They’re just begging me to turn their comic book covers into fake movie posters. Luke Cage and Jessica Jones star in this issue of the New Avengers story, titled ‘Date Night.’ I’m assuming that the plot of this issue is a direct adaption of the 2010 romantic comedy movie starring Steve Carell and Tina Fey. I haven’t heard the best of things about that movie, but because the job demands it (and slightly because I have a crush on Tina Fey), I have Netflixed the film to investigate myself. I’ll report back on my findings and in the mean time, here is a review for New Avengers #8.
The New Avengers, vol. 2 #8
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Daniel Acuña
Letters & Production: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover Art: Mike Deodato & Rain Beredo
The New Avengers: Luke Cage, Ms. Marvel, Thing, Iron Fist, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Dr. Strange, Mockingbird, Jessica Jones, Victoria Hand, Squirrel Girl. (Yes, Squirrel Girl is featured as a New Avenger on the opening title page.)
Plot: Luke Cage and Jessica Jones are taking advantage of the Avenger’s new babysitter by having a romantic candle-lit dinner out. The couple engages in some loving banter after Luke flatters his wife in front of two female fans who approach the table. The playful wordplay ends when the two realize that, despite being married, this is their first official date. Luke then drops a bomb on Jessica when he asks her if she is going to decide to be a superhero again, even suggesting she use the code name Power Woman.
Jessica explains her fears and concerns about being a superhero. She continues to talk about growing up without her parents, about how she’s not bullet-proof like her husband, and about how she’s a mother and wife. Luke responds by telling her she didn’t stumble into these circumstances or into becoming an Avenger. The waitress who had been standing patiently at the table has turned around and left at this point.
The conversation continues before it is interrupted by an object hurled through the night skyline. Ms. Marvel is clinging to the front of the projectile and Luke Cage rushes through the chaotic streets after the object’s impact. Doctor Doom stands atop the flaming wreckage and zaps Cage with his energy projections. Jessica Jones looks on and calls out the “Avengers Assemble” rallying cry into her cell phone.
Luke Cage and Ms. Marvel battle Doctor Doom, sending him through the front wall of a department store. Doom recovers and shoots both heroes with his energy bolts. Jessica Jones saves her husband by clobbering the villain with a fire hydrant, and Luke finishes off their foe with a crushing uppercut. The rest of the Avengers arrive on the scene and discover that their opponent was a Doombot instead of the actual Latverian monarch. The Thing prevents the robot from exploding by ripping out the machine’s operating system.
Back at Avengers Mansion, Victoria Hand lays out some of the details concerning the recent attack. Without revealing too many matters of National Security, she explains there are rumors of Doctor Doom losing both his mind and control over his country. At the end of the meeting, Jessica Jones announces that she will be going all in with the hero game, adopting the name Power Woman. She reneges on her decision to take the call sign after Luke’s overly enthusiastic exclamation of “Boo Yah!” in response to the news.
The Not-So-Heroic: I’m going to start off with the aspects that didn’t exactly win me over because it’s hard to discuss this issue without first talking about the art. It immediately pops out when you open the book. Acuña‘s art looks too loose and feels too much like a watercolor painting. I like the technique but it didn’t feel right to me in a comic. The faces of the characters usually shifted from panel to panel, with no clear consistency, the exception being Luke Cage’s ever-present squinting eyes. On two separate occasions, the facial expressions of Jessica Jones and Ms. Marvel made it look like Acuña had used a blow up doll as a model. Victoria Hand was only in the book for four panels towards the end, but her features looked more consistent from one scene to the next in contrast to the rest of the characters.
The first half of this story did nothing to make the artwork any more tolerable. The awkwardness of Luke and Jessica’s relationship continues to build and annoy me as a featured plot line. Luke’s comment about how it would be an awful time for them to discover they ‘suck’ at being a couple furthers my assumptions that the Cage family is in for a shake up. The mention of Jessica’s vulnerabilities and fears made me think that something more drastic or challenging could be in store for Luke Cage, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
I’ll use this time to bring up the extra story at the end of the Avenger titles. There is a running history being told in the style of a book interview in the back pages of the comics. Famous Avengers retell the team’s most memorable and dramatic moments throughout their careers. I started reading them for the first six issues of this series, as well as in the regular Avengers title, but now they are beginning to just take up space and it feels as though it’s gone on for too long. They could use those pages for more action in the actual story, to develop some future plot lines, or simply knock those pages out and lower the $3.99 price tag on this title.
The Heroic: To contrast the watercolor feel of Acuña’s work, Caramagna’s lettering was so good that I decided to add his credit to the beginning of this review after initially leaving it off. I don’t normally notice the sound effects used in a comic, but Caramagna did a great job of artistically expressing the noise of every punch connecting, or energy blast crackling. There were plenty of opportunities for him to add his personal touch to the action in the second half of the story.
The story certainly picked up in the second half with the battle against the Doombot, hopefully building into a strong next issue. The preview of Nick Fury on the cover of the upcoming issue could mean that the New Avengers will be pulled into the middle of a conflict pertaining to Fury’s previous attempt to infiltrate Latveria in Bendis’ Secret War story in 2004. It would be nice if they don’t turn Fury into a crazed, cyber-enhanced villain as they did in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2.
There were a couple of small touches added throughout that subtly add to Luke Cage’s character. His fancy dinner attire is apparently just a nicer version of his former Power Man outfit, he continues to have a knack for picking dull superhero aliases, and even has a mug that reads “Power Dad.” The full page spread displaying the conversation string between Luke and Jessica in front of the waitress came across really well.
Most Valuable Avenger: The Thing. The New Avengers that were on the scene of the Doombot attack deserve credit for taking down their adversary, but the Most Valuable Avenger this issue would have to go to The Thing, who officially stopped the robot. The brawler had a chance to flex his brain this time instead of his rocky muscles and had it not been for his experience with Doctor Doom, his machines and machinations, a little bit of New York could have been wiped out.
Least Valuable Avenger: Jessica Jones. I have very little interest in her right now, and she only seems to be around to lead Luke Cage to a bigger character development plot point. Her use of the Avengers’ rallying cry did not come across as courageous as it normally does when it’s called out by other members of the team; possibly because it was frantically screamed into a cell phone. The use of the fire hydrant to take down the Doombot wasn’t enough to balance out her too dramatic flip flopping over being a superhero. Her decision to fully commit to the Avengers after expressing her fears and concerns about her daughter being raised without a parent seems pretty reckless as well.
Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Moment: Said off screen in the end when Jessica Jones takes back her decision to go by the name of Power Woman.
Spidey: “Women don’t like when you say boo yah?”
Rating: 3/5 Avengers Assembled