Today, Ryan and Patrick are discussing Secret Wars 1, originally released May 6th, 2015.
“Oh, best war ever…”
-General Nick Fury, Secret Wars 1
Ryan: Secret Wars grabs the baton from Jon Hickman’s Avengers/New Avengers beloved/despised/confusing “Time Runs Out” saga chronicling the futile struggle of Earth-616 against the collapse of the multiverse. Hickman dives in by tipping his hat to the concluding plot thread of Doom vs. The Beyonders, the significance of which — aside from helping to shrink the amount of surviving universes down to a baker’s dozen minus a bunch — is still a bit lost on me. The narration of the issue is provided by Reed Richards, and the first installment of this event belongs to him.
Today, Spencer and Ryan are discussing Avengers 44 and New Avengers 33, originally released April 29th, 2015.
Spencer: Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers saga has gone through three different phases. The first, which lasted from the series’ debut through the end of Infinity, found Avengers exploring the forced evolution of the planet Earth via Ex Nihilo’s Origin Bombs while New Avengers established the threat of the Incursions and the drastic measures the Illuminati would have to take to combat them. The second phase found Avengers essentially spinning its wheels, waiting for the Illuminati in New Avengers to reach their limit and, ultimately, fail. Then the books skipped ahead in time eight months, and both lost a bit of their former identities as they became swallowed up in the Incursions storyline. New Avengers has spent most of phase three explaining the mechanics of everything that came before, while Avengers explored the personal fall-out between the members of all these various teams. While the Incursion storyline is continuing into Hickman’s upcoming Secret Wars, the final issues of Avengers and New Avengers focus on wrapping up the ideas they’ve been exploring since phase three began. One is decidedly more engaging than the other. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Mark are discussing New Avengers 30, originally released February 25th, 2015.
Spencer: Jonathan Hickman and Dalibor Talajic’s New Avengers 30 reads a bit like a textbook on multiversal theory. It’s about as dry as beef jerky, and is focused so strongly on explaining every minute detail about the Ivory Kings that it largely fails to address why they’re doing what they’re doing. The information contained within its pages will likely prove important as Secret Wars grows closer, but for the moment, New Avengers 30 feels like an issue that highlights the greatest weakness of Hickman’s Avengers books: a focus on plot that supersedes “story” or characterization. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Mark are discussing New Avengers 27, originally released November 26th, 2014.
Drew: I suppose it’s no surprise that the phrase Deus ex machina is ancient in origin, but I was surprised to learn that it originally described an actual machine used to levitate actors playing gods in ancient tragedies. Of course, it’s more popular meaning as a totally lazy plot device are also ancient in origin — Aristotle took Euripides to task for using a dragon-drawn chariot to whisk suddenly Medea to safety — which speaks to just how long people have been hating it. I dislike unlikely reversals of fortune or sudden interventions by benevolent higher powers as much as the next guy, but the thing that really annoys me about the thought of meeting the man behind the curtain is the expectation that it will be in any way satisfying. I’ve had enough experience to know that the more interesting a question is, the less interesting its answer will inevitably feel, which makes the presence of a being with all the answers extremely unappealing to me. Jonathan Hickman manages to avoid this a bit in New Avengers 27 by answering some of the less interesting questions, though that unfortunately also doesn’t yield particularly satisfying answers. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing New Avengers 24, originally released September 24th, 2014.
Spencer: New Avengers hasn’t really been a title with an antagonist, at least in a traditional sense; the Illuminati are trying to stop the Incursions, but such a mysterious, primal, multiversal threat can be hard to fathom, and they largely act as the impetus behind most of the title’s action rather than the “big bad”. Instead, the Illuminati mainly grapple against themselves, dealing with matters of morality and conscience. In New Avengers 24, Jonathan Hickman and Valerio Schiti skip ahead eight months from the climatic final pages of issue 23, giving them time to establish the Cabal as a group of horrific, homicidal monsters. In a way, they may be serving as the more physical, black-and-white antagonist this title’s been missing, but that seems to be far from their only purpose. Both the Illuminati and the Cabal have done horrific things with a noble goal in mind; the methods of these two groups, and how the world at large have responded to them both, is where the differences lie. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing New Avengers 19, originally released June 11th, 2014.
Spencer: The more I look at the following panels, the more I realize how succinctly they sum up the primary conflict of Jonathan Hickman and Valerio Schiti’s New Avengers 19.
The Illuminati are no longer concerned about whether they can stop the Incursions without destroying inhabited worlds (spoiler alert: they can’t), nor are they any longer concerned about their mission turning them into monsters (they seem to have realized that it’s all but inevitable, and the title of this issue is even “We Are All Monsters Now,” as if to dissuade the reader of any hope otherwise); instead, the million dollar question now seems to be whether it’s better to die with one’s morality intact or to save the universe, but at the cost of one’s own soul.
Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing New Avengers 18, originally released May 14th, 2014.
Spencer: As I’m sure most of us do, I love the big, climatic final battles that usually come at the end of superhero stories. That said, I’m perhaps even more fond of the moments before the final battle, the calm before the storm, the time where the heroes prepare and steady themselves for the horrors to come. Many heroes use this as an opportunity to reflect on what they’ve lost or to visit with their loved ones, but the Illuminati — as pragmatic as ever — mainly use it to steel their resolve and to prepare to do the unthinkable. After all, for them this is only the final battle if they lose; if they win, they get to continue on dealing with an infinite number of Incursions. No wonder they’re so grumpy. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing New Avengers 17, originally released April 30th, 2014.
Spencer: On the surface, the Great Society and the Illuminati — the two teams at the center of Jonathan Hickman and Rags Morales’ New Avengers 17 — seem to be as different as day and night, but the more we dig into these groups, the more similarities emerge. They may handle the Incursions differently, but deep down, both teams seem to know that they’re only delaying the inevitable: it’s the way they face the end of the world that truly defines these heroes.
Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing New Avengers 16, originally released March 26th, 2014.
Spencer: What do you do when a problem has you stumped, when you’ve tried everything you can think of to fix it, but nothing works? Perhaps you ask for help, hoping that a fresh set of eyes will provide a new perspective, or perhaps you examine how others have solved similar problems in hopes of finding an answer. Lately the Illuminati have been taken both approaches in their attempts to end the Incursions. The Mirror has provided them with an endless variety of alternate Earths to observe, but no matter how things differ on the various worlds, so far they have all been recognizable as versions of the Marvel Universe. Not so, though, in Jonathan Hickman and Rags Morales’ New Avengers 16, where we get to see how the heroes of the distinguished competition might handle an Incursion. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Ethan are discussing New Avengers 13, originally released December 31st, 2013.
Spencer: When you need to fight evil dictators or invading aliens, you call the Avengers, but when you find yourself facing threats a tad more existential, threats that can’t just be punched in the face, you call the Illuminati. Indeed, the Illuminati have spent most of writer Jonathan Hickman’s run on New Avengers trying to solve the Incursion problem, but in this month’s issue they find themselves faced with a threat much more tangible, yet just as overwhelmingly impossible as the Incursions themselves. As Doctor Strange says, the Black Priests are eviler than evil, “darker than dark.” Continue reading →