With "Infinity" in the rearview mirror, writer Jonathan Hickman is able to refocus on the mission of the Illuminati and has the gorgeous artwork of Simone Bianchi along for the wild ride in "New Avengers" #13. The issue opens with a peek at another Earth's champions preparing for an incursion. Earth-23099 is host to a new Illuminati, one that is impossible for the main Earth (Earth-616), but fun to read in this comic as it puts Black Bolt and Captain Mar-Vell side by side with Charles Xavier and Magneto while they try to defend their world.
While most of "our" Illuminati try to develop a mirror (or as Reed Richards refers to it, a bridge) to peer into other realities, Doctor Strange wrestles with the writings of the Blu'Dakorr -- the Blood Bible -- to attempt to take control of fate and circumstance. With Strange exploring darker paths and the Black Swan twisting the mission of the Illuminati, Hickman starts to show readers that the stress of the Incursions is taking a definite toll on the team. There's an almost palpable uncertainty in "New Avengers" #13 that seems to be powering the story along, chugging at first, but slowly gaining speed as the Illuminati find the tables turned and the heightened stakes reaching a tipping point. The added uncertainty of the Black Priests and the new threat of invaders accompanying the Incursion give "New Avengers" #13 a collection of compelling subplots that are simply aspects of the much larger threat.
Through all of this, Simone Bianchi makes a very strong case for handling art chores for this title, a Doctor Strange title or even an Inhumans comic book. With gorgeously lush colors provided by Adriano Dell'Alpi, Bianchi's work strains to transcend mere comic book panels and pages, becoming a visual buffet of amazing sights and sounds as fan favorite heroes struggle to make things right, keep things right and solve the problems of the world. Although it is only two pages, Bianchi's work with Doctor Strange is more powerful and stunning than most artists are capable of delivering for a character in an entire issue. I read the print copy, which unfortunately posted a staple through the Doctor's ear, effectively giving him a more piratey appearance, but despite that the imagery on those two pages would tell of the price Stephen Strange is prepared to render in order to make a difference.
Despite the unavoidable "Inhumanity" branding combined with the focus placed on Black Bolt on its cover, "New Avengers" #13 is less a tie-in or crossover issue and much more of a return to the mission statement for this series. The Incursions are continuing and the Illuminati are desperate to save the world. Many of these characters have already sacrificed so much, but Hickman continues to find new tributes for each hero to offer up as certain doom continues to bear down on the most brilliant minds in the Marvel Universe. I'm not sure how long Bianchi is going to stick around, but "New Avengers" #13 certainly makes a strong case for him to continue on as the story guides the series back to its roots of absolute power in the face of certain doom.