BECAUSE YOU DEMANDED IT! ALL TWO OF YOU! It’s the exciting conclusion to the storyline that had us biting our nails in anticipation for the last three months! Wonder Man has had it with the Avengers. He’s put together a ridiculously-named team of D-list heroes, and somehow they successfully beat down the New Avengers. Now he has set his sights on Avengers Tower. Will he succeed? Will he fail, only for The Thing to knock the tower down a week later? Let’s find out.
Avengers Annual #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Gabriele Dell’Otto
Color Artist: Ive Svorcina
Letters: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover Art: Gabriele Dell’Otto
***WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD***
The Plot: The issue makes it clear that the story takes place before Fear Itself #1, making this one of the last stories of The Heroic Age. Ah, yes. The Heroic Age. What fond memories of that by-gone era.
Anyway, literally seconds after Avengers Mansion was destroyed, Commander Steve Rogers gets a report from Sharon Carter that a group of former heroes has attacked the New Avengers. Steve recognizes Wonder Man among the group and calls for all Avengers to assemble. The Quincarrier flies above the scene, with the Secret Avengers looking in disbelief at the disaster.
As the New Avengers are being helped, they reflect on the words that Simon said, how he had warned them that this was coming and blamed them for what happened to Janet and Wanda. They suddenly notice that Atlas (Erik Josten, formerly of the Thunderbolts) is attacking the tower.
The Avengers make it to the tower, but no one is inside. Rogers gets incoming communication from Maria Hill, telling him to turn on the TV. Simon Williams has called a press conference in front of a public building, where he admits that he attacked Avengers Mansion but did so because they pushed him to it. He claims that the Avengers need to hold themselves accountable for their actions. The Quincarrier flies over the crowd, and Thor, Steve, and Iron Man try to cut him off, but Simon continues talking, saying that the Avengers have done more harm than good. He then gives them an ultimatum: either they fold the Avengers, or the Tower falls and all their secrets are revealed. The Avengers do not budge, and Iron Man uses a device to contain Simon in his ionic form.
Thor then demands that the rest of the Revengers surrender. They refuse, so they are teleported to Citi Field (how they did it, it is not explained). The two factions proceed to battle, and the Revengers are taken into custody, where they each explain why they joined with Wonder Man.
At his containment cell, Hank McCoy and Simon have a conversation, with the Big Three watching on a monitor. Hank asks him why he attacked them, and Simon tells him that Hank is his best friend and doesn’t want to kill them, just stop them. He believes that he may not be real and may be in fact a figment of the Scarlett Witch’s imagination (he did die and was revived by Wanda’s powers), a confession that shocks the onlookers. He tries to make Hank promise to shut down the Avengers if he sees he’s right, but Hank simply walks away sorrowfully.
Wonder Man’s accusations make the rounds on everyone’s favorite “news” outlets, each questioning whether Steve Rogers should be calling the shots and whether the Avengers as a team should exist. Sensing that the world now knows, Simon fades, and his containment bubble appears empty.
The Good: I first must apologize for the lengthy plot section, but that just comes with the territory. This is an annual after all.
Let’s talk about the art first. Dell’Otto and Svocina, who also worked with Bendis on the New Avengers Annual, come back to wrap up the storyline. Their work is excellent, as it is to be expected. I’ve heard of Dell’Otto before and have seen his artwork, namely in the X-Force: Sex & Violence mini (I didn’t actually *buy* the issue, but I’ve seen the scans… yeah, I can’t recover from this one, can I?).
Anyway, it’s magnificent work, without a single misstep. The characters all look like they are supposed to. The action scenes look cool. The double-page spread is awesome. Every panel is vibrant. I feel confident to recommend this book on the art alone. That’s saying something.
The actual plot is okay. However, many of the scenes carry a degree of emotional weight that made me care about what was going on. Some of these include Steve recognizing Simon in the footage of the Mansion battle, Wong carrying an unconscious Stephen Strange, Thor holding out his hand to get an enraged Luke Cage to chill, Ms. Marvel comforting Squirrel Girl, the confrontation between Simon and the Avengers at the public building (not being a native of New York, I want to say it’s a library but can’t be certain), and finally Beast and Wonder Man’s conversation. I had to do a little research on that last one, but yes, Beast and Wonder Man have been best buds throughout the history of the Avengers, and both were the protagonists of something called “Avengers Two.” This was a great nod to the characters’ history, which is unusual for Bendis. I’d say Simon’s confession to Hank that he may not be real flesh and blood was a real tear-jerker and made me feel all the more sad for Beast at seeing what has become of his best friend.
Let’s back up a bit. That public library (?) scene was the climactic moment of the whole thing. The creative team definitely did a good job building up the tension there, as I wasn’t sure how it was going to go down between Simon and the rest. The actual “fight” between Simon and Iron Man was kind of a letdown, but I thought their verbal exchange prior was powerful.
The Bad: Bendis throws a couple of curveballs at the reader. First of all, while it makes sense for Iron Man to quickly dispatch Wonder Man in the way he did, I still thought it disappointing that Simon went down as quickly as he did. On the other hand, the battle with the rest of the Revengers takes about six pages with very little dialogue. I guess you could say that the story overall was not about the fight but about the words exchanged, and that Simon attacked them where it hurt: their public persona. Still, I would’ve thought that the Revengers would go down quicker while Simon posed a more serious challenge.
My greatest grief with the issue is the overall purpose for it. Simon Williams blackmailing the Avengers and poisoning public opinion on them in order to achieve his goal is a genius move… you know, if Norman Osborn weren’t already doing it in the monthly ongoing (I guess technically Osborn is ripping off Williams, since this is supposed to be an earlier story). He even has two pages of news commentators criticizing the Avengers, just like in issue #19, which came out two months ago!
Still, as good as the annual was in my opinion, I wonder exactly what Bendis is trying to accomplish. I mentioned it in my Avengers #19 review and I’ll do it again here: I believe Bendis is debating himself. More on point, he’s playing both prosecutor and defense on the case of the Avengers, and we the readers are the jury. On the one hand, he makes a rather excellent case for why the Avengers as a concept doesn’t work, and yet he spends a good deal of time telling us that they really are Earth’s mightiest heroes.
I don’t see the point. Of course we’ll always believe that the Avengers should be around and do awesome things. We read about them because we love superheroes. Yeah, lately it seems that all they are doing is cleanup to the problems they inevitably cause (like Avengers vs. X-Men… seriously, what’s up with that?), and I wish they would go back to just saving the world, but what do you, as a writer, win from telling us, the reader, that the Avengers suck? Rage, but after that, I don’t know. I just don’t know.
Don’t worry, Simon Williams’ fans. While Wonder Man’s fate seems to be up in the air at the moment (I don’t know if he escaped or died or what), if there’s anything I’ve learned from reading comics is that ANYBODY can be redeemed. Heck, even the Scarlett Witch has made a comeback in that excellent story Avengers: Children’s Crusade (which concludes in February) and seems to be back for good. A guy gave that story the amusing name of “Avengers: Fixing Everything Bendis Broke.” Someone will come and fix Wonder Man. You’ll see.
Now if someone will just come and fix Atlas…
Friendly-Neighborhood Spider-Moment: Spidey was barely in this story. He gets up from being defeated by the Revengers and fights alongside the others at Citi Field, oddly enough against Anti-Venom again. You know, the guy that can short-circuit your powers. Sigh.
Verdict: Despite all my gripping, this is a good issue. It hit many emotional notes with me. The art was superb. I can honestly say that this is one of the best issues of Brian Michael Bendis I have read since I started reading comics. 4 Webheads out of 5.
~My Two Cents