The tension and suspense begins on the very first page. We see a flashback to the formation of the Illuminati. As you may or may not recall, it was an idea that Black Panther was opposed to. Yet when you look at the cover and the fact that this flashback is here, you have to wonder what is going on. This is something that Jonathan Hickman does well. He sets things up in a way that makes you carefully look at every detail. If you've read any of his FANTASTIC FOUR run or his titles from Image Comics (such as THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS or THE RED WING), you know his stories often have a nice set up with a big payout. The flashback shifts to an ominous statement from one member that immediately sets the tone for what's to come.
As a Marvel NOW! book and a first issue, the idea is easy access for all readers. It's amazing how easily the idea of the Illuminati and their history was explained on the first page, in just a couple panels. With Black Panther taking center stage here (or so it seems), there is some time spent in Wakanda. As with Hickman's AVENGERS, a catalyst is needed for the formation of this team. This is the story leading up to that event.
It's great seeing Hickman's handling of T'Challa. The way he talks and what he has to say speaks volumes. It puts a lot of things, in the Marvel Universe, into perspective along with where Wakanda should be in comparison. There is a bit of a mystery that comes up and it starts reviving up the action. You'll want to read these pages carefully in order to take in everything that happens, action and dialogue, and the possible implications it will have on the future of this series. Of course we do not get all the answers and that will be just one of the hooks to bring us back for more.
Steve Epting's art is always great to see. There is a calm elegance when characters are simply standing around talking. He adds a certain element to the atmosphere of an issue when he's on it. As we sit back and try to figure out what the direction of this title will be, Epting's art guides us along with the promise of a visual treat.
It is the first issue of a new series so it may not be fair but this book is about the set up. This is where the creators have to balance making this accessible to both new and old readers. It's a team book but this issue is focusing on Black Panther. That is important in showing us exactly why he will make the decisions coming up. There is an almost sense of deja vu with AVENGERS as we see something big happen and then the call to arms is made.
Of course a big struggle for many will be trying to figure out where this book fits in with the continuity of other titles. Captain America is pretty busy in Dimension Z in his title and Reed Richards is off on his own adventure in FANTASTIC FOUR. This is something that could be explained in the next issue or just the 'Wolverine Factor' and we just ignore it to enjoy a good story.
Jonathan Hickman tackling the Illuminati and Black Panther is an exciting prospect. Having Steve Epting along with him makes the idea even more exciting. Hickman's known for his grand stories and you definitely get a taste for what he has cooking here. As a first issue, the players and scenario are set up in a way that both new and old readers will be on the same page. Something is definitely brewing and for Black Panther to make the decision he does, you know it has to be a big deal. This will not be like the New Avengers titles in the past and that's a great thing. If we are going to have multiple Avengers titles, it's great to see each having a different taste to them. There are some moments that might make you scratch you head but this is just the beginning. Minor details should not inhibit the enjoyment of what is to come. Based on Hickman's track record, we should prepare ourselves for a bumpy adventure. Even though this is just the formation of another Avengers team, it feels like we're on the verge of a new horizon. This clearly is not just another Avengers title. There's something more going on here.