AS PER USUAL, SPOILERS ABOUND
New Avengers #2 - In Secret, They Rule
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Drawn by Steve Epting
Issue #1 of Hickman's take on the Illuminati was a bit lackluster, only in that I didn't want just a Black Panther issue. Well now we know what's so damn big that he has to call together the group he said was a big mistake.
Turns out that Black Swan (the chick form the first issue) was destroying an Earth in order to save our Earth. Let's see if I can explain this without getting too into the scary science talk: Every universe in the multiverse was created and will die eventually. Something has caused an alternate universe to end much sooner than "planned". This unnatural event has began causing incursion points at which other realities are converging. That point happens to be Earth. When an incursion point happens, there is exactly eight hours until either both realities are destroyed or the death of one saves the other. That is what Black Swan was doing; saving one by killing the other.
We followed that, right?
This is why Panther has crossed the line he condemned the others for making. To save his universe, he has to go further than he thought right. After much talk, Steve Rogers pulls out the Time Gem and reminds everyone that they have the power to stop this without killing anyone or anything. They have five of the six Infinity Gems, which will lead them to the sixth Gem (lost to them after the death of Xavier too it's location with him). Namor, Cap and Black Bolt will hunt down the Gem while Reed, Tony and T'Challa begin making a device that will warn them when an incursion happens.
The final four pages are the real kicker. First, we see four panels of what I'm assuming is the future of the Illuminati members fighting off monsters and beings that look to want nothing more than to kill everything. Helping confirm this, the last two pages are Reed and T'Challa talking about how they know the truth. That if stopping this were so easy, it would have been done already. They know that this is either systematic and it can't be stopped or something is trying to cause the death of everything.
Hickman is quickly show that not only does he have a different approach to writing the Earth's Mightiest Heroes then what Bendis has done over the last eight years, but that he has an amazing feel for the characters and the scope of that which they have to deal with. If you ever read his FF stories or Secret Warriors, you know how great Hickman is at long-term plots and this is the feel of a very great, probably very long one that I can't wait to read every month. If you haven't read him before, get off your ass, be lazy and read his stuff.