Let’s get something out in the open first. This is a part two, so you’ll probably want to read Part One first. Spoilers ahead.

Slowly but surely Avengers and New Avengers marched inexorably together, with their “one story, two fronts” approach to the end of everything. The overall story being that the universe itself – “the system” – was broken in a fundamental way, causing problems in a wide range of areas. It had been hinted at within the opening arc of Avengers, as Ex Nihilo and Captain Universe had both spoken of great changes coming, but it was in New Avengers that the very death of the universe itself was revealed to be the major threat.

An incursion point, we are told, occurs when two universes come too close, pressing the very fabric of space and time together before colliding. This impact will destroy both universes instantly but, if the point of contact can be broken, by destroying the connecting tissue – in this case, Earth – then the incursion can be stopped. It is thusly that the heroes of the New Avengers find themselves faced with the unthinkable. Destroy our own Earth to save our universe, or destroy each incoming Earth as the incursions occur, knowing that another will come, and another, never ending until all of reality comes to an end.

This, I have to admit, is the kind of Science Fiction I like. The characters in New Avengers are all super intelligent; genius level intellects, every one of them. They can build Ultimate Nullifiers, Dyson Spheres, Antiproton slings; but nothing they can do can stop the incursions from happening. They can see all of the known variables, and all the possible outcomes, and instantly move into place to do what it is they do best – save the world – but even these men who have been dubbed the Illuminati are virtually at a loss when another universe begins to bear down upon them. And, as we spoke about last time, it’s these characters reactions to these powerful events that will shape the series going forward.

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Cap’s worst enemies are, in the end, his friends.

This is most keenly observed in issue 3 of New Avengers, as the dark reality begins to dawn on the assembly of heroes. Within the silent halls of the Necropolis, home of the Black Panther in Wakanda, Captain America confronts the other members of the Illuminati over stepping across the line, as he sees it. As we know about Steve Rogers, he is an incorruptible beacon who can never be beaten, or broken, and he faces down his fellow heroes as steadfastly as he would any of Marvel’s great villains, but the other, more pragmatic men around him are not ready to put aside any options, given the scale of the problem.

Their first solution, the Infinity Gauntlet itself, had failed. Each of the men would gladly sacrifice themselves for their family, their loved ones or their kingdoms, as Captain America knew they would, but his own sense of heroism made him unable to compromise in such a way or watch his friends do the same. In the end, though, the choice is taken away from him as the New Avengers cast him out and strip him of his memories of ever having been a part of the group. This could be seen as the first step towards the darkness Steve had warned them of, but for the Illuminati the ends would justify the means.

These actions, taken by these men, allow them to move forward with their battle against the incursions. Now resigned to their fates Iron Man, Black Panther, Dr Strange, Black Bolt, Namor and Mr Fantastic begin to construct various weapons and scenarios through which they can “kill a world”. Just as Captain America had said, they moved beyond discussing if they should build these devices to discussing when and how they would be used. And the repercussions were seen clearly, once more, when the invasion of Earth came as a part of Summer 2013’s line wide event “Infinity”.

The Avengers are warned of an army of ancient beings called the Builders, who are advancing steadily through space towards Earth and set out to meet them head on. Iron Man, one of the founding Avengers, stays behind, despite having recently journeyed into space himself, ostensibly to man the Earth’s defenses. Unbeknownst to Captain America, however, Iron Man was staying behind to continue his work with the Illuminati in case another incursion was to occur. Tony Stark – Iron Man – left his teammates to handle the Great War ahead of them to continue with his own secret plans. It would not be until the end of the story, however, that both the readers and the illuminati discovered the true reasons behind the Builders’ attack.

New Avengers Issue 3 Page 19

The Infinity Gems shatter, sowing the seed for Thanos’ invasion in Infinity

Meanwhile, an Earth unguarded by Avengers becomes a prime target for the Mad Titan, Thanos himself, who invaded quickly with his own diabolical plan in motion. He sought his son, secreted away amidst an Inhuman tribe, and he was willing to raze the planet to find him. And so it was that the Illuminati were forced to face one of the Avengers greatest foes while the Avengers faced down the Builders, who would be revealed to be trying to stop the incursions. Jonathan Hickman had bled his stories together throwing his teams against their opposing threats. This leaves both teams knowing less than the readers while the slow-feed of information and characterization continues.

The major complaints, as to Hickman’s writing have been aimed at pacing, and the advent of the Infinity event surely did not help matters. What would have been, or at least could have been, a story told across a few issues of the main title became a world-wide cataclysm (though not to be confused with “Cataclysm” over in the Ultimate line) with dozens of tie-in stories and off-shooting plotlines. While I enjoyed it, others felt it was bloated, and the very nature of having a whole story arc of Avengers as a “Prelude to Infinity” could only add to that feeling.

Also, as with many team books, a large cast of characters means only a little time can be devoted to each, or risk losing them from the pages altogether. Prior to Infinity, the main Avengers book was splitting its time quite well, having groups of Avengers appear in each issue as little “strike teams” or just whoever was on hand at the time. But once the unwieldy full team became engaged in the intergalactic war, with Captain America taking a “main character” position, many of the other Avengers were left with little to do outside of tie-ins and crossovers. This is part of the very nature of event books, but this “Avengers World” team Hickman had recruited was particularly unsuited for such an event.

Thanos is, of course, getting a lot of attention amidst the Marvel books these days after his post-credits appearance in The Avengers and supposed role in the franchise moving forward. To suppose, or “write off” Thanos’ role in the event as mandated by those appearances, however, is a disservice to Jonathan Hickman’s writing. The destruction and loss of the Infinity Gems in issue 3 of New Avengers was always going to lead into Thanos, a character eternally linked to the gems, in some way. So while his part in the story was almost certainly emphasized thanks to his new found media presence, the Mad Titan’s role so early in the proceedings is also an effort to show the true threat of incursions and the “end of all” to be far greater even than anything Thanos can currently bring to bear.

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Mr Fantastic and Black Panther discuss the oncoming darkness.

The major theme of Hickman’s Avengers in the coming months will be something many fans will enjoy while others will potentially find uninteresting; that of unanswered questions. Already there is much happening on Earth thanks to the new characters introduced in the main Avengers book that we know nothing concrete about. We have seen the very planet itself gifted with various “systems” to give it the basics of life and we have witnessed one of these systems ended with a stroke from the new Starbrand. There are numerous plot points having been established with little resolution, meaning that the pacing complaints will almost certainly continue until the pay off at the end. But as a larger “Super Arc”, Hickman’s Avengers run so far has been very exciting to a reader, like me, who is both unfamiliar with his previous work and unfamiliar with the Avengers as a whole.

Overall, I have enjoyed my time with Hickman’s Avengers and New Avengers, somewhat more than I expected. His grand, sci-fi plot and his choice of characters have moved the title far away from the previous incarnation, and continued Marvel’s tradition of seeming to step in-line with their current films but also staying true to its original vision. So as we leave Infinity behind us and journey through Inhuman and onwards the questions will, hopefully, be answered and our payoff will come, but not before many of our characters have faced some of the darkest times in their lives, and I know I wouldn’t want it any other way.

About The Author

Living in Australia, my life is probably quite like yours, except hotter and with more dangerous animals. I've had a love of comics for the last 20 years, which is almost exactly two thirds of my life, and very little else has been with me that long. I fancy myself as a writer, but I fancy myself as many things that I'm not all that good at, so go figure. I have strong opinions but I love to discuss things, so please comment, cos I'd love to hear what you think of what I think.

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