Little Tidbit That You May Not Care About But It’s Here Anyway: You may be wondering what’s up with Michael Baley and his Avenger reviews (or not). Well, Michael has decided to step down as a reviewer for this title and focus exclusively on Amazing Spider-man, so, since my own title is ending in two months (the less said about that, the better), I have accepted the position as official reviewer of Brian Michael Bendis’ Avengers.
Since we have some catching up to do, for now I’m gonna approach the recently-finished story arc, issues #7 through #12, both individually and as a whole, particularly since the latter format works better to its advantage.
So… Avenger reviews, ASSEMBLE!
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciler: John Romita, Jr.
Inkers: Klaus Johnson (#7-12), Tom Palmer (#7, 9-10), Scott Hanna (#9)
Colorists: Dean White (#7-8, 10-12), Paul Mounts (#7-8, 10), Rain Beredo (#7), Laura Martin (#9), Morry Hollowell (#9), Matt Milla (#9)
Letterist: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover Artists: John Romita, Jr., Klaus Johnson, Dean White (#7-10, 12), Morry Hollowell (#11)
***WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD***
#7 Plot: The Hood finds Black Bolt’s Infinity Gem, steals Reed Richard’s, and beats up the Red Hulk. Iron Man and Thor confront Wonder Man over his anti-Avengers stance. Red Hulk crashes Avengers Tower.
Pros: Colors are good. Art is good in places but not consistently.
Cons: Not much happens. Inconsistences with New Avengers: Illuminati. The Wonder Man scene.
Score: 2 Infinity Gems out of 5 because it’s a pretty issue (but not a pretty good issue). It’s set-up that definitely could’ve been concised with #8.
#8 Plot: Tony Stark summons the Illuminati once more. Medussa appears and reveals that Black Bolt is dead. Reed Richards reveals his gem was stolen. Stark reveals that Rulk encountered the culprit. The Illuminati investigates the former Atilan home in the Himalayans. Steve Rogers and three Avenger teams confront the Illuminati.
Pros: Art and colors are good for the most part. It’s a whodunnit type of issue, which was well done. Enjoyed the interactions among the Illuminati. Final splash page was an awesome cliffhanger.
Cons: Weird coloring, particularly with Rogers at the Tower. Didn’t Rulk murmur “Infinity” last issue? How come now nobody knows what hit him?
Score: Michael reviewed this issue more in depth and so did I. Upon further reflection, I’m changing my original score to a 3.5 Infinity Gems out of 5 because the Illuminati scenes were great, but the hiccups in art take away points.
#9 Plot: Flashbacks of the previous four weeks reveal how the Hood learned of the Infinity Gems. Tony and Steve argue. The Illumaniti members reveal their doings to fellow teammates. Rogers, Rulk, and the other Avengers discuss their next step. The Hood removes Madame Masque’s scars and prepares to seek out the other gems.
Pros: When it comes to individual character panels, the art and colors are great. The Steve/Tony confrontation was fun. Flashbacks flesh out story. Thor encouraging Stark. Issue was mostly exposition.
Cons: The actual grievances between Tony and Steve (didn’t quite get their points). Groups shots make for art with less detail (like in the eyes). Pointless scenes.
Score: 4 Infinity Gems out of 5 because I enjoyed the reveal of the Illuminati to the other Avengers. Art could’ve been better and the Madame Masque scene had nothing to do with anything.
#10 Plot: The combined Avengers roster splits into three groups to retrieve the Illuminati’s gems. Rulk and Thor follow Namor to the depths of the ocean. Xavier leads another group to the ruins of the X-Manor and fight in the Danger Room. Rogers, Iron Man, and another group go to Roswell, NM to an Area 51 base, where they run into the Hood, who quickly zaps them away. Now with three gems, the Hood prepares to face Thor, Rulk, and Namor.
Pros: Art and colors are fantastic for the ocean and Roswell sequences. Some good interactions among X-Men members and also Avengers that are not usually on the same team. Liked Steve/Tony conversation at the base. Action sequences were good. Reprint of Heroes for Hire #1. Also a moment where Wolverine kills a construct of the Scarlett Witch.
Cons: We have more pointless scenes and some bad jokes. The art of the Danger Room sequence is not on par with the others. Thor and Namor don’t trust Rulk with their gem.
Score: 4 Infinity Gems out of 5 because it makes up for #9 by providing lots of action and good art and character moments. The only thing that kills it is the stuff in the Quinjet scene.
#11 Plot: As Uatu the Watcher narrates the events happening in this issue, Thor, Rulk, and Namor fight the Hood, with Rulk managing to take the Power Gem away from him. The Hood takes the fight back to Roswell, where the Avengers try to fight him. Hood teleports himself to the Danger Room, where he easily takes the Mind Gem and overwhelms psychically Xavier and team. In possession of one gem more than the Avengers, he teleports to the astral plane to seek Dr. Stranger’s Soul Gem, but Thanos has beat him to it.
Pros: Art and colors are good all throughout this time. Uatu narrating the issues gives it an old-school-comic feel. We get another awesome cliffhanger with the Hood beholding Thanos.
Cons: Good grief, is Uatu ugly here! Also, what’s the logic with teleporting the fight back to Roswell there, Hood? No mention of Uatu being punched by Rulk in the past.
Score: 4.5 Infinity Gems out of 5 because this issue finally ramps up the arc and is spiraling fast toward its conclusion. The art is consistent this time. Finally, having Thanos show up promises a spectacular finale.
#12 Plot: Thanos unsuccessfully tries to bargain with the Hood and reveals himself to be Dr. Strange. Rulk uses the Power Gem to punch the Hood out, allowing the Avengers to retrieve all the scattered gems except for Reality. Hood begins to lose it and starts messing with reality itself, but Iron Man uses the other five gems to summon the Infinity Gauntlet, which removes the Reality Gem from the Hood. Tony wills the Hood back to jail, and he wills the gems out of existence… or at least he pretends to, as the Illumaniti, with new member Steve Rogers, vow to hide them better this time.
Pros: Good, colorful art all throughout. A satisfying conclusion with great moments all over, including the Thanos reveal, reality shifting (with cameos by House of M and Marvel Zombies, among others), Tony with the Infinity Gauntlet, Steve/Rulk, Tony’s epilogue, and Steve joining the Illuminati.
Cons: The characters complaining that Tony didn’t kill the Hood is the only negative I can come up with.
Score: 4.5 Infinity Gems out of 5 because it was just a great issue overall.
Thoughts: If you are like me, you approached this arc with hesitation. Why? Because right off the bat we have two things that a lot of people don’t care for. First off, the Red Hulk joining the Avengers is a groan-inducing thought, coupled by the fact that we’ve seen the Avengers face off the Hood several times already. Conversely, the arc has two things going for it. First of all, it features the Infinity Gems. I loved the Infinity Gauntlet and Infinity War sagas, so I was really looking forward to that. Also, the reveal of the Illuminati to the rest of the Avengers and its repercussions sounded promising.
One thing that I found irritating but didn’t attribute to any individual issue was the pacing. I do not think this arc needed to be six issues long. Issue #8 basically retells what happened in #7, and the rest of the issues were padded with dumb and pointless scenes. While the Wonder Man and Madame Masque scenes I can excuse if they are seeds for future storylines, stuff like Eric O’Grady asking Iron Fist if Spider-Woman is single or Spider-man explaining a joke to Noh-Varr (and Jessica Jones and Mockingbird commenting on how cute he is) just extended the arc unncecessarily and could’ve easily been cut. There are tons of splash pages (on #11, 20 out of 22 pages were splash pages!) and two-page spreads which are nice but also attribute to the decompression. Add to this the Oral History of the Avengers back-ups that crosses over with New Avengers, meaning you don’t get the full story unless you pick up both books, which I’m not (I haven’t been reading these at all, fyi). Personally, I think this could’ve been a four-issue arc. In fact, read #8, #9, #10, and #12, and you can still get this story sans a few easily fillable holes.
Something I’m not clear on and can’t seem to find confirmation is that Bendis got the gems and their keepers mixed-up from what was established in New Avengers: Illuminati (also by Bendis). Granted, I didn’t read those issues, so maybe I’m wrong, but based on the scans found on this article, they don’t look like they are holding the same gems as the ones they end up safe-keeping here. Not a big grief but when a writer is unable to maitain his own continuity it looks bad.
The threat of the Infinity Gems getting stolen definitely called for the Avengers, New Avengers, and Secret Avengers to get involved, so it’s nice to see that. Despite the high character count, the readers attention focuses particularly on two: Red Hulk and Iron Man. This is specially evidenced in issue #11, as Uatu recounts the struggles both characters have gone through. At the end, I did feel like Red Hulk worked hard to earn his spot on the Avengers and Iron Man made a good case for why he did the things he did.
Friendly-Neighborhood Spider-Moments: Spidey hardly did anything worth mentioning. His role was mainly, you guessed it, making jokes throughout the storyline. He did express apprehensions about using the gems when the Avengers didn’t understand the consequences of their power, to which Steve agreed. As in Secret Invasion, he notices Uatu’s presence. Finally, he was the only one to voice out that the Avengers should be above killing.
Overall, I thought this was a good arc even if it did drag too long. As a matter of fact, I had dropped the book with issue #10 and only picked up #11 and #12 when I got this gig. Trust me, this reads better as a trade, which will be available as Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis Vol. 2 in July.
Overall Score: 3.5 Infinity Gems out of 5.
~My Two Cents