Called it! I predicted Jonathan Hickman would do right by us, his readers, and explain just what the screaming WHAT is going on in the pages of New Avengers within a couple of issues. I think I’m beginning to get the hang of how to read his comics: never miss a single one, and if you don’t understand something, don’t overanalyze it as it’ll come into focus later. The strangeness of the Norn's power is explained as Incursions themselves are made ever clearer and the goals and ambitions of the Great Society come into sharp focus. Even the Mapmakers make a LITTLE more sense after reading this issue, both as a plot device and in the way they operate (they were last seen making absolute sport of the heroes of another Earth a few issues back). We also get to see T’Challa and Namor observing this Earth and ruminating on what to do about future incursions, but eventually the talk turns much more personal, and the two fallen kings actually come to an understanding of the other’s view and position. All without punching each other or coming together to face a greater threat. And the cliffhanger the issue ends on is predictable, but still impactful...
Rags Morales returns for the linework, and he absolutely nails it with his usual ultra-expressive faces and sharp, defined lines. The characters all stand out against the stark, plain backgrounds of the Great Society’s Earth as well as the more complex, dark 616 setting. The shadows in this issue deserve praise especially as this is an issue of extreme contrasting lights, and they always look fantastic. Frank Martin’s colors are a big part of this, giving life and verve to every panel, regardless of what is happening in them.
Despite how amazing the art is, we get more than a few panels that are complete blank but for the character speaking, and in one of them it’s JUST the character’s head. I’m aware of the limitations of artists, and when the art looks this good, it’s even more apparent, but I’d be derelict in my duties if I didn’t mention it.
I get that the two main characters are coming together for a common goal, and even hash out many of their differences, but it’s a little strange to see two men who inflicted incredible, grievous harm on one another’s kingdoms just dropping their guard and being so jocular with one another.
It’s all coming together and I’m finally getting a solid, firm grasp not only on Incursions, but how they’re stopped and exactly at what cost. This is the most interesting issue yet as, for the first time, Hickman appears poised to deliver an actual fight between the two Incursion worlds’ heroes rather than simply having a doomsday weapon OR having the Incursion World inhabited by pure antagonists like the Mapmakers or Black Priests. This is blurring the already shaky moral ground upon which the Illuminati stands and now, as we’ve grown to know the denizens of this new Earth, it makes things even more complicated.