By Jonathan Hickman, Kev Walker, Frank Martin
Apparently, this issue serves as the last part of the story before we jump ahead 8 months and the Time Runs Out storyline begins. Man, what a way to end this story, though. By the last page, you may have to take a breather and let the craziness sink in.
After destroying a world, the Illuminati are at their lowest. At one point, Strange asks Wong if he’s a good man and Wong simply answers “no.” It’s such a little word, but it carries a massive amount of weight to it. Every member must look at themselves in the mirror and wonder if they were even good men in the first place.
Now, another incursion is imminent and none of the Illuminati are willing to pull the trigger and destroy another world. What follows are some powerful scenes of what they assume are their final hours. It’s very interesting to see how the characters react to utter hopelessness. A few of Hickman’s critics like to say his stories lack strong character development. If you’re one of those people, I would give New Avengers a read, especially this issue. It’s seriously some of the best character work that any Marvel book has done in months. This is coming from a guy who reads just about every Marvel title, so you’re hearing this from an expert of sorts.
This issue is a borderline 5-star knockout. However, the art holds it back. Last issue, Walker’s work suffered from some goofy and exaggerated facial expressions that took some of the emotional depth away from the story. Issue 23 has some much better faces, but the lack of detail has a rushed quality. There are even panels where things get so sloppy that it looks like a completely different artist’s work. Walker is a phenomenal talent, so this is very disappointing.
Questionable art aside, New Avengers will still leave you speechless. Hickman’s focus on characters and the massive twist at the end make this a thrill from start to finish. Bring on Time Runs Out!