Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing New Avengers 10, originally released September 18th, 2013. This issue is part of the Infinity crossover event. Click here for complete Infinity coverage.
Spencer: If there’s one thing I’ve learned from reading New Avengers, it’s that the Illuminati are not friends. While close bonds or even romance often sprout between teammates in other books, the Illuminati seem to think of each other as resources rather than people. This may just prove to be their greatest weakness; the Illuminati may actually have the ability to take down Thanos, but their secrets, grudges, and disinterest in (or downright hatred for) one another are all building towards some deadly consequences.
Aboard Thanos’ ship, Corvus Glaive reports on the invasion of Earth; Thanos punishes Black Dwarf for his failure, sends the rest of the Black Order to invade Wakanda, and personally descends upon Attilan to collect his tribute. Meanwhile, Black Bolt reveals to the other Illuminati that an Inhuman-born son of Thanos has been concealed within one of their nomadic hidden tribes. Bolt gives his teammates information on how to find this son — seemingly contained within the Inhuman’s Terrigen Codex — and sends them to find the boy while he and Maximus prepare to face Thanos head-on (check out Infinity 3 to see their confrontation!). After a heated debate, the Illuminati split up, and Doctor Strange finds Thanos’ son; unfortunately, Strange is under the thrall of the Ebony Maw, and Maw takes this information for himself. Before we can explore the repercussions of this, however, another Incursion begins. Ooh, bad timing!
Just like the rest of Infinity, there’s a lot going on in this issue, and writer Jonathan Hickman uses the space to set up scenes from Infinity-proper, reveal new twists and turns, and flesh out the Illuminati’s storylines. As always, it’s exciting stuff, but the scene I’m most interested in has to be the Illuminati’s debate about whether/how to find Thanos’ son. Much of the debate rests on a point Tony raises:
Before I jump into what I love about this scene, I do want to mention that I’m a little confused about why they’re even having this debate. Tony’s argument is basically that the Illuminati should be more focused on the Incursion problem (that is what he means by “worse things happening in the universe,” right?) than on solving the problem of a teammate, but don’t they realize that finding Thanos’ son is key to dealing with the alien invasion currently sweeping the planet? The Incursions may be the more dangerous threat, but Thanos is certainly more immediate (at least until the end of the issue—before then there hadn’t been an Incursion in months), and finding Thanos’ son isn’t simply an Inhuman matter—it’s vital to the planet’s very survival!
Ignoring that, though, I like this scene because it highlights the way the Illuminati view each other. Reed actually has to be reminded to ask if his teammates made it through the invasion all right; these men are focused on the symbolic weight they carry on their shoulders to the point of distraction, and its to the detriment of the team. For example, perhaps if the Illuminati kept better tabs on one another they would have noticed that something wasn’t right with Doctor Strange.
That’s a pretty curt answer and a pretty obvious clue that something isn’t right — it’s the equivalent of someone whistling in an attempt to “act casual” — but it flies right over the Illuminati’s heads. Namor’s answer, meanwhile, hits them like a ton of bricks:
More than anything, this shows us the sizable gulf that separates these men. The feud between Namor and T’Challa has threatened to tear the Illuminati apart for a while now, but really, their problems run much deeper than that. Can these men really function as a group when they also each have their own personal agenda? Between the Incursions and the events of Infinity there’s always something exciting going on in New Avengers, but at its core, these are the questions this book asks, and waiting for the answers is certainly keeping me invested in the story.
So hey, this issue might sound like it boils down to a lot of talking heads, and, well, that’s not exactly wrong, but artist Mike Deodato absolutely nails those talking heads. His acting wrings every ounce of emotion and nuance out of his characters, and his layouts and camera angles help to keep these talky scenes dynamic and exciting. I’ve spoken before of my love of Deodato’s angled panels, and I continue to love them in this issue, as they add an extra spark to some of his pages. He even throws in a spread that’s shaped like a pie—or like a Trivial Pursuit piece (question: is this the Illuminati’s favorite game, or are they far too smart for it?)—and also has fun laying out some panels in descending order, like a staircase. Just look at the Namor page I posted above; again, Deodato just nails the emotion, but the way the panels are laid out is lot more interesting than just having five widescreen panels.
Hickman also takes us on a tour of the Inhumans’ various tribes, and it gives Deodato (and colorist Frank Martin) a chance to show off by drawing some absolutely breathtaking landscapes.
Honestly, this book is gorgeous, and combining that with Hickman’s typically dense, insightful, and exciting writing makes this issue another slam-dunk in the basketball game that is Infinity.
So Drew, are you as into this issue as I am? Do you think I’m being a little too hard on the Illuminati, or did you find their disinterest in each other troubling too? Any idea how they’re going to deal with an Incursion on top of an invasion, or about what was up with Black Bolt and Maximus’ discussion about the Codex? And hey, what about Doctor Strange? It’s a great twist, but I think it would have more impact if Strange wasn’t being mind controlled nearly every time I see the guy.
Drew: It’s really not clear to me what’s up with the Codex — Maximus starts to chastise Black Bolt for giving such an important item to the humans, but Black Bolt immediately produces it, with a knowing look. My best guess is that the information Black Bolt is sending the team on a wild goose chase. That is, the “genetic markers” Doctor Strange uses to zero in on Thanos’ son point lead him to zero in on an unrelated inhuman. This would serve to 1. stymie any infiltrators that may have flipped one of the Illuminati, and 2. distract the Illuminati while he prepares to destroy his Attilan. In fairness, I don’t think I would have considered option 2 if I hadn’t already read Infinity 3, but the point remains, something is up with the codex.
Not that we really need more things. It’s enough that Thanos is on a quest for the infinity gems, and while I was willing to accept that he also just likes destroying worlds and/or receiving tributes, this whole estranged son plot becomes maybe the third or fourth reason for Thanos to be here. I’m suspicious of it by the simple virtue of the fact that it’s the last one we’ve learned about (though I suppose that’s the information the Outrider was after in Infinity 1). Is this the real reason Thanos is here, or is this the icing on the cake? Ultimately, I’m not sure Thanos’ motives really matter — I would have gladly accepted “he likes trying to destroy Earth” — so let’s focus on the fallout.
Spencer, you’re absolutely right to highlight that chilly Illuminati meeting as the centerpiece of this issue. Exactly where the team members fall on the “this is our absolute top priority” scale is fascinating — and true to their characters. Check out Beast’s swift rebuttal to Tony’s argument:
Any team is going to be made up of people with different priorities. Those differences can be frustrating to navigate, but I absolutely respect Beast standing up for his personal life. Sure, we’re talking about the fate of the world here, but I can appreciate the human element of prioritizing your loved ones over all else.
More importantly, I’m excited for how T’Challa’s Illuminati responsibilities are going to clash with the impending siege on Wakanda. Under normal circumstances, we would expect T’Challa to rush back to his country’s aid, but how do you weigh the fate of one country against the fate of the entire planet? The simple answer is that you don’t — the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few — but what would T’Challa be saving if he let Wakanda fall? Or if Wakanda survived, but could no longer trust him? Would T’Challa rather die fighting for his country than live on knowing he allowed it to fall? Again, the logician — or Tony — may frame this as an obvious choice, but I think we all have our things we wouldn’t trade the world for. It’s a fascinating headspace, and I can’t wait to see how it plays out over the rest of this event.
An incursion in addition to Thanos’ invasion AND the Builders steamrolling all of existence may seem like overkill (remember what I said about not needing more things?), but I’m excited for the storytelling possibilities it holds. Even without T’Challa’s impending Sophie’s Choice moment, saving the world is going to suddenly feel like a distraction from saving the world. Oh, and it will also introduce the world-destroying device into the event proper, opening up all kinds of defensive possibilities (as Avengers keeps pointing out, the ability to destroy an Earth is somehow synonymous with the ability to defend an Earth). Can they just point that thing at Thanos? That’s maybe too stupid, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the team found some way to consolidate their problems. Then again, we’re not even halfway through this thing — maybe Hickman isn’t even done introducing problems.
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