Jonathan Hickman and Valerio Schiti push readers ahead eight months in time in “New Avengers” #24, showing the results of Namor’s decision to throw in with some of the skeeviest cats in the 616 to stop the incursions from wiping them from existence. Throughout the story, Hickman presents the consequences of this action (as if there were any other way this could have gone). It’s a tale that wants to feel important, but hinges on a plot move that, in terms of characterization and storytelling, was precarious at best.
Namor has approached Doom for help after realizing that he has wrangled the cosmic equivalent of rabid pit bulls to stop the other Earths from destroying their own. After being coldly and flatly rejected by the monarch of Latveria, readers see the alternate space death squad in action, slaying the X-Men of an alternate reality with no mercy and all sadism. Meanwhile, in the now-fallen city of Wakanda, both Black Panthers attempt to steal anti-matter bombs in the hopes of defending themselves after the world has turned their backs on the city. Oh, and Doom has a surprise of his own in the basement because he’s Doom and why wouldn’t he be trying to figure out this problem as well?
The main drag here is that, much like every story set in the future, we’re surrounded by nothing but rubble and despair. Hickman paints a bad portrait of death and destruction with very little hope to be gleaned on the horizon. What, then, is the point of the journey if the reader knows that everything is a downward spiral moving forward? It’s a trope that is getting dangerously close to overuse for both of the big two right now.
For as wildly out of character as it feels for Namor to throw in with Thanos, a guy that once literally murdered him, Hickman’s Doom is almost terrifyingly on point. His views on the world around him and how he fits in it are great soliloquizing and his reveal at the end is exactly the type of thing Doom would do to keep what is his. Thanos has two lines in the book and they are goosebump-inducing. At this point Hickman may have created so much pseudo-science that Marvel could publish a coffee table dictionary of the terms and ideas. While interesting, they were distracting from the emotional engagement between the characters in the story.
Valerio Schiti provides gorgeous interiors and shows why Marvel have bumped him up the art ladder so quickly. His characters emote and move fluidly and his page layouts are playful and dynamic. He gets emotional mileage out of closeups of Doom’s face mask, which is impressive. Schiti also squeezes in humor on the fringes when he can, like Kristoff at the dinner table in the opening scene, or The Thinker’s face when Doom reminds him who is boss at the end. The action scenes are well-rendered too; Shuri’s last scene in the book is a true badass moment.
It’s an interesting concept to jump ahead this way, but it’s like looking in to an 8 ball and being told you’re going to be a screw up and that can’t be changed. No matter what happens next, we know where it’s going, and that’s no place good. Sometimes skipping ahead can leave the reader with less than what he or she had prior to reading. If you’re in the market for another future full of tragedy, then this will be your cup of gloomy tea. If not then know that the next eight months worth of New Avengers stories are just leading to heartbreak.