“New Avengers” #22 deals with the repercussions of the ultimate offensive launched to cease the incursions that have been the core threat of this title. Jonathan Hickman has written the Illuminati into a corner and there is only one way for them to get out. At the end of the previous issue, Namor held the controller for the Illuminati’s fail-safe bomb. In this Kev Walker-drawn issue, the prince of Atlantis discards the controller and further drives the wedge between himself and the rest of the Illuminati.
Hickman opens “New Avengers” #22 with an explosion, followed by disbelief on the faces of the Illuminati and culminating with utter contempt and disgust on the secret protectors of Earth as the reality of the situation sets in. The writer fills the rest of the issue with the fallout from Namor’s decision, the ultimate culmination of the decades of bluster and overbearing. Each character has their own quandaries to overcome as this wasn’t a rogue act by one of their number, but a seizure of action in the face of fear from the collective of the greatest minds in the 616 Marvel Universe. Namor and T’Challa, the fallen Black Panther, are given the most space and dialog in “New Avengers” #22 as their own conflict boils over and through the effects of the Illuminati-constructed bomb. More than once, as the characters wrestle with the new reality, they find further issues and revelations, frequently voicing those new discoveries in quieter tones masterfully set to the page by letterer Joe Caramagna.
Kev Walker joins the ever-growing platoon of artists who have contributed to this series. In “New Avengers” #22, however, Walker’s work seems rushed or incomplete. Maybe it is the absence of an inker, but Walker’s work here is nowhere near as convincing and complete as his art in “Thunderbolts” or “Avengers Arena.” The backgrounds of this issue are filled with dust and rubble, freeing Walker to focus on the members of the Illuminati, which falls short of expectations. Walker provides a range of emotions, but the characters frequently lack polish, pizzazz, or both. T’Challa throws a punch at Namor that should shatter worlds, or at the very least grab readers’ attention. The final image conveys the point of T’Challa’s rage and frustration, but there’s so much unreached potential.
“New Avengers” #22 takes the step over the line in the sand that Hickman has been drawing since this series joined the Marvel NOW! lineup. Unfortunately, the big payoff lacks the emotional resonance readers may have expected. Amazingly, it also feels incomplete, as “New Avengers” #22 focuses so tightly on the Illuminati and their infighting rather than the larger picture Hickman has been painting for two years’ worth of tales.