New Avengers #7: The Atlantis/Wakanda War
We've seen superheroes fighting each other instead of bad guys several times out of Marvel, what with Civil War and Avengers vs. X-Men and all – hell, they've currently got a series dedicated to having them butt heads with each other in Uncanny Avengers. We're also about to see a lot of that out of DC, with The Trinity War pitting the Justice League, the JLA and Justice League Dark against each other. We're kind of tired of that, because it usually involves characters being willfully obtuse for the sake of conflict, and it usually winds up feeling hollow and dumb. However, when superheroes also happen to be the heads of state, and when the two of them fighting each other involves official national declarations of war, things get a lot more interesting.
New Avengers #7, from Jonathan Hickman and Mike Deodato, deals heavily with the ramifications of representing sovereign nations as opposed to being simple vigilantes. One subplot involves Victor Von Doom, monarch of Latveria, grilling Dr. Strange and Reed Richards about the incursion into his nation from the "mapmaker" army of Sidera Maris (as well as reconciling Reed's presence in this book with being 'lost in space-time' over in Fantastic Four). Another involves Blackagar Boltagon, monarch of the Inhuman nation of Attilan, charging his brother Maximus with the construction of a mysterious device that may also be related to these incursions. But the main thrust involves the hostilities between Prince Namor's nation of Atlantis and King T'Challa's nation of Wakanda, bringing to mind shades of Christopher Priest's legendary run on Black Panther.
It started during AvX, when the Phoenix-possess Namor led an Atlantean charge into Wakanda, flooding the capital city and killing thousands all in the name of rooting out the resistance to the Phoenix Five's domination of the world, a 9/11-level atrocity for them. Having recovered from the infrastructure damage, Wakanda captured Atlantean generals to put on trial for war crimes. Atlantis responded by "accidentally" killing the Wakandan ambassador to the U.N. and his entourage, and they managed to uncover and slay 60 elite Wakandan troops attempting a response within the undersea nation-state – an event Namor claims was made possible by seditious elements within Wakanda's power structure who are willing to betray their country in order to ensure the fall of Queen Shuri, T'Challa's sister and current ruler. There is also the fact that T'Challa swore to kill Namor several issues ago, which he terms "a promise regarding his morality I intend to keep."
Nevertheless, Namor meets with T'Challa in his new kingdom of Necropolis (check out Hickman's Fantastic Four #608 run to know more about that) to make a peace offering, reveal that sedition to T'Challa, and remain haughty about doing him a favor with this offer. No contrition, which is perhaps the most difficult emotion for Namor to muster, or at least reveal. T'Challa does not trust Namor, but nonetheless argues for the greater good – an end to bloodshed in order to deal with the larger threat of these otherworldy incursions that threaten their world. Shuri will have none of it. It's official – they're going to war.
This is a much more compelling reasoning for heroes to fight each other. This is what I've been waiting for since the beginning of this series, a comeuppance for Namor, and I don't think Hickman is going to cop out on this, even though he's stacked the deck against Wakanda. I don't know why, but I really want T'Challa to kill Namor and have it stick. It needs to be a big deal, and if it's in an Avengers book, it probably will be – especially if it at all ties into the Infinity event that Hickman's gearing up for. He's unspooling many strings here, even with subtle hints that the team's efforts to stop the incursions from infinite other worlds are hopeless in the long run. They can't just keep destroying extra-dimensional worlds every time they threaten the fabric of their own reality… but that's what Thanos is for, come Infinity.
New Avengers #7 is highly charged for a what could be considered a "breather" issue full of talk, and Deodato's art is just fantastic. His Doom is perfect and T'Challa's barely contained anger towards Namor is palpable, as is the dark mood that pervades everything. This is the best Avengers book going right now – it's weighty and bleak, but really damn good.