Meet the Mapmakers, cartographers of the Apocalypse. Doctor Strange sells his soul. Reed Richards and the Illuminati rekindle an old relationship. From Jonathan Hickman and Simone Bianchi.
After two issues spent detouring into other realities, New Avengers #15 gets the title back on track. Having peered into these other world, it quickly becomes clear to the Illuminati that things are, as always, far worse than they imagined. All the other Earths are falling, either through the arrival of Black Priests and Mapmakers or dying as these parallel planets collide. Even with Namor busy and Doctor Strange missing in action, they also discover that their looking glass can see more than just other timelines, giving them the ability to peer through time and space. They’re able to glimpse their Black Swan throughout her life, learning her disturbing origins as she moved through the multiverse and encountered other Illuminatis, and discovering what awaits them in the future.
Hickman offers an intriguing look behind the veil in this issue, giving the team a very dramatic peek into Swan’s exploits. His scripting is solid and I overall enjoy his characterizations, but I find this issue, like the last two, to be a bit too passive. The team is once again simply observing as these events unfold. While there are plenty of action sequences throughout to break up any sense of monotony, this plot structure serves to remove the protagonists from any real sense of danger. Yes, they are all quite doomed, but it lacks tension to drive the suspense and dread. However, Hickman is able to bring Thanos back into the story, after the vague and somewhat indecisive resolution at the end of Infinity, at the very least alluding to more of the Mad Titan in the future.
Bianchi’s dramatic style brings action to this otherwise static narrative, heightening the tension that makes it to the page. There is such a strong sense of motion in his character designs, from their exaggerated postures to the theatrical flourishes of the hair and facial anatomy, which makes his storytelling so fun to read. Some pages are stronger than others, but overall his sense of panel composition is compelling with its dynamism and flair. Dall’apli does a solid job overall but sometimes his colors a bit muddy, losing character detail in the midst of broad fields of black and brown. This dark color scheme strikes a dark and moody tone, but sometimes it sacrifices the clarity of the artwork, which is unfortunate.