Prescribed as a #1 issue for new readers to join writer Jonathan Hickman’s tale of incursions, “New Avengers” #16.NOW welcomes Rags Morales to the artist’s chair and introduces the Great Society. Standing alongside Namor and T’Challa, readers are given a view into Earth-4,290,001, the only Earth to successfully stave off the incursions.
The greatest heroes their world had ever seen — the Great Society — is composed of a sextet of heroes that are at least somewhat analogous to the Squadron Supreme and maybe even to the inspiration that spawned the Squadron itself. Boasting Sun God, Boundless, Doctor Spectrum, the Norn, the Jovian and the Rider as members, the Great Society finds a way to defeat the incursion forces and, in so doing, provide Black Panther and Namor with a spark of hope and some notes on how to approach the threat. Naturally, Hickman isn’t going through the effort of devoting an entire issue to this band of characters without some payoff. The Norn’s embodiment of his powers are not unlike the symbols and shapes surrounding Doctor Strange of late and the nature of the incursions themselves indicates it is just a matter of time until the New Avengers confront the Great Society.
When that comes to pass, I certainly hope Rags Morales is still around for the art. It’s extremely interesting that Morales’ first significant work under the Marvel Comics logo features a band of characters reminiscent of the Distinguished Competition where Morales spent so much time. The artist makes the sextet from the parallel Earth a comfortably recognizable collection of heroes, but brands them all individually. Additionally, Morales brings flair and attitude to both T’Challa and Namor. His range of expressions imposed on that bitter duo adds levels of abhorrence to their already tumultuous relationship. Morales is a welcome addition to “New Avengers” #16.NOW as he brings classic comic book storytelling sensibilities and page construction. Panels within panels are a nice callback to the way things were, but Morales fills those panels with character nuance and subtle tells. Namor jabs at T’Challa and the former king of Wakanda swings back, eliciting a raised eyebrow and challenging smirk from the Atlantean.
“New Avengers” #16.NOW deals with the incursions head-on by leaving the Illuminati behind. Hickman has been constructing a deliberately slow burn to this series, but lately that burn has been more smolder than fire. The introduction of the Great Society and the energy transfusion incoming from Morales’ artwork is enough to give this book another little spike. I’ve been waffling on this title, wavering between faith in Hickman’s plan and boredom from a plot that is wearing thin and stretching out too long to even be repetitious, but this issue redeems the series, if only for just a little while longer. With T’Challa and Namor finding — and sharing — hope, surely readers can do the same.