Avengers #22 Review

Great news, gang!  Apparently in February we get two, that’s right, TWO issues of Avengers for our reading pleasure!  That’s just downright splendid, I feel like I’m gorging myself!  Oh, my, indeed!  I can’t tell you how much I anticipate next week when Avengers #23 comes out!  I don’t know what to do with myself!

Seriously, this is just… too much!

Avengers #22

Writer:  Brian Michael Bendis
Penciler:  Renato Guedes
Inker:  Jose Wilson Magalhaes
Colorist:  Jason Keith
Letters:  VC’s Cory Petit
Cover Art:  Stuart Immonen & Marte Garcia

The Avengers:  Iron Man (Tony Stark), Captain America (Steve Rogers), Hawkeye (Clint Barton), Storm (Ororo T’Challa), Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew), The Vision, The Protector (Noh-Varr), Red Hulk (General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross), Jarvis, Quake (S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Daisy Johnson)


THE PLOT:  At the White House, the President—who’s clearly Barack Obama, but he and his cabinet have their faces obscured to preserve the timelessness of the issue (as if anyone would go back to read this)—watches the broadcast of Norman Osborn at the Avengers Mansion and discusses the situation with his staff.

Last issue, Captain America was captured by H.A.M.M.E.R.  He wakes up only to be mocked and knocked out again by Madame Hydra.  Tony Stark finds himself in an energy field, with Drs. Monica Rappaccini and Carolina Washington proceeding to forcibly remove his Iron Man armour.  Spider-Woman is shackled in a cell (unmasked but not naked, unlike last time), and Madame Hydra extends her another invitation to join her.  A.I.M. scientists are trying to conduct experiments on a subdued Red Hulk by miniaturizing themselves and going into his brain through his ear, but apparently he can defend himself through some weird red wax…

Meanwhile, in New Jersey, Quake threatens some dude (the one that placed the hologram at the Mansion) into revealing Osborn’s location.  Finally, the Vision is calling reinforcements from the New Avengers, the FF, and the X-Men (as if the last two would help) and returns to the Mansion.  Osborn is there, in the flesh—last place anyone would look, of course—brainwashing the media with his trash again.  He easily disables the Vision and throws him against the door, claiming that it’s time for change and that he’s doing this for the people.  The White House, still watching, thinks that it’s time to reach out to him.

THOUGHTS:  Beware the Gorgon? I’m really getting tired of these fake covers.  I should say, these covers that have absolutely nothing to do with the content of the issue.  I had to do a little research to verify that Cap is actually fighting the Gorgon—who doesn’t feature into the issue at all (the Gorgon is actually in the New Avengers book right now, but even there he’s dressed up as Wolverine).  It’s really a waste of Immonen’s talents, great as they are.

The Dark Room in the White House.  Yet again, we get some more talk about how the Avengers get to get away with everything, with lines such as “the people…don’t care if [the bad guys] are given due process… They just want Captain America to punch them in the face and get them gone” and “We did put [Osborn] in prison for treason and insubordination. The kind of insubordination that Tony Stark has been guilty of fifty times over.”  I apologize for harping on this point on pretty much every review now, but that’s exactly how I feel too, like Bendis wants to beat me over the head with it that the Avengers get free passes all the time.  I DO get that the people mostly saying this are jerks like politicians and political commentators, but I don’t see the need to permeate the entire arc with it.

Something to Hail About.  What I did find enjoyable, oddly enough, were the torture scenes.  That sounds so wrong, so let me elaborate.  I don’t know much about Madame Hydra, but she comes off as very bipolar.  She’s both creepy and seductive.  One moment she’s teasing Cap and the next she’s punching him.  It’s a very wonderful scene, as she gets under Steve’s skin in just about every way.  She beats him psychologically and physically.  I really thought this was the best moment in the whole issue.

Next we got Dr. Washington and Stark.  I almost forgot Washington kick-started this whole thing by providing Osborn with stolen superhero DNA, but she’s finally back in this issue.  Bendis fleshes out her character a bit more here.  Though she’s proud to defect to H.A.M.M.E.R., she acknowledges the technological advances that Stark has made and is disappointed about his lack of cooperation.  Even though she goes through with the painful removal of his armour, she’s still seemingly sickened by her actions, contrasting with Rappaccini’s cold demeanor in that same panel.  It’s pretty clear that she’s got a bigger role to play in this arc, so we’ll see.

Moving on, we get a short scene with Jessica speaking with Madame Hydra.  It was very intriguing to see their interaction, and it’s my second best favorite in this issue.  Previously, Bendis has explored her character as she continues to struggle to overcome her criminal past.  Madame Hydra’s line “It’s never too late to embrace your destiny” shows that Hydra still holds some love for her daughter, making her surprisingly complex.

Hail H.A.M.M.E.R.? Hail, no!  Let’s just brush past that weird Red Hulk bit.  Quake’s part is the weakest in this issue, not just for characterization, but in the art department as well.

I haven’t talked about the inside art yet.  It’s alright for the most part, but there are a couple of parts that bug me.  First, Guedes uses that trick where he repeats panels when characters are having conversations.  It happened once last issue, but I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it.  I’m not sure if I should be making a big deal out of it now, but this is honestly the first time I’ve noticed that trick in a book I was reading, and it happens more than once.  It comes off as lazy.  That was a criticism I had from this art team last issue as well.  Fully black panels and obscuring Obama’s face come off as lazy as well.  Secondly, there’s one panel where Quake has this “derpy” look.  It’s horrible.  I can’t even tell what she was trying to do.  I think she was trying to land a two-handed hit?

As we finish the issue, we see Vision as he confronts Osborn, which was all right.  Nothing special there.  Though Osborn ends his final speech with “Hail H.A.M.M.E.R.”  Really?  Saying “Hail anything” doesn’t scream American patriotism at all (maybe he should’ve said, “America. F— yeah!”).  I wouldn’t think you can’t scream “Hail America” and get rousing cheers out of anybody.  Ah, well.

VERDICT:  There are better comics I can recommend than Avengers #22, but if you’re stubborn like me in completing the arc, you’ll find that this issue is “okay.”  2.5 Webheads out of 5.

SHAMELESS PLUG:  Follow the Two-Bit Specialist on Twitter and check out the Two-Bit Special, his personal blog.

Oh, and please excuse the extreme sarcasm at times during this review.

~My Two Cents

(11) Comments

  1. Sthenurus

    in all honestly doc? Between the succesfull industrualist that was once appointed head of the security of the free world, was right about the last crisis, saved the earth from an alien invasion and do all this without a mask; or the masked vigilante that has been considered a menace for years? I wouldn't be so sure. Don't forget Webs been accused of murders many times again. And he always escaped trials. He even broke out of jail. Don,T forget, the MU citizen don't have access to all the info we have ;)

  2. Doc Folsome

    I can see the Fear Itself angle working in Osborn's favor, but he's not really stressing that event. He's attacking the philosophy behind the Avengers and trying to make them look bad (by outperforming them), moreso than saying, "Hey, i was right all along...you shouldve listened!"... Its funny how fast i've forgotten Fear Itself, i didn't read any of it but i was aware of its existence. Ask yourself this though, if you were a MU citizen and you've seen what you've seen and heard what you've heard...would you trust Spider-Man or Norman Osborn more?

  3. Sthenurus

    @Doc Folsom. The Asgardian attack i was reffering to was the whole fear itself event. Don't forget that Odin very brother led the attack ;) And as for questionnable backgroung/reputation, wasn't Kennedy's dad part of the Mafia? Wasn't he sleeping with every women around? Yet he stilll is one of the most beloved president.

  4. Doc Folsome

    @4 Sthenurus- Asgard was hovering over Oklahoma prior to the Secret Invasion and it was just chilling there for a while until Osborn eventually declared war upon it (amongst other things) b/c of Loki's manipulations etc. Correct (or am I missing something)? And it was the Sentry who eventually brought Asgard to the ground (an event which was very well covered by the media), which would have been the only thing that seemed like an attack by Asgard...yet it was obviously caused by Osborn through the Sentry. As far as someone leading a preemptive attack on Bin Laden before 9/11, I would agree with that comparison as long as it was someone like OJ Simpson who led the attack (ie, a suspected murderer with a questionable background/rep)... :)

  5. Sarcasmic

    Going against the tide, this was the first time I actually was able to go with the "What if the Avengers are bad" shtick, thanks in particular to the great Iron man scene, and I was able to look past the world has to be stupid issues, this feels like a follow up to Dark Reign in every way, including the stupification of the world.

  6. dave

    bendis is too busy trying to change the status quo to deliver an issue of what the avengers are about in the first place, epic battles with a team of heroes. Ofcourse that phrase has lost all meaning to him now because he can orchestrate an entertaining comic book battle as well as he combes his hair each morning. bendis dosn't get the glory of heroism because he is a sadist.

  7. Sthenurus

    @3 Doc Folsom Well, Osborn did warned people that Asgardians where going to come and attack America. And that's pretty much what happened. So his breakdown during siege can pretty much be forgotten, since as a whole, from the regular MU citizen he was right. Imagine if someone would have come, warned the people of Ben Laden, attacked afghanistan beforehand but lost is cool during the fight. Few month later, 9/11 happens. People would have been clamoring for this guy to come back. Even more so if he was kept without a trial and outside the law. He would lool like a martyr. That's pretty much what happened IMHO. Then again, I am not American so maybe I am missing something about the American midset or culture.

  8. Doc Folsome

    @Jack I kinda hear what you're saying and in regards to the public losing faith in the true Avengers, maybe we can make the argument that Americans can be fickle at times and things can come in and out of fashion relatively quickly. Although, I would still like to maintain that someone like Spidey or Cap would (and should) be in pretty good standing with the citizens of the MU at this point in time in their lives. That being said, Bendis is not painting this attack on the Avengers from a boisterous few...he's making it seem like the whole country is pessimistic toward the Avengers crusade (why else would faux-Obama be seriously interested in whats going on). This just seems like a repeat of the premise behind Civil War, Secret Invasion, etc etc...imo. Its less about real-world thinking infiltrating comics and more about its redundancy as a plot. However, when it comes to Norman Osborn, i do think that its getting a little tough to believe the MU citizens would be buying his latest charade...and that isn't because I'm putting too much real-world thinking into it. We know what happened with Norman during the Pulse arc (which was a very public screwup on his part), we know Peter threw him under the bus publicly in CW Frontline, we know Norman confessed to being the Green Goblin publicly (albeit, whilst he was convincing everyone he had conquered those demons), we know there was a few times during DR where Norman looked pretty bad (ie against Tony Stark, against the X-Men) publicly, and, of course, we all know what happened during Siege... The point I'm making is that the fear inspired by the Skrull Secret Invasion and Norman's triumphant killing of Queen Veranke were both powerful enough to make Norman's rise to the top reasonably believable. Currently, we don't have an event drastic enough to believe that Norman could re-emerge triumphant, win public sentiment at the expense of the true Avengers, and erase his image that HE created during/after Siege. At least not in my opinion. It would be better if Norman was operating more out-of-the-shadows for this specific plot.

  9. Jack Brooks

    Your descriptions sound to me like this is another case of "The characters need to behave like morons, in order to make the plot advance." I know injecting real-world thinking helps make Marvel what it is, but too much real-world thinking just spoils the whole superhero scenario, don't you think? If a writer starts imposing real-world reactions too often or too much, then you start wondering why, for example, most of Marvel's villains are even alive! In the "real world", the U.S. government would have performed surgery on, or executed nearly all of them, due to the extremity of the uncontrollable threat they all pose. Good grief, even New Yorkers would have started packing, and riddled Doc Ock with bullets the next time he showed his face. Eventually, the MU would only have Dr. Doom and Dormammu to deal with. S when writers start pushing too much "reality" into the stories, it undermines the whole genre. Though the absurdity of Obama reaching out to Norman osborn goes over the cliff the other direction. I can't stand Obama, but I still think he'd more likely send a drone after Osborn, not reach out to him.

  10. Doc Folsome

    I think I pretty much agree with everything you wrote in this review Aaron, especially regarding Dr. Washington. Bendis has certainly made her a bit more interesting and it seems like she is being set up for a possible redemption in the future, we’ll see I guess. As far as Bendis beating the anti-Avengers public sentiment over our heads, I think he has to and it illustrates just how flimsy this tale he’s trying to weave basically is. We were in the heroic age not that long ago, yet Bendis has to make us feel like the heroes are hated again b/c it’s the only thing this story can stand upon. It’s a tough sell, especially when the heroes have recently been doing some amazing things that you would think would aid their public perception (ie, Spider-Island, etc)… You almost have to laugh at the ridiculousness of the final scene on almost every level. Osborn’s complaint about the Avengers having to much free rein and the ability to enforce whatever rules they deem necessary, yet within that same breath he grabs Vision and throws him through the Avengers Mansion (ie, taking the law into his own hands)! The hypocrisy there is palpable, yet the President sees that, hears Osborn say Hail HAMMER, then decides to reach out to him!? C’mon…how forgetful are these characters supposed to be?? Honestly though, I still find myself oddly intrigued as to where this arc is going…

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