Fresh off what can only be called a huge win, Jonathan Hickman goes right back to what made New Avengers so appealing in the first place: heady, bizarre high-concept sci-fi. When we last left Marvel’s brain trust, they’d gotten a cryptic warning, or perhaps statement of fact, that everything dies. Unwilling to take accept this, the Illuminati work on a way that they might be able to observe Incursion Earths, but we’ve already had a glimpse of one and the absolute cataclysmic forces at work on it in the form of a new group of villains called simply the Black Priests. Hickman has perfectly integrated the end of Infinity with this issue, scarcely losing a single step in the process as he picks up the storyline from before the event. Black Swan is as baffling as ever, Beast is the optimist, Reed the dreamer, Tony the pragmatist and T’Challa the driving force with Black Bolt as tactician. But what of Doctor Strange? His turn is actually the one I’m most fascinated by as Hickman seems poised to return the good doctor’s teeth to him. But, of course, this being magic it won’t be without horrible, horrible sacrifice. The concepts introduced here are some of the absolute best and most fascinating I’ve seen since...well, when Hickman began the series.
Simone Bianchi steps up on the linework and his muddy, fractured style compliments the series perfectly. Contrary to Deodato’s clean, brisk characters, Bianchi makes everything into a surreal mass, but one that can still be discerned. What little action there is flows well enough, but, as is often the case with this title, the scenes of dialog are the highlights and Bianchi makes them all have a bizarre, interesting quality. A huge part of that is also the colors by Adriano Dell’Alpi and they bring all the strange, wonderful imagery to particulated, twisted life.
This, as often is the case, is not the easiest comic to follow. The frequent jumps from one dimension to the next coupled with creating new villains whole cloth, so there’s no reference point and, of course, there’s the sci-fi jargon that can be difficult to comprehend. The first several pages especially, as the Mirror that will allow them to look across dimensions is constructed, is a bit of a head-scratcher.
The above can be easily solved with repeated reading, and I absolutely love all the potential that gets introduced here. I’m especially enamored of Doctor Strange as I think, lately, he’s been underutilized due to his tendency to become too ridiculously overpowered. I think with a steady hand, he could be reined in and have some very, very interesting stories around him. The seamless transition from one storyline to the next means this can be picked up by new readers, but will most definitely be enjoyed by stalwarts as well.