New to Comics is a segment where I look at various comic books, explaining their background, reviewing them, and breaking them down for readers unfamiliar to the medium. The title is a reference to a former university project that I carried on as its own site for several years before laying it to rest.
Following on from Adapt Or Die!, today we’re looking at the next chapter in Jonathan Hickman’s massive Avengers saga; this time from the sister book New Avengers.
Published by: Marvel Comics
Written by: Jonathan Hickman
Art by: Simone Bianchi & Rags Morales
Ruling Members: Black Bolt, Medusa, Crystal, Karnak, Gorgon, Triton & Lockjaw
Base of Operations: Attilan
First Appearance: Fantastic Four #45 (December 1965)
Created millions of years ago by the scientists of the Kree Empire, the Inhumans were an experiment that grew to be so much more. Initially intended to unlock the problems with the Kree’s own evolutionary stagnation, these early humans were transformed into genetically superior Inhumans, who were granted powers by exposure to a mist secreted from Terrigen Crystals. For years, the Inhumans thrived in their own hidden society – the base of their power being the Inhuman City of Attilan. But after being discovered by the explorers known as the Fantastic Four, the Inhumans begun to take their place amongst the superhuman community, lead by their silent king, Black Bolt, whose voice could destroy all around him, his prehensile haired queen Medusa, Medusa’s element manipulating sister Crystal, the martial artist Karnak, the amphibious Triton, the hoofed Gorgon and their teleporting dog Lockjaw. Over the years, their race has faced threats from both inside their insular society, such as Black Bolt’s mischievous brother Maximus, and out, such as when the Mad Titan Thanos attacked their city, forcing Black Bolt to unleash the Terrigen mists across the Earth, allowing countless new Inhumans to rise up and leading his family into a new age of Inhumanity.
WHAT’s THE STORY?
In the same way that Adapt or Die! deals with the Avengers post-Infinity, Other Worlds follows the adventures of the Illuminati after Thanos’ invasion. The first issue is labelled as part of the ‘Inhumanity’ event, which follows on from the events of Infinity, wherein Black Bolt unleashes the Terrigen Mists across Earth, leading to the creation of multiple new Inhuman heroes. This, in turn, spawned several new series, such as Inhuman, which followed the Inhuman Royal Family as well as some of the newer Inhumans, and Ms Marvel, a series that was an instant hit, and has outlived a lot of some of the other floundering Inhuman plotlines. For further evidence of this, just look at the fact that a television series developed by Marvel Studios themselves has been announced based on the character, while the more mainstream Inhumans only got a pseudo-Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. spin-off that was developed by ABC and cancelled immediately.
A lot of this is probably down to the fact that, due to Fox holding the rights to both the Fantastic Four and the X-Men, Marvel hoped to give the Inhumans a major push and cement them as their premiere super-powered race, even going so far as to reveal that the Terrigen Mists were lethal to mutants in later years, which lead to the event Inhumans vs. X-Men.
However, due to the fact this story follows the Illuminati mostly off doing their own things, quite a lot of the arc actually has very little to do with the Inhumans themselves. False advertising, that is.
WHAT’s THE PLOT?
Still out of their depth when it comes to dealing with Incursions, the Illuminati are encouraged by their captive Black Swan to build a device that will let them observe alternate realities so they can study incursions and prepare themselves properly. Meanwhile, Black Bolt, Maximus and Lockjaw forge a new path after the rest of the Inhumans believe them to be dead, while Doctor Strange decides to turn to darker methods to deal with the incursions – methods more mystical in nature.
IS IT ACCESSIBLE?
The first half of this story leans heavily into the ideas of other universes, as the Illuminati observe alternate incursions. Given that you’ve read New Avengers up until now, there’s nothing here that will be too confounding for new readers, as it is mostly just alternate reality takes on the story we’ve been following, with the occasional character who hasn’t appeared in the series thus far, such as Yellow Jacket or Captain Britain, working as a member of one of the alternate Illuminatis.
The second half follows one Earth more closely, and here, all readers will need is a basic understanding of the Justice League and their members, as the main reality the Illuminati begin to observe is one where a pastiche of DC’s superheroes operate. Otherwise, this is perhaps one of the more accessible volumes of the greater story, as it is primarily focused on explaining some of the different facets of incursions and this multiversal lore that Jonathan Hickman has been constructing.
While it is informative, some of these other realities fail to capture your attention, as you’re essentially reading the same comic over and over for several issues, and as a result, this story, for the first half at least, can at times be boring. This isn’t helped by the drastic change in art style, as these issues are illustrated by Simone Bianchi, whose work can be an acquired taste. It’s murky and slightly weird; as if a step removed from photorealism, and yet slightly surreal at the same time.
However, it does work especially well in the Doctor Strange segments of the story, as Bianchi’s art perfectly conveys the bizarre and otherworldly nature of the ‘Sinners Market’, occupied by demons and all sorts of magical paraphernalia. This, and the other sections that focus on our heroes – that is to say, the ones from the mainstream Marvel Universe – are the strongest, as they allow Bianchi’s art to anchor itself in things that are familiar, such as the traditional looks of the characters and the locations they usually inhabit (the Sinners market being an obvious exception).
Things become more concise when the art is handed over to Rags Morales, who has a much more conventional, poppy (and slightly more cartoonish) art style that feels very much at home in superhero comic books, particularly the parts of the story revolving around ‘the Great Society’ (that aforementioned Justice League pastiche). Here, Hickman is also doing his finest work, as the story is not overwhelmed with multiversal issues and science-fiction jargon or near-incomprehensible lore, instead opting to focus on character development; particularly that of Doctor Strange, and more interestingly, Black Panther and Namor.
The latter duo’s interactions, in particular, are especially interesting and have perhaps provided some of the more entertaining aspects of this run as a whole. It’s just a shame that this sort of development and interesting character study fails to make its way over to the mainline Avengers title, which is more concerned with high stakes and the characters are for the most part interchangeable.