While the debut issue focused on the former King of Wakanda, “New Avengers” #2 written by Jonathan Hickman and drawn by Steve Epting dials in on Reed Richards a bit more than any of the other members of the Illuminati. Hickman doesn’t fill this issue with as much Richards as the previous was dedicated to T’Challa, so rest assured that the plot device isn’t that thin, but this issue isn’t quite as action-packed as the series’ debut.
Which leads me to wonder out loud: how does this team warrant the brand “New Avengers” when most of them have been Avengers long before NOW! hit Marvel? Having seen Hickman play out the long game in “Fantastic Four” and “FF,” I am certainly willing to give him credit and some cushion for his stories to develop, but this issue is simply filled with talking heads. One of those scenes includes an eyebrow-raising exchange between Namor and T’Challa that I hope has time to play out, but the remainder of the issue is set to postulating the fate of the universe, in concepts from Reed Richards that Hickman graphically interprets for the readers. Hickman further decorates this comic with distinctive graphic design choices, including the House of Hickman treatment of the second and third pages. Perhaps precognatively sensing outrage from his readers, Hickman then bumps the page count up to twenty-six total pages of story.
The title of this issue is “In Secret They Rule,” which feeds the artwork quite nicely, encouraging the excessive use of shadow by Steve Epting and Rick Magyar. Epting’s work is as solid as it has been on “Captain America” and even his first run on “Avengers,” but the pages of talking heads soaked in deep shadow lead me to one conclusion. “New Avengers” #2 doesn’t look like an Avengers book. It doesn’t read like an Avengers book, but it sure hits the high adventure concepts like an Avengers book. Epting has some minor moments to shine in the pages of this issue, but those moments read more like teases. The art works quite nicely for the pages featuring the Black Panther, which is quite welcome. As well as Epting draws him, Hickman writes him all the better, so the more time T’Challa gets on panel, the more I believe I’ll enjoy “New Avengers.”
This is a typical Hickman book: unconventional, smart and clearly just a smidgeon of what waits for this title. It falls well short of brilliant, managing to be really good, but in choosing to be a really good story about the Illuminati, it loses the identity of being a story about new Avengers. Hickman does a good job of delivering the “whys” and “whats” behind Black Panther summoning a group he once scoffed at, now it’s time for “New Avengers” to dial up the action.