In the latest Next Big Thing liveblog from Marvel Comics, long-awaited details for the future of the Avengers franchise were spilled by the new architect of it all, Jonathan Hickman. Come December, he will be writing Avengers on a twice a month schedule. This will be followed by New Avengers in January, and we finally know what New Avengers will be.
It's the Illuminati, people. As has been rumored for a little while, New Avengers will star the latest incarnation of the Illuminati, the secret club of Marvel's heroic movers and shakers created by Brian Michael Bendis. It's newest cast is said to include Iron Man, Dr. Strange, Black Bolt, Captain America, Black Panther, Mr. Fantastic, Beast and Namor among possibly others yet to be reveaked. Black Panther, who once condemned the very idea of the Illuminati, will be the cloest thing to a central figure in the series.
Hickman promised New Avengers will be tonally very different than his Avengers to the extent tha they will be opposites. Avengers will be optimistic with its best of the best status and heroic ideas. New Avengers, however, will be quite darker. Its membership will not get along and have to make decisions that may not be so heroic.
All in all... hell yes. I have been dying for more Illuminati since Bendis first created them. A whole series dedicated to them, written by someone of Hickman's talent, is more than I had hoped for. This will likely do much more for the character of Black Panther than yet another attempt at a solo series too. It is interesting that he, of all these characters, is said to be the moral center of the Illuminati. This is a cast that includes Captain America. But then again, Captain America loses a chunk of his moral standing for scapegoating Cyclops for what were ultimately his own mistakes in Avengers Vs. X-Men.
There was more to reveal about Avengers as well. Its cast will eventually rise to the level of 24 members, and in the interest of diversity, half will be female or minorities. Captain America is the leader, but Iron Man and Captain Marvel will serve as his seconds. Given the huge cast, there will also be little factions within the team with their own leaders.
For fans that have already been following Hickman, you'll be happy to know that elements of his work on S.H.I.E.L.D. and Secret Warriors will make their way into Avengers. Also, he has apparently been seeding New Avengers in his Fantastic Four and FF runs.
As nice as it is for New Avengers to have an actual premise for once, I do have to criticize how well the premise and the title fit together. What exactly is new here? The premise of the Illuminati seems much more in line with Secret Avengers or Dark Avengers. I get that New Avengers remains a more marketable title given how well Bendis was able to popularize it. But that doesn't mean it actually makes a bit of sense.
Avengers #1 and #2 by Jonathan Hickman and Jerome Opena will come out in December. New Avengers #1 and #2 by Jonathan Hickman and Steve Epting will come out in January.
And finally, I feel like there is something about Marvel NOW! to be excited about.