THIS REVIEW WILL CONTAIN BLOCKED SPOILERS FOR NEW AVENGERS ISSUE #21
Hot on the heels of one of the grandest, most intense issues of any superhero comic I’ve read, we get some immediate satisfaction and results of what happened. And there’s no way out, no last minute save, no deus-ex machina: the Illuminati’s anti-matter bomb was detonated by Namor’s hand and obliterates a world in order to save Earth 616. This issue picks up moments later and Jonathan Hickman doesn’t lost a step, finally having Black Panther and Namor crash into each other in a conflict that’s been brewing since Atlantis went to war with Wakanda. No punches are pulled and, after the mostly-conversational last issue, it seems like Hickman decided to give these characters, and us readers, some catharsis.
Kev Walker steps in on art and, as much as I’ve enjoyed him on AVENGERS ARENA and AVENGERS UNDERCOVER, I wasn’t sure how he’d match up with a more epic, sweeping book but Walker has an incredible versatility and his style fits perfectly. He’s got a much more exaggerated style than previous artists on the book, but at this point and with where the team is, that actually winds up being exactly what’s called for. The emotions running as white-hot as they are, the unceasing action, everything about this issue is cranked all the way up, and that now includes the art. Frank Martin remains on colors and that’s a huge part of how the visual language transfers seamlessly from one artist to the next. The tone may be dark, but the colors are alive with visual flair and an explosive palette befitting the knockdown, drag-out brawl within the pages.
As much as I think the art fits, there are a few panels where the heads and faces get a little too elongated and makes the features look indistinct and communicating the wrong kind of emotion for the context. We don’t get a great look at the people of the destroyed Earth which, while we know they’re there, disconnects the reader emotionally to some extent. I’m not saying we need to be treated to a horror show, but even a few panels just before the destruction to remind us that yes, this is a horrific thing about to happen would have driven the point home.
Getting a follow-up to last issue’s spectacular cliffhanger hasn’t reduced the anticipation nor the impact of either issue. The fact that this one ends with yet another one that is just AS impactful speaks volumes to how well paced and well thought out this series has been. Taking the focus and suspense off of whether or not the characters will survive and putting it on their emotional and mental states, whether they'll be able to endure, and asking the question of how far they’ll go has made this a breath of fresh air on the shelf as that is a question with a less definitive answer. Whatever’s coming next has me almost wishing this weekly schedule was a permanent change.