New Avengers #4 Review

New Avengers #4 is a fun continuation of the King Arthur in Space storyline, but the art continues to be the weak link in a book that deserves better.

Teddy Altman is still King Arthur of Space, and I am still nearly beside myself in delighted and amused joy.

Unfortunately, his Prince Consort Billy Kaplan (yes, really) may have been possessed by an evil Cthulhu-like space wizard from the fifth incarnation of the multiverse (we’re currently on the eighth incarnation. For more on multiversal renewal, check out Ultimates #1), who seems to be very excited to be inside the future Demiurge, AKA the person with enough power to make and reshape the universe.

(And for all you Young Avengers fans who did just what I did the first time I saw that term and went “How on earth do I pronounce THAT,” it’s simply said “DEM-ee-urge.” You’re welcome.)

So some things have gotten better, but other things have gotten definitely worse.

After all, the King of Space can totally be gay! And have a magic sword born of love! But a Maximoff has been possessed — again. It must be a Tuesday.

New Avengers #4 continues the trend set up in issue #3 of short, two-issue arcs with overarching themes, closing its focus on Teddy and Billy while leaving the door open for future exploration of this plotline. Though I think the pacing of this particular issue might have been helped by letting the events breathe a little bit (it does feel slightly rushed at times), it’s an interesting technique to have shorter, almost one-off plots that allow for character development in rapidly changing circumstances.

The Arthurian mythos surrounding the Knights of the Infinite is explained further, revealing that Teddy’s new magic sword is a result of the fusion of the two swords of two warring generals, the very first Kree-Skrull couple who had a hybrid child. (And I have a sneaking suspicion I spotted a Killers reference in that speech, which — if I’m right — is both kind of amusing and a little jarringly out of place in a book that hasn’t been as closely tied to musical references as the second volume of Young Avengers was.)

The rest of the New Avengers come blasting onto the scene just as the Knights attempt to introduce Teddy to M’ryn, only to find a giant Cthulu space-wizard in his place. Ewing still hasn’t quite gotten a handle on Hawkeye’s voice, but his Songbird and Squirrel Girl are an absolute treat, and the team itself is managing to play off each other more successfully than at the start.

Teddy discovers his new magic sword is able to absorb magic, and thus uses it (with the help of the team) to attack a distracted Moridun, who disappears, apparently defeated. But as they prepare to return home (with the Knights agreeing to let Teddy live his life on Earth if they can call on him in future times of need), something’s nagging at the back of Teddy’s brain…

And Moridun’s comments about “lay[ing] eggs” and “distraction” are echoed over the image of Billy, whose mind had been attacked by Moridun during the battle, and who now chooses the new codename “Demiurge” after Victor’s comments in the previous issue.

But with Moridun reflected in Billy’s eye as the issue closes, it may not be Billy who’s taking on the Demiurge mantle after all.

This is decidedly not a good thing for the fate of the world.

For those who may not be familiar with the previous run of Young Avengers, the title of “Demiurge” refers to a future version of Billy Kaplan who is quite literally omnipotent and has the power to shape and reshape all of reality — past, present, and future — into whatever he wants it to be. Arguably, this makes Billy (the future Billy) one of the most powerful people in the entire multiverse, if not the most powerful person. This makes his present much more squishy and vulnerable self a tempting target for those in search of that power, as he’s unfortunately found out before. For Moridun to have already taken hold and start chasing that unlimited power is a bad sign indeed, and a plot point I can only hope we return to as the series continues. (Well, that and Teddy’s magic sword. Magic swords are always good things.)

New Avengers #4 also explores one of the new ideas floating around the Marvel universe, which is the fact that the worldwide Terrigen Mists trigger a severe and possibly fatal illness in those with the mutant gene. Sunspot has been staying behind to coordinate missions because of this worsening illness, suggesting yet another reason he’s been so driven to lead this group of brilliant scientists — he may be looking for a cure. The introduction of the Terrigen sickness also raises the question of whether or not Billy has been affected, given his shaky powers at the beginning of the series.

Given his headache-inducing convoluted origin story (“son of a witch and an android who was actually magically created from a part of Mephisto’s soul and was reabsorbed into Mephisto only to be reincarnated and born to completely different human parents” is only scratching the surface), which calls into question whether or not his powers are from a mutant origin or not, we may or may not see a further exploration into Billy’s relation to the Terrigen, but it’s certainly something to consider. And as a Squirrel Girl fan, I certainly appreciate the fact that Ewing has been following along with The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, given his clear callback to Doreen’s status as a non-mutant that was established with issue #1 of the new volume.

Sadly, we still remain in the purgatory of grotesquely caricatured proportions and 90s-esque art. There were so many moments during New Avengers #4 where there could have been some absolutely stunning artistic moments, if only we had been given another artist. Ah, if only McKelvie. But alas, we got this instead.

I weep for what could have been. Also, TEDDY HAS NEVER HAD THREE ARMS BEFORE. AAAAH.

I weep for what could have been. Also, TEDDY HAS NEVER HAD THREE ARMS BEFORE. AAAAH.

Horrifying bodies and never-to-be gorgeous moments aside, the panel layout of this issue continues to be unfortunate at best and downright boring at worst. Pages come across as very flat and don’t have a sense of depth or breadth to them, even in the midst of things like giant castles or space-wizard battles. “Camera” angles don’t mesh with the movement of a page’s action, much less the action of an actual action scene, making the progression of a scene difficult to follow. Often times panels simply come across as awkwardly crooked or poorly framed.

The color palette seems more muted and strangely darker in this issue, only relieved by the occasional bursts of magic or energy blasts during the battle. Overall, the art continues to be the tremendously weak link in a book that deserves so much better, and I can only cross my fingers and hope it gets a new artist soon whose work actually fits its needs and is pleasing to the eye.

New Avengers #4 is a fun continuation of the King Arthur in Space storyline begun in the previous issue, and lays much more serious plot seeds for further exploration down the road. This smaller arc that allows a few characters more time as the focus seems to be working for this varied cast of characters, and hopefully we’ll get the chance for a spotlight on different team members in future issues. The art is still a frustrating eyesore, which makes it difficult to recommend this book to anyone who isn’t a devoted fan of the characters that make up the New Avengers team.

New Avengers #4 was written by Al Ewing, with art by Gerardo Sandoval, colors by Dono Sánchez Almara, and lettering by VC’s Joe Caramagna.

Images courtesy of Marvel
New Avengers #4
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Eve

Eve is asexual panromantic, a graduate student with no time for sleep (but always time for comics), a senior contributing writer for the Rainbow Hub, and an avid consumer of any type of media she can get her hands on. When not perusing her incredibly large collection of Marvel comics, she can be found reading, knitting in front of the TV, or on her laptop.

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