New Avengers #1
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Steve Epting, Rick Magyar and Frank D'Armata
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10
Based on high concept alone, New Avengers has a great hook — Marvel's brightest superheroes, meeting in secret to stop universal calamity before it spills over to the general populace. These brilliant men, arrogant men, powerful men were one of the best ideas Brian Michael Bendis had in his run on the title, and these clashing egos and tremendous scales are right up Jonathan Hickman's alley.
Unfortunately... as far as first issues go, the execution doesn't quite show off the tremendous promise this series has to offer. Focusing on the lone holdout of the original Illuminati — Black Panther, lord of the African techno-paradise Wakanda — the pacing of this comic really holds it back, as Hickman puts the story needs of one character ahead of the screen time of the rest.
Compared to his action-heavy Avengers, it's definitely a jolt to see Hickman slow things down so much when he brings us into Wakanda, spending three pages introducing a team of scientists that you just know won't have much impact on the rest of the series. In certain ways, the hypothetical science of the opening scene is partially Hickman's interest, partially a ploy to bring in the more cerebral readers from his run on Fantastic Four and FF. Unfortunately, it also stops the story dead in its tracks, rather than just getting to the point already.
The other problem is the disconnect between Hickman and artist Steve Epting. There is a lot of dialogue at first, which doesn't help with the layouts, but the opening scenes feel static, with little deliberation towards expression, character composition or body language — it feels very much like talking heads or nondescript standing around, at best. By the end of the issue, T'Challa gets a chance to go toe-to-toe against some cosmic enemies that is definitely the highlight of the book, as the Panther flickers in and out of view due to whatever Wakandan tech he has in his utility belt, but to be honest, I think we were spoiled by those wonderful Jock covers. Epting has the foundations of storytelling down pat, but I think the sinister undertones of this book could have really benefits from the edgy atmosphere Jock provided with his covers.
I get the necessary evil behind this first issue — why would Black Panther join a team he was so vehemently opposed to just a few years ago? — but the big problem New Avengers suffers is that there are plenty of big ideas that wind up getting in the way of just getting the job done. This book isn't supposed to be just a Black Panther spotlight, but a team book — without the actual payoff of seeing the team in action, I can't help but feel seriously disappointed in this missed opportunity to make good on a fantastic premise.