Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everybody! The day that the heroic, green giant known as St. Patrick battled the evil forces of the Multi-headed Snake Monster out of Ireland. And then everybody dranketh from the fountain of Guinness. So much so, that they started seeing little Leprechauns running around and stealing their gold. I think that’s the basic history of the holiday, right? My Irish history trivia may be a little off. Either way, Happy Birthday to my brother, as well, and everybody have a safe and fun St. Paddy’s Day… after reading the below review, of course.
The New Avengers, vol. 2 #22
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Mike Deodato & Will Conrad
Color Artist: Rain Beredo
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, Daredevil.
Plot: The New Avengers return to their mansion to find it seized by the federal government. The heroes are wanted for questioning and Luke Cage goes on the offense. He demands that the authorities let him pass so he can check on his wife and daughter. One of the soldiers fires on Cage with a high-powered cannon and sends the bulletproof Avenger flying through the air. The Dark Avengers watch on a television screen from a remote location.
To escape their difficult situation, Dr. Strange casts an Astral Spell of Group Teleportation to transport his teammates to his Sanctum Sanctorum. Strange’s manservant Wong informs Luke Cage that Jessica Jones left the mansion with their daughter before the government took control of the property. Luke leaves his teammates, telling them that he is going to go find his family. The rest of the New Avengers track down Victoria Hand, the traitorous liaison who sold them out to Norman Osborn.
The New Avengers catch Hand in the process of fleeing her apartment. Mockingbird opens the interrogation by punching their former ally in the face. Dr. Strange uses an illusion to trick Hand into believing the Avengers would throw her out a window if she lied. Hand reveals her true role on the team – a triple agent, asked to work for, and spy on, Norman Osborn by Captain America. Using the heightened senses of Daredevil and Wolverine and a last intimidation effort by Iron Fist, the team determines that Hand is not lying. Some of the New Avengers are more forgiving than others, but they decide to have Hand call and arrange a meeting with Osborn.
Osborn, floating over the burning remains of a building, talks to Hand over the phone and tells her that the Dark Avengers will come and pick her up. After his conversation with Hand, Osborn contacts his team and tells them to meet Hand in Manhattan, where they will also find the New Avengers hiding. The Dark Avengers ready themselves to leave.
Earlier in the day, Madame Hydra revealed to Gorgon that their time following Osborn was almost over. She shared that H.A.M.M.E.R. had captured their greatest nemesis, Captain America. Later, Gorgon reveals the news of the hostage to his teammates before they board their plane, and Skaar, Son of Hulk, breaks the fragile alliance he had with the villains. Skaar shouts out the “Avengers Assemble!” rallying cry and attacks his former teammates.
The writing in this comic has the typical Bendis flair, but the real strength Bendis has brought to the New Avengers title since its inception is his ability to write a compelling story. Some of his tales, for example, the 1959 Avengers storyline or some arcs in Ultimate Spider-Man, tend to drag on. I see that as more of a weakness with his writing, but despite ignoring, negating or twisting some minor continuity every now and then to fit his plans, his stories and ideas are still engaging.
He hasn’t broken any new ground with this Dark Avengers story so far, but I’ve still had fun reading it. Maybe it’s because the bad guys are made up of more obscure characters this time, or maybe it’s just the intrigue of all the triple agents and double crossing. Bendis must have some secret desire to be a spy. Osborn seemed to know Hand was betraying him, but I wonder if he knew Skaar would betray him as well. I’m interested to see if Bendis will show some sort of interaction between Captain America and Skaar that took place before Osborn recruited the Hulk.
Even though I don’t really care for Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, Bendis has done a great job of making the New Avengers comic a story with these two as central characters. With Bendis leaving the title following this summer’s big Avengers vs. X-Men event, I wonder if the new writer will keep Luke and his wife on the team. Luke has been Bendis’ go-to leader for the New Avengers for a while, so I wouldn’t mind seeing someone new in charge of the team. I hope it won’t be Wolverine however, because he seemed to take charge of the team in Cage’s absence in this issue.
The animalistic growl you’ve come to expect from Wolverine is present, as are the quick one-liners from Spider-Man, which make him more like an annoying younger sibling who always has something to say. Wong’s reference to Squirrel Girl as the “squirrel nanny” was funny, and I like that Bendis had Wong acknowledge his lack of interaction with the two women the servant had spent so much time around. I also enjoy how Daredevil’s unique talents help make up for the lack of a telepath on their team.
The art was a highlight once again in this comic, but there were times when it looked a bit rushed. For example, in the scene with the Sanctum Sanctorum, the outlines looked a bit thicker and the shadows filled more of the art. Then I realized in the end that the art duties were shared by Deodato and Conrad. This could have been a problem, but the two styles are so complimentary you can barely tell the art is by different artists.
Most Valuable Avenger: Dr. Strange. I really enjoy reading about Dr. Strange, but he doesn’t quite fit with this team. A better fit would be with the main Avengers team as he seems a bit too powerful for this one. He’s proven it several times over when his magic saves the team. This time out he provides a useful teleport and a clever illusion. He also owns his own real estate, which comes in handy this issue.
Most Valuable Dark Avenger: Skaar. The Son of Hulk wins the MVDA by turning on the rest of the Dark Avengers. The question as to why Skaar would ever team up with Osborn is finally solved with this turn as well. I liked how Skaar never really got along with the bad guys while working undercover as well, and even choking out teammates like Trickshot when they annoyed him.
Even though I’m a huge fan of the art, I had a few issues with it;. The double-page spread which showed the New Avengers through the window pane in the Sanctorum was a good concept, but there was too much white in the background. The page would have looked better and less jarring if the background color was darker, making the window panes more subtle. The New Avengers versus Authority banner at the beginning of the comic was a bit obnoxious, especially since the same layout was used more effectively for the New Avengers versus Dark Avengers fight a few issues back. I did like that the New Avengers looked like caged animals when the soldiers surrounded them.
I had some issues with the characters as well. I thought it came off a bit sexist when Ms. Marvel and Mockingbird were so quick to offer their support to Victoria Hand after she revealed her duplicity to the team. Mockingbird’s consolation of Hand came especially quickly considering she was the one yelling and throwing punches at Hand just a moment before.
If you’ve read the latest Avengers comic, you see Osborn’s transformation into a Hulked out version of himself and his eventual defeat. Before that, I was a little concerned about where Bendis was taking Osborn in this story. I don’t mind a monstrous, flaming Green Goblin in the Ultimate Universe, but I don’t want to see that happen in the main Marvel Universe.
Least Valuable Avenger: Luke Cage. Luke doesn’t come off as a great leader in this story arc. He’s constantly attacking first and asking questions never, which is obviously not a good strategy. His rash actions this time incite a riot and result in him being launched through the air by cannon fire. It’s like Bendis is trying to see who can toss Luke Cage the furthest.
Least Valuable Dark Avenger: All of them except Gorgon, especially Trickshot. Hawkeye’s brother gets manhandled by Skaar, but all of the Dark Avengers basically do nothing in this issue but stand around with their arms crossed, watching the news. Gorgon is the only one who seems to have plans for the future.
Ms. Marvel: You call Osborn and you tell him you want to come in.
Spider-Man: Tell him I said “s’up.”