I've been lukewarm on this title for a few issues now, but "New Avengers" #8 is filled with some incredible surprises. The Illuminati -- Reed Richards, Tony Stark, Namor, T'Challa, Stephen Strange, Beast and Black Bolt -- have been trying to circumvent the incursions of other realities into their reality with little success and barely more understanding of the challenge in front of them. Jonathan Hickman elaborates on the toll that secretive challenge is taking on the Illuminati in this issue as each of the members (save Beast and Strange) is given a moment in the spotlight.
The issue opens with a conversation between Richards and Stark that leads to a flashback of sorts from a story we haven't seen yet. That scene depicts the Watcher and Iron Man gazing upon the lifeless form of the Living Tribunal, but that little mystery is nothing compared to the mystery that accompanies the pair's return to Avengers Tower later in this issue. T'Challa and Namor continue their maneuvering around the chessboard comprised of their kingdoms while Black Bolt begins to unravel his own through the machinations he has set in place. While these events appear to stand on their own, it is quite clear that there are more surprises awaiting us as these scenes draw closer to one another.
Those plots and plans lead to some striking visuals from Mike Deodato and colorist Frank Martin. Most notably, T'Challa's loneliness in doing that which must be done. Deodato, however, runs hot and cold for me, which "New Avengers" #8 proves to the finest point. A panel of Medusa in silhouette walking towards Black Bolt makes it seem as though the Inhuman queen is trying to pass gas while working against a pulled hamstring, but the juxtaposed half-page vertical panel of Black Bolt and Medusa intertwined is lovely and serves as a pinnacle of what Deodato is capable of bringing to this cast. Caramagna adds a lovely bit of subtle storytelling as Black Bolt and Maximus discuss that which Maximus has crafted.
"New Avengers" #8 serves as a wake-up call for the series as a whole, forcing the reader to pay attention and emphasizes several critical elements along the way. The events -- multiple and grandiose -- that occur in this issue have little to do with the incursions that have plagued the thoughts of the Illuminati since this series began and more to do with the grander canvas of the Marvel Universe as a whole. The cover is emblazoned with "Prelude to Infinity," but this issue is less a prelude and more a preview of "Infinity" given the revelations of scattered across the final three pages combined with the glimpses and hints of things to come that are carefully placed throughout the issue.