Parallel Earths are colliding with each other, which destroys both planets, and each parallel universe at the same time, unless one is saved by destroying the other first.
Reed Richards discovered this phenomena and assembled the Illuminati to combat the threat.
During the first planetary incursion, the Black Panther apprehended a female humanoid alien called the Black Swan who had destroyed one of the planets. She has been kept on Wakanda and monitored and questioned by the Illuminati.
T'Challa and Namor have a bit of a feud going on between them.
There may now be spoilers ahead:
In this volume, Jonathan Hickman delves deeper into the mystery surrounding the Black Swan, whilst the Illuminati try to discover ways to stop their Earth from being destroyed by more incursions.
The volume begins with an alternative Illuminati team on a parallel Earth discussing the same problem. Back on Earth 616, Richards discovers from the Black Swan that he could build a device to monitor these parallel universes to find a pattern or a solution that could help them. He has built such a device before, a device known as the Bridge, so he brings it out of mothballs (or builds a new one, it's not clear) to tweak it to suit their new needs.
They then observe the alternative Illuminati team from Earth 23099 being decimated by beings calling themselves the Black Priests who then destroy that Earth.
Meanwhile, Doctor Strange is fed up with having the power of the Sorcerer Supreme at his disposal and not being able to do anything about these threats. He decides to embrace the writings within the Blu'Dakor - the Blood Bible; arcane and possibly forbidden magics that transport him to a different astral plane called the Lost Lands where he begins to seek darker supernatural power. This will no doubt come at a price.
We discover another alternative Earth being destroyed, this time by a cosmic race called the Mapmakers, whilst our heroes continue to monitor parallel universes via the Bridge. During one such observation, we learn of a team of superheroes on a parallel Earth known as The Great Society. This team managed to stop an incursion with their world by destroying the incoming Earth.
The volume concludes with the Great Society being victorious once more and then it ends on a cliffhanger as we discover that our Illuminati will face the Great Society as both their worlds will eventually collide.
This era of the New Avengers just keeps getting better and better. With so much mystery from the first 2 volumes now becoming clearer, I am aching to find out what happens next. Hickman is slowly building up what he has been working on for a while (presumably several years in fact, with the Bridge first appearing in 2009's Dark Reign: Fantastic Four) and he keeps us hooked with his various nibbles. There's so much going on; and not all of it yet answered. What has become of Doctor Strange? Has the fire between Namor and T'Challa cooled? Will we ever find out Black Swan's purpose? Are the Black Priests or the Mapmakers headed our way? And just how will our heroes convince the Great Society that their world must be destroyed to save Earth 616?
Buy this you must, but you also must read volumes 1 and 2 to get the full picture - this is not a standalone volume.
The story from issues #13-17 of New World is collected as New Avengers Volume 3: Other Worlds (Marvel Now) (New Avengers (Marvel Now!)). This is an excellently scripted and illustrated volume, which looks at how other Earths have dealt with the collapsing multiverse, courtesy of an old invention of Reed Richards, suggested by the Black Swan. This lets us see a number of variations of the Illuminati and their differing worlds, all of whom have less luck than ours. We also see a couple of other races who are taking advantage of the collapse for their own obviously nefarious purposes, and get hints of some others lurking out there. Then, we finally see a J*stice Le*gue world, where the team has resolved that “everything lives”… and has succeeded in preserving their world so far. However, during the course of these observations, our Illuminati have spotted that the Black Swan appears to be a baddie, despite her assistance. This volume ends on a bit of a cliffhanger for the League, and I suspect we might see a bit of intervention, as the Sub-Mariner and Black Panther, who have been bonding during the course of the story, are observing their plight, and have been pushing each other towards a big heroic demonstration that they each still have what it takes to be a king. Meanwhile, Doctor Strange has also been concerned about his apparent lack of importance as a Sorcerer Supreme, and goes of on a quest to regain the power and influence that he once wielded, in order to once more make a difference in the world.
I only read the collected editions in my local library, so I don’t know where the individual comics have gone with the story, but it does look like we are slowly heading towards something, especially as over in Avengers Vol. 1: Rogue Planet the big Avengers have acquired a playing piece that should come in handy for the finale, courtesy of time travellers from Earth’s future, which in itself should be a major hint that there is a solution. During the course of this volume, somebody suggests that Reed’s machine could be used to find the source of the catastrophe, as it is able to search through time as well as parallel (relative?) dimensions, but it has not yet been followed up on by the world’s smartest men.
This is a very entertaining volume, and the writer manages to fit in a lot of character-development for some of the cast as well as major world-shattering stories.
THE SPOILER ZONE THE SPOILER ZONE THE SPOILER ZONE
Issue #13 – “Inhumanity” – opens on Earth 23099, where the Illuminati of that world are facing an incursion, while on our world, the Black Swan is trying to describe a device that will help the Illuminati study the collapsing multiverse. It turns out to be a modification to one of Reed Richards’ old and dangerous devices. Meanwhile Doctor Strange has decided that it is time for him to become the Sorcerer Supreme once more. The new device allows the Illuminati to witness the defeat of their counterparts by the Black Priests, powerful entities who have their own agenda for dying Earths…
Issue #14 – “The Agamotto Gambit” – opens on Earth 2319, where the Illuminati of that world are facing an incursion, while on our world, or rather, off it, Doctor Strange is out looking for a power boost, as is willing to sell his soul for the upgrade. On earth 2319, their Illuminati are facing beings called the Sidera Maris, “the forerunners of the Mapmakers”, while our Illuminati look on through the “Mirror” created by Reed Richards…
Issue #15 - “See How the Swans Fly” - opens on our Earth with the Illuminati discussing the data that has been recovered from the various dying Earths, and realising that they can use the machine to look through time as well as space, and Reed and Hank McCoy have been looking for Black Swans, and found some. It turns out that there is an extra-dimensional space that the Black Swan has been seen emerging from, and contributing to the death of certain worlds. She is unceremoniously thrown back in her holding cell, where Terrax has a cryptic conversation with her, and they both observe something occurring in Thanos’s cell…
Issue #16 – “A Perfect World” – opens with Namor and T’Challa observing a world which has succeeded in surviving collapse events. Its defending team is a Squadron Supreme (or J*stice L*ague), and they have a different view of the situation: “Everything Lives”
Issue #17 – “A Perfect World II” – opens on Earth 4,290,001, where the local superhero team, the Great Society (Squadron Supreme/JLA) have just fought off one incursion, and are now immediately faced by another. Namor and T’challa, who have been bonding during the course of the story, and observing their plight, have been pushing each other towards a big heroic demonstration that they each still have what it takes to be a king. The issue ends with a cliff-hanger for the Great Society…