Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing New Avengers 7, originally released June 19th, 2013.
Spencer: The more responsibility you have, the harder it is to find time to yourself. I consider myself fortunate to have a job that I can ignore completely on my days off, but if I was, say, a CEO or the president, I just wouldn’t have that luxury; there are no days off when you’re that important. As the self-appointed protectors of our universe, the Illuminati fall firmly into that camp. Even as the threat of the Incursions recedes for the moment, they’ve still got more than their fair share of life-or-death, morally gray decisions to make.
It’s been a month since the last Incursion, but the Illuminati are still hard at work. While Iron Man is busy “guarding the galaxy”, Beast and Black Swan teach each other new languages. Black Bolt is holed up in Attilan, possibly at the mercy of his mentally ill brother, Maximus. Mr. Fantastic and Doctor Strange pay Doctor Doom a visit, warning him to keep his nose out of this Incursion business. Meanwhile, as tensions between Atlantis and Wakanda rise, Namor presents Black Panther an offer of peace. Despite his absolute hatred of Namor, for the sake of creating peace in Wakanda T’Challa backs the offer, but the Queen doesn’t share her brother’s viewpoint; she prepares the country for all-out war.
Jonathan Hickman’s New Avengers run has spent its entire existence so far focused on the idea of Incursions—a meeting of two Earths with the possibility to destroy both of their universes—and the moral implications involved in dealing with them. In fact, the book’s been so concerned with exploring these concepts that it’s given only the most perfunctory development to its characters, which makes this issue’s sudden change of pace all the more jarring. The Illuminati mainly exist as a way to explore the ethics behind the Incursions, so when this issue suddenly drops the Incursions altogether and instead focuses on the lives of these characters, it can be a little hard to care.
Black Bolt’s subplot is the most glaring in this regard. Black Bolt has been given almost nothing to do thus far in the series, and with his inability to speak giving him no say in the Illuminati’s debates, he’s basically been living wallpaper as far as I’m concerned. Now we’re treated to a two-page aside where Bolt appears to be under the thrall of his mind-controlling, damaged brother Maximus. It’s hard to get interested in this subplot when Bolt has been such a nonentity; furthermore, I’m not sure what to make of its placement. Is Hickman planting seeds for a post-Incursion storyline, or is this going to be addressed immediately? Why wait until this late in the series to start giving individual characters subplots?
(Also, between this and Medusa’s plot over in FF, it sure seems like the Inhumans get brainwashed a lot, doesn’t it?)
Fortunately, this issue’s main plot—the war brewing between Atlantis and Wakanda—feels much more natural, largely because the underlying tension between Namor and T’Challa has been steadily building over the course of the series anyway. Also, despite having nothing to do with the Incursions, the war still threatens to have major repercussions on the Illuminati, as the growing rift between T’Challa and Namor can only hurt the team’s ability to work together coherently.
This war is also forcing T’Challa to make some hard choices—and hard choices have been New Avengers’ bread and butter. Can T’Challa really trust Namor? Can he lay aside his pride and the pride of his country in order to create peace? Should these even be hard decisions to make?
Ultimately, T’Challa chooses peace, but the Queen ignores his council and readies Wakanda’s armies for war. This raises a new question, perhaps the one whose answer I am most eager to find out: can Wakanda win this war? Both T’Challa and Namor seem confident in their country’s prospects, but Namor’s reasoning seems much more compelling:
Then again, Namor is notoriously arrogant, even moreso than any other Illuminati (which is saying something), so maybe we should take his words with a grain of salt. Regardless, I’m curious about his role in this whole war. The entire situation has mainly been presented to us from T’Challa’s point of view; I’m not really even sure why Namor originally attacked Necropolis to begin with, and that information could potentially be game-changing.
Meanwhile, over in Latveria, more hard decisions are being made as Reed Richards and Stephen Strange attempt to deal with Doom’s inadvertent discovery of the Incursions. Obviously Doom cannot be trusted with the full story—there’s no way he would play by the Illuminati’s rules—but how in the world are they supposed to keep Doom off their scent?
Honestly, I have no idea what the best way to deal with Doom might be, but I’m 100% positive that mocking and threatening him into a state of impotent rage is the worst possible option available. Victor Von Doom is not a man who should be crossed, and more than any other event in this issue, I think Doom’s involvement is going to have the most impact on the Incursion storyline; I can’t wait to see how this mad genius retaliates.
Still, all of the plot points set up in this issue have the potential for an explosive payoff. Once the Incursion story and Infinity are over, I think we’ll look back at this issue as a pivotal point in its development, but at the moment it still comes across as a very different, slightly jarring issue of New Avengers.
So what about you, Patrick? Did you enjoy this change of pace, or did you just miss learning about the Incursions? And hey, what about Reed’s explanation for how he’s not lost in time? Did you appreciate the effort, or did it just raise more questions for you?
Patrick: I love that Reed’s explanation all but ends with the phrase “just fucking deal with it.” It’s a fine way to address the pithy continuity concerns that fans bring up. Hell, I’m pretty lenient with character continuity between series, but I’m pretty sure I’ve asked the question of how Reed’s in two places at once. The answer is just that he prioritized being active in these two organizations: the Illuminati and his family. Simple and elegant – especially considering he’s already traveling through time (seriously, what was my objection?).
I am left with a lot of questions after this issue, but thankfully, most of them are character-related. This is a remarkably off-game issue, as its defined by it’s lack of Incursions and how the heroes spend their time when they’re not engaged in the time-consuming matter of saving the universe. There are psychological ramifications for the actions they’ve taken – Black Swan has a name of one specific flavor of Incursion-related emotional turmoil:
Now, the Illuminati haven’t been freed from Yyatdat yet (unless you want to count Swan), but they’ve all been in the business of World Destruction for so long that it might have had a dulling effect on their problem solving skills. Spencer points out that Reed and Strange show zero tact at dinner and Dr. Dooms (“Dinner at Dr. Doom’s” – new band name, I called it) and Namor and T’Challa are leading their respective nations with equally negligible amount of tact. These are men that have been mass-manufacturing planet-smashing bombs, they might not have the subtlety to deal with real world problems right now.
The issue’s title is “Thrones,” which emphasizes the idea that all of these men have responsibilities to other organizations – specifically, organizations that may have conflicting interests. They’re all united by this single common threat, but maybe we were getting too comfortable with the idea that they could work together peaceably. Mike Deodato shows an incredible amount of barely-contained frustration and anger throughout this issue as various kings and leaders of men fail to achieve their goals. My favorite is the nearly Pete Campbell-level of impotent rage that Doom expresses. Look how mad he is! Even behind that mask (and even by his own always-angry standards) Doom is furious.
So, I believe next month starts the “Prelude to Infinity,” and I was half-afraid that this issue was going to put a lid on Incursions all together so we could move on to more crossovery things. But it seems like they’re a real issue going forward — indeed, they’re so important that they dictate the behavior of our characters, even when they’re not happening. Also, man, I feel bad for Thanos if he thinks he can take on a group of heroes with a whole basement full of doomsday devices.
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