Hot on the heels of last week’s comprehensive round-the-horn update-fest, writer Jonathan Hickman’s ongoing Marvel saga returns with yet another issue of New Avengers. Entitled “Triage” and arriving with very little advanced fanfare, this chapter offers a few surprises and is both literally and figuratively what the doctor ordered.
While containing many noteworthy story points, what comes across foremost is the artistic roster consisting of relatively unknown talent. Veterans Salvador Larroca and Paul Mounts turn in a cover that enticingly pops and surrealistically creeps but the actual heavy lifting inside is done by Szymon Kudranski and color artist Dono Sanchez Alamara, both with very few Marvel credits to their respective names. Considering the a-list of talent that’s come before, there is risk introducing these untried commodities so late in the game. Yes, there’s slight cosmetic variance with what’s advertised on the tin and the dearth of preview pages could have easily been misconstrued as a lack of confidence in output but thankfully, this is far from the case as readers are actually better served coming into this issue cold. What it really boils down to is that while the action-intensive front half is indeed massively click-worthy, there’s a pair of great reveals featuring Silver Age mainstays that would have been positively ruined if pages hit the webs ahead of time.
Seguing to a more reclined mood, the second half doesn’t exactly coast in the aftermath of the flash battle. It may seem short-shrift to the action once the adrenaline really gets pumping to throttle back into Hickman’s coldly detached and analytical talking head wheelhouse but there is great warmth to these pages as well- much of which is largely nostalgia-fueled. Without being too spoiler specific, the issue’s central conflict is actually a bit of an homage to a long-running tradition among Marvel heroes: the misunderstanding team-up. Hell, the Avengers themselves are founded on the very concept! In this case, it’s old comrades reuniting in a situation where they are now found under radically different banners. As sure as this is the foundation of a very interesting, if uneasy, alliance of convenience, it also draws great attention to how personal a toll it will be when things invariably go south. Coincidentally, the Dr. Doom/Molecule Man subplot threads through as well. In stark contrast, they appear quite up front with their current mutual standings. Their exchange, such as it is, reads more like “dueling soliloquies” in the instant but also plays like a scene Hickman could revisit down the road, reframed in a different context. Either way, their next stop will be significant. No doubt.
What’s also of great significance is an informative bit of dialogue found toward the back of the book. Functionally the characters’ pronounced game plan to avert the early death of the multiverse, it is also the first time the reader is privy to anything close to defined parameters regarding how Hickman’s long-running epic will culminate in next summer’s Secret Wars event. As the promotional headers constantly remind, time runs out in “blank” number of months. That being said, with a cast consisting of so many, it seems any one of the limited number of issues left could be the last time readers see their favorite character(s) before “the big game”. Although not overly somber or ominous, the wrap-up really drives the point home that this is a one-way trip for everyone but it shouldn’t be without its element of humor. If anything, the issue’s finale certainly suggests there may be a whole lot more mileage to be had with the overall “game” metaphor. True believers, start manning those tailgates!
CBH Score: 4 out of 5 stars
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