Jonathan Hickman's Avengers is yet another high concept plot machine of a book. In it Hickman and company do that thing Hickman does where he throws out crazy, high concept ideas and builds these enormous feeling high stakes plots. I'm a big fan.
In his most recent issue Avengers #7 (and a bit in Avengers #6, EDIT: Also presumably 8; this comic comes out too frequently!) I noticed something kind of perplexing happening. One of the characters, the being created by the Martian gods, is called a "Nightmask". And then we see a bunch of weird alien artifacts in the "Superflow" and then the sky glows white as a "White Event"happens. The issue climaxes with a search for a super powerful individual known as a "Starbrand".
Nightmask. Superflow. White Event. Starbrand.
Something about these terms stirred something in the seldom used recesses of my brain. I've definitely read some comics about these terms before... about this whole premise before. A comic that I remember being pretty great. And then I realized the comic I was thinking of was Newuniversal by Warren Ellis and Salvador Larroca.
In the existing Newuniversal trade: Everything Went White, we see the initiation of the White Event, a cosmic paradigm shift from an extradimensional space made of information called the Superflow. To help facilitate the turbulent times following the White Event select human beings are given powers to help quell the chaos. Izanami Randall is made into a Nightmask, a being that can travel into the information stream of the Superflow to receive information from a Communication Station placed there and to travel between different locations. Kenneth Connel is given the terrible power of the Starbrand meant to make him the ultimate guardian of humanity; a power he doesn't understand and can't control. John Tensen, a brain damaged and traumatized police officer given the Justice glyph which gives him the ability to see others guilt, a deadly weapon, and the means to carry out an insane quest for justice and vengeance. Jenny Swann, a struggling tech specialist who is made into a Cypher, a technological Savant that understands and can communicate with machines. Working against these super people is Philip L Voight and the shadowy Spitfire program which seeks to protect humanity from super humans by whatever horrific means are necessary: because if there is one superhuman, there will be two, and if there are more than two they will meet and reproduce and then humanity will be supplanted.
Newuniversal: Everything Went White is a pretty amazing introduction that throws out a crazy, high concept idea and builds an expansive, high stakes plot around it. It's also, as the googles point out, a pretty snappy modernization of the New Universe line of comics published by Marvel in the late '80s that saw the original version of these characters suddenly imbued with powers from a White Event. It's a great comic with terrific writing by Ellis and superb artwork by Salvador Larocca. It's also, based on the salient details, probably the keystone which Hickman is using to inspire his current story in Avengers.
Sadly, a series of computer failures destroyed Ellis' work on Newuniversal, which culminated in the hiatus and cancellation of Ellis' Newuniversal. (Well, actually there were a few one shot titles meant to buy Ellis some time to rewrite the comic, including Newuniversal: 1959, a story about the chilling lengths Philip L Voight went to to quell the 1953 White Event, which I think was Kieron Gillen's first work for Marvel.)
(There would be an image of Newuniversal 1959 here, but the issue is buried in a storage locker and I am lazy.)
I guess what the point of this kind of rambling essay is that I'm glad that Hickman's Avengers is borrowing from the pretty great premise laid out by Ellis in Newuniversal. It's pretty cool to see some of that potential used. I'd also say that if you want the background, or really dig what Hickman does with the White Event story and want to read more, that you should check out Newuniversal: Everything Went White which is apparently still available from Amazon (but not Comixology... they should fix that, eh?). I'd also recommend Newuniversal: 1959 if you can track it down somewhere.