Although I could care less about warning you, spoilers will be below.
The problem with comic books, mainly superhero ones, is that the stories are always stuck in a perpetual second-act. There is no beginning, nor is there an end. The status quo never really gets a permanent change. The conflict is essentially meaningless. That’s the problem at the core of superhero books: they still use an outmoded way of storytelling, and therefore none of the conflicts presented within carry any real weight or thematic depth. New Avengers #23 feels like an attempt to subvert this, not only because it is the end of a second act in an overarching saga, but because its ending feels like it sets up a sort of finality you wouldn’t normally see in this kind of book.
Aside from the sub-par art, Hickman’s story carries an entirely real weight to it. The illuminati regret their actions, and spend their last day on earth (or so they thought) experiencing some kind of meaningful journey. Even the art by Walker (to be fair it’s not bad, it’s just really wonky in places and feels rushed half the time) can’t subdue the sense of closure Banner gets, or Reed’s sadness, or Strange’s contemplation of who or what he really is. Everyone regrets what they’re involved in, and they try to find some way to reconcile this regret before the world ends. It’s some truly powerful stuff.
Other than that though, this issue is full of surprises. I was not expecting Dr. Doom to show up, and I smiled when he did. Hickman probably writes the best Doom, and uses him for some humor to lighten the mood in a very dark issue. The ending pages with Namor and The Cabal setting up the third act were extremely strong too, with Hickman giving Namor a variation on Reed’s “everything dies” speech that shows how different Namor’s approach to the incursions is than Reed’s. This is what I love about New Avengers #23 and the series as a whole: Hickman can capture the voice and mannerisms of a character in only a few pages. Of course, Kev Walker does help here, even if he delivers a very mixed brand of pages, with some having real emotional value and others just looking plain silly.
New Avengers #23 and Hickman’s entire Avengers saga feels like it carries a real finality to it, which has me dumb-struck considering the perpetual cycle of the rest of the Marvel line. This is the event that Marvel has needed to switch things up a bit. It’s almost a Marvel Crisis on Infinite Earths.
My Score: 3/5