Jonathan Hickman continues the slow, deliberate pace of New Avengers, you can tell it’s going somewhere big, but right now, it’s hard to say where or when that big something will happen. This issue is pretty much evenly divided between two storylines, one of which worked for me a lot more than the other.
I’ll start with the less exciting story, which, whilst decent in it’s own right, was pretty much a re-tread of the events of last issue, as once again we get a window into another world, and another group of Illuminati. Starting once again with Reed Richards’ ‘everything dies’ speech, we see an alternate reality group, this time including Doctor Doom, Hank Pym, Captain Britain, Psylocke and Emma Frost, alongside the seeming constants that are Reed and Iron Man. I’ve said before that I’m a sucker for an alternate world, but I don’t think Hickman is really using these to their full potential. There’s a page or two of exposition about how the Mutants were treated much worse on this Earth, and are, under the leadership of Magneto, living on the floating city of Tian. This was quite interesting as a callback to Hickman’s run on The Ultimates, but it doesn’t really go anywhere, as within 2 or 3 pages all of the Mutants and the Illuminati are killed during the Incursion and the Earth destroyed.
The main purpose here seems to be to show us more about another evil force that is involved in the Incursions, the Sidera Maris. Is it just me or are there way too many uber-powerful forces set up for this series? The Mapmakers, The Black Priests, and now these dudes. This story ends with Reed Richards sacrificing himself to save Doctor Doom (who does manage to kill a Sider Maris) before Doom himself is killed, and we see ‘our’ Reed reacting with horror to what he’s seen. This was basically a re-tread of last issue, and I hope #15 doesn’t just show another alternate reality get snuffed out. Hickman needs to either go into more depth about these realities and make us care, or just not bother.
But it’s not all bad, as I said, there is another storyline, and it’s much more interesting as Doctor Strange journeys into ‘The Lost Lands’ in search of power. He is met by a goat-demon, and Hickman basically gives Simone Bianchi to go as creepy and weird as possible in these segments. Bianchi got his big start in comics on a fantasy series, Seven Soldiers: Shining Knight, and it’s a genre that his style really suits. It was also cool to see Hickman writing a more fantasy type story, he’s normally very hard sci-fi, but this was something different. The issue ends with Doctor Strange going into ‘The Throne’ and agreeing to sell his entire soul for more power. I can’t wait to see where this is going, what kind of man, and hero can Doctor Strange be with no soul? How powerful will he be? It’s going to be fascinating. Doctor Strange has often struggled to fit into the wider Marvel Universe, in part because he’s too powerful, but ironically, it looks like making him even more powerful will actually solve that problem, at least temporarily.
This series is moving slowly, but I am willing to give it the benefit of the doubt, Infinity proved that Hickman can bring it when everything comes together, I just wish the wait wasn’t so long.