For a comic book with “Avengers” in the title, Jonathan Hickman and Simone Bianchi’s “New Avengers” #15 really doesn’t have much avenging going on at all. There’s lots of talking, a fair amount of hand-wringing and more than a couple scenes sure to leave readers puzzled.
Hickman opens the issue with a reduced cast of Illuminati — Tony Stark, Beast, Black Panther, Reed Richards and Black Bolt — augmented by Maximus, who simply seems to be present solely to challenge prevalent thought processes. The group is discussing a new discovery of Beast’s and using all manner of comic book physics, incomplete and interrupted sentences and sci-fi mumbo jumbo to the point where Richards, Beast and Maximus (who, mind you, is crazy) are all on the same wavelength, but Tony Stark is throwing his hands in the air in frustration. At that juncture, Hickman affords Black Panther the luxury of being the voice of reason and rationale in “New Avengers” #15 as the former Wakandan king breaks down the discovery into moderately understandable and intriguing language for the reader — five pages into the story. Beyond that exposition, this issue doesn’t offer much in the way of true development, preferring to mark out time and, once more, delve into the secrets of the Black Swan. The problem there is that the scenes with the Swan don’t flow linearly, but lack the proper road markers to make the journey anywhere near as coherent as it needs to be to remain engaging.
Bianchi’s art in “New Avengers” #15 is wildly uneven, with panels that are frameably gorgeous to panels that feature Picasso-like homages to Jack Kirby’s creations. Riccardo Pieruccini is credited with assisting Bianchi, which might account for some of the unevenness, but when the duo is on, they are definitely on and when they’re off, it’s almost painful. Thankfully there are far more “on” images in this comic book than “off” ones. Adriano Dall’Alpi’s coloring fits Bianchi’s stunning range of lines and significant uses of blacks and washes. Some of the characters cooperate with Bianchi’s style more than others. While Beast nicely fits the style, Bianchi is actually drawing an older visage of Hank McCoy. Panther and Swan are the two characters Bianchi most excels at, but T’Challa gets short shrift in this issue.
“New Avengers” #15, like “Guardians of the Galaxy” #11.NOW lacks the proper amount of heart and worthy adventure to hold interest. I’m not sure how much longer the looming threat of incursions can be held above the Illuminati before totally transforming these characters into cardboard caricatures of themselves, but it feels like it’s getting pretty close. I have no problem with secret enclaves occurring throughout the Marvel Universe, but the collective intelligence represented in the Illuminati should be enough of a preventative to avoid issues like this one. Let’s see some avenging, some teamwork, some heroism, not hand-wringing and woe-as-me-ing. That said, if anyone can turn this around and make “New Avengers” #15 transform into an historically important comic book, it would be Jonathan Hickman, so here’s hoping.