In many ways, this issue does actually shows a lot of great stuff, merging some of the events of Infinity with some of the threads of the title. This has the result of making it so what did happen prior all count toward the evolution of the cast as well as the problem they face. Not only does it heighten and bring the focus back on the memorable cast of characters, but it also use the Builders wars and the coming of Thanos to centralize and put in perspective the future battle they might have to face yet.
One of the better scenes, which takes about a third of the issue is one dedicated to perhaps the best duo of conflicted souls in the series: Namor and Black Panther. Putting forth the many problems and sacrifice that T’challa has made in order to protect the world from unknown threats and how he got betrayed unwittingly by Namor, the parables between the two comes forth in a way that makes their antagonism that much more interesting. With the conflict between Wakanda and Atlantis being still going on, the relation between those two characters become that much more interesting considering the new status of these two after the massive events of Infinity.
Another interesting aspect is how some of the other characters react, with Dr. Strange willing to make some more sacrifice in order to protect the world, Black Bolt learning some new things about himself and the rest of the Illuminati getting a crash course in the multiverse and the incursion events. A lot of the information brought forth by Black Swan in the scene with Iron Man, Beast and Mr. Fantastic is actually rather expansive and makes the event of Infinity seems a bit different now, with a new vision that could very well fuel this title for years to come. It’s a lot of new ideas that are perhaps more teased at than fully explained, but Hickman manage to make them rather interesting despite it all.
Where it falters a bit is the fact that even though there are some thoroughly nice scenes and some very decent characterization, nothing much actually happens here. There are close to no huge twists or surprising character moments, with most of the scene serving to establish new information or to spout forth exposition to make sure everything is known by the readers. Although a lot of what is written here is interesting, it does not exactly manage to make this issue exciting in the least.
The pacing is also a bit uneven, with some scenes taking a lot of time, while others who could have used perhaps a bit more panel time are reduced to a little more than one or two pages. While it is nice to see how Black Panther fares with his people, it is a bit odd to see that he receives so many pages while Black Bolt and Dr. Strange receive less than he does, despite how important or ominous their scenes are. The same goes for those featuring Black Swan and the others, which could have been told in perhaps a more concise manner.
Still, despite the length of some scenes, they are still beautifully illustrated by Mike Deodato, who manage to create a good mix of empty space usage alongside fully-used panels to create atmosphere and tension between the elements and characters. Playing with his panel layout and with the addition of several elements, those long scenes are nonetheless visually interesting, with plenty of visual diversity brought forth by the artist. Technology, demons, seemingly cosmic and eldritch beings are put to the forefront of the issue as they incorporate themselves flawlessly to the narrative and visual themes of the book. The characters are expressive enough to add gravitas to the scenes, without hammering it down with hyperbolized facsimiles of emotions or with rather gigantic poses, which serves this book and its tone well. There may be some flaws here and there, but artistically it is rather great thanks to Mike Deodato.
The coloring of Frank Martin is also noteworthy, with a big emphasis on clear contrast throughout his pages. Playing a lot with black, white and everything that connects to lighter and darker moods, Martin allows for a strange fixation on the absence of Manichaeism in the book, allowing the readers to further appreciate the grey area the characters are in. Playing also a lot with a low amount of cold colors and an abundance of warmer tones, he is also able to convey the urgency and the danger some of the concepts on the pages are, relaying the intentions and scope of Mike Deodato rather well.
The Conclusion: There are some rather great ideas, some potent characterization and a really strong artistic direction thanks to Mike Deodato and Frank Martin, but the uneven pacing, the heavy emphasis on exposition and the lack of big events set back the issue a bit in terms of quality. Good, but not as great as some previous issues of the series.
Hugo Robberts Larivière