• Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
  • Penciler: John Romita, Jr.
  • Inker: Klaus Janson

Story Title: “Return of the Illuminati”


The Illuminati (Reed Richards, Charles Xavier, Tony Stark, Namor and Dr. Strange) meet at the behest of Iron Man. Medusa arrives and informs them that Black Bolt (the final member of the secret group) is dead. Reed thinks they are there because the Infinity Gem he was given for safekeeping was stolen. Iron Man somewhat corrects him by asking if any of them know who the Red Hulk is.

The story flashes back to when Red Hulk crashed into the Avenger’s Tower. After some witty banter from the group Red Hulk explains that a guy with two gems (one red and one yellow) beat the living snot out of him and he figured the Avengers would like to know. Maria Hill does some digging into what the gems were as Iron Man flies off saying that he needs to check on some files. Steve Rogers tells Maria to track him and she reluctantly does.

Iron Man and the rest of the Illuminati travel to the Inhumans’ former home in the Himalayas. They enter an area formerly used to house prisoners and find the container Black Bolt used to hide the gem empty. Tony finds a high-tech device that allowed the thief to find the gem, leading the group to believe that the thief was well funded. Suddenly Lockjaw warns the group that they are not alone. Iron Man and the rest head outside and find Steve Rogers and the rest of the Avengers waiting for them. Steve wants to know what Tony is doing.

The Commentary

I’m going to start this review out with a quibble. When the Red Hulk crashes into Avengers Tower everyone starts talking about him. Spider-Man asks the question, “Stronger than the green Hulk?” My first thought was, “Wow, that is some seriously old school expository dialogue coming from Bendis. That’s kind of cool. I miss stuff like this in the current comics I read.” My second thought was, “Yeah, Spider-Man. Stronger than the green Hulk, which you should know because you fought him in Incredible Hulk #600.”

So it could be one of two things; Peter was trying to be funny or Bendis either didn’t know or had forgotten that they had previously met and fought.

It is also possible that it was just an off-handed comment and I am making too much of it.

Still…it bugged me.

Anyway, this issue was the first I have read of this new Avengers title. When given a choice of books to review I chose this one for one reason; it had Red Hulk in it. I don’t know if he is going to become a member or not but I like the character (or I guess I should write I like reading about the character since General Ross is kind of a jerk) and wanted to see what was done with him here. On that level this issue was interesting because we basically watched a very powerful character get stomped pretty hard. I dug the reason he went to the Avengers and the brief interplay between Red and Steve Rogers was great.

As an Avengers story I liked it as well. I am rather indifferent to Brian Michael Bendis as a writer. I don’t love his work but I can’t bring myself to hate it either. It cannot be denied that he made the Avengers popular but his writing is a lot like eating at McDonald’s; I like the double cheeseburger when I am eating it but later realize it has no nutritional value. So I usually am of two minds when reading something he has written.

In this issue he brought back the Illuminati. I have liked and still like the concept of the Illuminati. This issue showed (in my limited reading) the aftermath of the whole Civil War/Dark Reign event for the group and the scene showing them getting back together unfolded at a good pace. The only real issue I had with the scene was when they explained to Medusa why they kept the group a secret her comment was, “Men.” I hate this sort of thing. It just bugs me. Other than that I enjoyed the first third of the issue.

The scenes with Red Hulk were kind of a mixed bag. Sure the fight was brutal and I liked the interplay between him and the Avengers but the art was just…I don’t want to write awful but it was pretty bad. I just didn’t care for it at all. I usually dig on JR, JR’s art but this issue and frankly a lot of the art I have seen from him lately has looked terrible To me it was the major drawback of the issue and I really hate that I am not enjoying his art. The “third act” was good as well. The dialogue was a little tedious by the end but the final two pages made up for that. It actually made me look forward to the next issue to see what happens.

Parting Thoughts

This issue didn’t wow me but I liked it nonetheless. Even though this is the second chapter of the story I didn’t feel lost, which was a good thing. The overall plot of the Hood finding the rest of the Infinity Gems is a nice idea to hang a plot around but it seems to be almost secondary to what is going on between the members of the Avengers. Because of that I am worried that the story as a whole will suffer because it won’t find a focus. For the moment I like what I am reading but that could change.

More than anything I am glad that this issue wasn’t terrible because that would be a bad way to kick off my tenure as reviewer of the book for the Crawlspace.

3 out of 5 webheads.

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