With the new addition of the marvelous blue-furred mutant Beast - the heir to the mind gem after Charles Xavier's death - the Illuminati decide to assemble the Infinity Gauntlet in hopes that its power can prevent universes from colliding and collapsing, or, to be specific, in order to save the Earth. Their prisoner, the universe-hopping woman named Black Swan, is not quite so optimistic.
While I was interested in the characterization of the Beast and Captain America, I have to admit that I was somewhat disappointed that Black Panther was pushed to the background in this issue. Just when I thought New Avengers would be a Black Panther book, Jonathan Hickman has decided to prove me wrong. Initially, this is not all that disconcerting. This is a team book, after all, and Black Panther has been the single most prevalent character if we total up all the page-time in the first three issues. My problem is that once a character like Black Panther has been pushed behind one or two other characters, it is not always so easy to pull him back out to the front. Panther was once the dissenting voice in a room full of powerful mega-minds who could re-write reality, and as of this issue he has been replaced by Captain America in this office. Certainly, it is interesting that he is willing to turn utilitarian as soon as he believes that the people of Wakanda in Earth-616 might benefit, but once this move is made, what is there to distinguish Black Panther from the rest of this council? As a publisher, Marvel can either bench Black Panther because he doesn't sell comics, or they can double down on him and convince the people that they should be reading Black Panther books. I am a fan of the latter, because I'm tired of businesses pointing to the consumers when they're accused of not caring for minorities and saying, "My hands are tied. The people don't like black heroes." It is too easy of a cop-out for an industry that has a surprising amount of power in changing public perception about social issues. (Did you forget how much of a hubbub Brian Michael Bendis brought about when he created a multi-racial Spider-man?)
Aside from this issue, which I don't think should just be placed aside easily, I really liked this issue. Beast is a great character, and I'm interested to see how he deals with the Illuminati as Xavier's proxy. It was really interesting to see Xavier deliver the mind gem to Beast via a psionic implant and trigger. Perhaps he took a page from the Weapon X handbook on that one.
Without spoiling the entire issue like I usually do, the conclusion of New Avengers #3 is troubling for the Illuminati, both because of the threats that it implies and because the voice of morality is likely to be ignored. I'm not excited to see what horrors might happen in the process of saving Earth, but I am excited to keep reading. New Avengers continues to be one of the better books that Marvel has released during the Marvel Now! movement.