Four men stand gazing at their feet, and a shield lies stripped from a warrior… you can hear a rumble coming from off in the distance that says, ‘something has happened, and its going to change everything.’
And that’s just Jock’s cover.
He tells us lightning has struck; we are left with visual thunder.
Hickman has been building to this moment, and what an architect he is. This team feels at home in the universe, all of the recent events occurring throughout other books anchor the points that actually move the plot along.
And here begin the SPOILERS
Dr. Hank McCoy joins the team in this issue, after inheriting the Mind Gem from the late Professor Charles Xavier. Hank stands in the place of the reader, learning as the story progresses what the team is planning, and the methods they will use to enact those plans. He is confronted with the realization that there is a shadowy group of heroes making the worlds decisions behind close doors. Flawed characters hold the fate of universes in their hands, Hickman continually questions the moral ramifications of this; but again and again asserts the necessity of this evil he has created.
One could question Hickman’s pacing, he moves to what might be perceived as the culmination of this three-issue arc abruptly, but it becomes clear that this series is less driven by action; and more focused on moral dilemmas, ethical questions, and character analysis. During the moment of incursion, the team makes a hasty decision that Captain America must wield the Infinity Gauntlet. Cap, or maybe Steve, hesitates for a moment. This moment feels epic, it is the moment that the hero must step up to the challenge that faces him; the moment in which the choice to turn back has been taken away. Hickman is fittingly throwing down the gauntlet, and in the tradition of a true champion, Cap picks it up and accepts the challenge.
Cap accomplishes the task of saving two universes. However, as does all of the gems shatter (except for the Time Gem which disappears) and the celebratory tone is marred.
Back in Wakanda, the team sits down to discuss strategy. Cap tells them that he will not stand by and watch them toy with fate. He believes that the needs of the many do not outweigh the needs of the few. Cap’s character is his greatest asset, and in this instance, his greatest weakness. He is Caesar before Brutus, Abel before Cain; despite their history, Tony executes the order to remove him from the team. Doctor Strange wipes Steve’s memory, and the group effectively silences their conscience.
I cannot separate the quality of this story from its events. It feels so important. The themes that Hickman touches on: the moral responsibility of leaders, trust and betrayal, the coercive nature of power, and moral gray area, are the stuff of parables and legends. What he accomplishes here is truly outstanding. After building a crisis situation that threatens two universes, he pauses and says; ‘no it’s bigger than that.’
The tension created by Captain America’s character has been essential to keeping the enlightened ones out of the dark. I am so curious to see where the series will go in his absence.
Actually if you look closely at Jock’s cover, you can see that Jiminy Cricket is squished under Iron Man’s boot. They will no longer be letting their conscience be their guide.
Epting’s artwork prevents the complicated story from reading to densely. He adds clarity to points that could have easily been obscured, and the quality of his work is artful and consistent throughout. I particularly enjoyed the way he represented the scene between Reed and the Black Swan.
As I end this long and winding review, I would like to highlight a few questions we might need to be asking ourselves:
- Why do the Swan’s eyes glow?
- Are they going to remember to take the communication device out of Cap’s hand?
- What happened to the Time Gem?
- When will they face the next incursion?
- Is there a McDonald’s in Wakanda?
- If Reed had time to whip up those nifty charts and graphs in the last issue, and feed a caged woman French fries; why did he not have time to bring up who would wield the gauntlet at the strategy meeting?
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And pick up New Avengers #3 here: http://marvel.com/comic_books/issue/43517/new_avengers_2013_3