This is a fine example of how not to debut a new series.
When Brian Michael Bendis launched the first volume of New Avengers in 2005 he did it with a bang. It was an action packed issue that set up a new direction for a number of heroes and the Avengers as a whole.
Fast forward to Jonathan Hickman’s 2013 relaunch of the new avengers, in which Black Panther takes center stage and we get some setup for a new villain/storyline. Setup is important in a first issue too, but it is meaningless if you can’t keep the readers interested in the issue they are reading right now.
Some sort of dimensional rift, some bad guys and Black Panther calls in all the big guns. That’s the extent of this issue. Our villain seems prone to the sort of prototypical villainy that one would expect, complete with worshiping some sort of world destroying deity (sounds like Galactus to me). Maybe there’s some deeper motivation to her world-destroying backstory, but even if there is I think we are going to have to wait a long time to find out. And FYI, Black Swan is already taken, so that name probably isn’t going to stick…
There’s some action as Black Panther’s lackeys get killed, but with only a few panels to set up their characters we don’t exactly feel the tragedy of their passing. It’s also not really clear what’s happening with the dimensional rift, the Black Swan’s device, the effect Black Panther’s punching her had, how BP got back to his own dimension etc, etc. Some mystery in a first issue is fine, but this really gives us nothing to go on. It’s going to take an awful lot of exposition to clear up these questions, and that doesn’t make me hopeful for the next few issues either. I wouldn’t be surprised to have a four page spread of Reed Richards just explaining things. I love those.
As far as using the Illuminati as the basis of the New Avengers, I take issue with the concept as a whole. New Avengers has always stood for a modern twist on a classic series, but this is the opposite. The Illuminati is the Old Avengers. The oldest, in fact. If Marvel Now is going to see them brought back into the fold, using the New Avengers name to sell them to the masses is a disingenuous move. If an Illuminati series can’t support itself on its own merits, maybe an Illuminati series isn’t such a great idea in the first place.
The writing here is pretty standard, but since not a lot happens its difficult to make much of a judgement on that. Certainly it lacks Bendis’s trademark wit and style, but Hickman tends to shy away from the lighter tone of Bendis’s work, even on their collaborations It certainly has a serious feel, but without the story to back it up it just feels sort of melodramatic. The art is decent enough, but again, it isn’t near the caliber of what New Avengers readers have come to expect from talent like David Finch.
All-in-all this is an issue that fails to impress on any level, and fails to generate any excitement for the direction of this new series.