The battle between the Avengers and the Great Society has been teased, drawn out, hinted at and even, I’d say, protracted. But here we are, in NEW AVENGERS #20 and the two sides finally charge at one another. I am here to tell you: it was worth the wait. We will likely not see a JLA/Avengers (or any kind of Marvel/DC) crossover in the foreseeable future with two of the biggest entertainment titans in the world, that also happen to be bitter rivals, owning both properties so we’ll have to content ourselves with this. Luckily, this battle lives up to the incredible hype. I can’t possibly get into it without getting into spoilers, but we get a great combination of forces smashing into each other and plot points converging, mostly centered on Dr. Strange. Jonathan Hickman hasn’t forsaken the cerebral, sci-fi infused superhero story we’ve come to expect from him, but it's definitely a major tonal shift from the last 20 issues. This is an issue that comes down to some hardcore violence, but the way it plays out makes good, internal sense and the end seems clear on two or three occasions only to twist in another direction entirely. The dialog is perfect for an issue like this: it communicates exactly what it needs to and never overstays its welcome, moving the fights briskly along while still building the plot, especially when it comes to Strange.
Valerio Schiti returns to deliver some absolutely incredible visuals. This is a battle issue, and visuals are critical in such a situation, which is why it’s great that his are top-notch. The action is smooth and animated and the facial expressions are surprisingly subtle considering the subject matter. The attention to facial expressions pays off massively as it gives the fight a great emotional base, making the battle itself have some great, emotional stakes as well as the obvious, physical ones. Namor's arrogant sneer has scarcely ever communicated the insane ego of the man as effectively as it does here. Frank Martin and Paul Mounts have the colors and do an amazing job of covering everything in a dark, tense tint that occurs around Incursions. The characters come off amazingly well and detailed, but it’s the subtle sense of dread that really shines through every panel. Special attention should be paid to any panel featuring Iron Man, as there are quite a few and they all look incredible.
There was an absolutely incredible cliffhanger a few issues back (I won’t specify to avoid spoilers) that is negated to some extent in this issue. It involves Dr. Strange, and while he’s still absolutely the shining character of this book, the way we get there is a bit more circuitous than I’d have liked.
This is one of the most incredible battle across all of superhero comics. It’s been over a decade since Marvel and DC crossed over and while this may not be another crossover in the most literal sense, it certainly works on every level it needs to. It’s even incredibly even-handed, though the characters who go up against one another may not be the 100% ideal ones, they’re the best ones for the plot that Hickman has built making them, as far as I’m concerned, even more the ideals.