Picking up threads from "Infinity" and sewing those into the numerous subplots this title has borne, "New Avengers" #9 welcomes Thanos' generals into a larger role, giving each individualized panel space and accompanying dialog from writer Jonathan Hickman. Aware of the Illuminati and craving the sole, intact Infinity Gem, Thanos dispatches his quintet of killers to Earth to find the gem and return with it.
What was once the sleepiest of the "Avengers" line of comic books has now become the "must-read" title of the week. Hickman takes full advantage of the intersection of characters between "Infinity" and "New Avengers," building suspense and raising stakes on all sides. Running parallel to last week's "Avengers" #18 in the Infinity Checklist, "New Avengers" #9 steps outside the pages of "Infinity" #1 a bit more, giving depth to the cosmic canvas Hickman has crafted. Readers enjoying "Infinity" and willing to shell out the extra cash for the supporting issues will not be disappointed by the developments here. Regular readers of "New Avengers" who might be foregoing the "Infinity" event will find a complete story here, albeit one that is more lush and vital with prerequisite knowledge of "Infinity."
Filled with conniving, plotting, subterfuge and secrets so ripe they just might burst. The Illuminati, like the Infinity Gems, have started to fracture, but this issue increases the stress, forcing the secret brotherhood to a point of no return. The final page leaves things hanging -- literally -- as Black Bolt takes a bold step forward. Hickman's take on Black Bolt is not unlike Tom Hiddleston's portrayal of Loki. The depth and range isn't completely visible yet, so that might shift, but in every Black Bolt and Maximus scene, it's tough not to hear Hiddleston's voice. Around all that, the Atlantis-Wakanda War will not cease and finds increased escalation here.
Mike Deodato has upped his game for this story. While I appreciate his work and acknowledge his knack for detail, I have never been the most vocal supporter of Deodato. In "New Avengers" #9, the artist hits all the right spots. His work is evocative of Jim Cheung's art in "Infinity" #1 without slavishly aping the other artist, but as the story progresses, so does Deodato's choices for framing, composition and storytelling. Namor, cowed before Proxima Midnight is one of the most intense images from this series to date, while Ebony Maw oozes creepiness despite Doctor Strange's efforts to repel him. Frank Martin's colors are perfect for the issue, adding the heat of open flame when needed and the chill heavy in the carnage in the ocean's depths.
With twenty pages of story, "New Avengers" seems beefier. This comic book has a bit more heft to it than others of the same pricepoint this week due to a recap page, a cast page, a creators page, chapter pages and an informational page about Thanos' generals: the Cull Obsidian (or Black Order). As event crossover issues go, this one is phenomenal. I'm almost looking forward to "New Avengers" #10 as much as I am "Infinity" #2.