I mentioned before that Jonathan Hickman (and those he works with) walk a very thin line between superhero and science fiction and with New Avengers, they may have crossed from one into the other. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though, a sci-fi story with superheroes at its heart has a ton of incredible potential, and this issue seems poised to deliver on a great deal of it. The first half deals with the over-arching story of the book, the dimensional Incursions that threaten to shred Earth every time they happen (which is, of late, more and more frequent) and how Reed, Tony and the Black Bolt are dealing with them in their own ways. The final character, in particular, has had his mad brother devise a dimensional portal that takes any who enter into a place where Black Bolt’s sonic powers are nullified, allowing the silent king to speak.
Meanwhile last issue, Namor entreated T’Challa to broker peace between Wakanda and Atlantis, but the Black Panther’s queen disagreed, demanding the blood be repaid with blood and in this issue we see that decision come to fruition. Hickman has a very distinct voice for his characters, much in the same way that Bendis or Ellis write their characters all a little bit clever, Hickman writes all of his a little bit (or extremely, as appropriate) brilliant and this works in their favor because he’s also good enough to give each one a unique voice and each one speaks with authority when they do speak.
Mike Deodato remains steadfast on pencils and inks, and this series has shown me a side to him I never knew was there. I’ve liked Deodato for awhile, though I wasn’t thrilled with him way back on Amazing Spider-Man with JMS, so it’s been interesting to see his style change and evolve over time. His characters and backgrounds are much more crisp and defined, with an amazing level of detail put into every character, particularly their faces. Colorist Frank Martin fills each panel with muted, subdued, but never boring color, bringing Deodato’s creations to vibrant, if calm, life. There’s little action in this book, but what there is definitely tends more toward the epic than the fluid, so I’m willing to give a little stiffness a pass in this case.
I’ve said it of Hickman before, but the man does not stop for a second to explain or even elucidate in some cases what his characters are talking about or doing, which can make his books extraordinarily difficult to follow at times. Certainly the broad strokes of what’s going on are crystal clear, but the details, and the devils within, are harder to track and follow. Expository dialog can be the thing that brings a book down, but it can also elevate it by letting the audience in on what’s going on, and what’s been going on, and there’s certainly a balance to be struck between too much and none.
This is, bar none, one of the most fascinating, strange books on the shelf and this issue, even though much of it is grounded in politics, is an excellent addition to the pantheon of New Avengers. It’s incredible to me that Hickman has told such a sweeping, epic sci-fi tale over the course of only eight issues and the artistic consistency Deodato has brought can’t be understated either. It might be tricky to follow, but it’s well worth the effort every time.