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You already know how good Hickman's Avengers title is, but how does his other Avengers title, New Avengers, stack up? It's very much a thinking's man team book with a much more eclectic cast and darker, more complex story. It's a tale of power, responsibility, and what lengths mankind will go to in order to survive.
Some, as of yet unmentioned, universe has been destroyed, causing the other universes to collapse in on themselves in a chain reaction that threatens the entire Marvel multiverse. Earth 616's Illuminati, a group consisting of Mr. Fantastic, Iron Man, Black Bolt, Namor, Doctor Strange, and now Beast, come to help a reluctant Black Panther after he discovers the destruction of one such planet.
They're manage to capture the powerful, quasi-religious nut Black Swan who was caught detonating a whole planet like somekind of... explosive? Anyway, in captivity she tells them the horrifying choice ahead of them: when an Earth appears in their sky, they can either blow it up or die along with it.
Every issue, including this one, has consisted of the Illuminati struggling with this decision. In between, they jump to alternate Earths, each time encountering one of these 'Incursion Events'.
However this time they encounter a group of robots called 'Mapmakers' who have evolved within the multiverse. They act as a virus of sorts, using the incursion events as a means of jumping to a new host planet. Unfortunately for them, they chose to invade the new Earth's Latveria.
It's a herculean task to not compare this with Avengers when reading, and it doesn't help that the two books choose to interlink each other. So while Steve Epting's art is well done here, not bad by any means, the art in Avengers just seems a little stronger.
Mr. Fantastic's model is by far the most expressive, but the rest seem one dimensional and uninspired. The Mapmakers look like robots we've seen a thousand times before, there's nothing interesting or unique to them. It just pales in comparison to artwork like the new X-Men book and even Avengers.
Hickman weaves a complex story that might actually suffer a bit from its grand scale. It feels big and important, but since we're left in the dark about specifics, it's all very vague and confusing. You need a glossary to remember all the terms, not to mention all the pseudo religious whatnot from Black Swan. However, the storytelling is practiced and accomplished. You leave each issue with one or two memorable scenes, the badassery of Doctor Doom taking all of the cake in this one.
The best part, at least for this reviewer, is still Hickman's willingness to get philosophical. Should they execute a whole planet? Is it better to sacrifice a planet for yours? What are the lives of your loved ones worth? Does this make them as evil as the monsters they've fought? I'm sure they'll find some clever way out of this thought experiment, but, man, is it awesome to explore.
New Avengers doesn't come with a solid universal recommend because this is a book that might not be for everyone. I can see it losing some people with its confusing grand narrative and its penchant for discussing ideas, but if any of the above has intrigued you, give an issue a try. Tell 'em Doom sent ya.