Brace yourself. The summer event is coming. I decided to swap the order of my New Avengers review and the final part of Avengers X-Sanction so we can put the H.A.M.M.E.R. wars behind us before I cover the big Avengers vs. X-Men event for you guys. Over the next few days I’ll cover the beginning of AvX leading up to Wednesday’s Avengers vs. X-Men #1. So everybody get strapped in. The Phoenix Force is Hope’s by right. The Avengers will bend the knee or she will destroy them.
The New Avengers, vol. 2 #23
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: One month ago, while Norman Osborn was seeking recruits for his new team of Dark Avengers, he approached Skaar, Son of Hulk, in the Savage Land. The hulk offspring dismisses Osborn to take a day to think about the offer, but once the head of H.A.M.M.E.R. leaves, Skaar calls Captain America for his advice. Now, in H.A.M.M.E.R. headquarters, Skaar learns his leader is being held captive, and attacks his teammates shattering their tenuous trust.
Skaar shrugs off the attacks from the Dark Avengers, dispatching them quickly. He leaves to find Captain America, after finding out the location of the captive by intimidating an A.I.M. agent. The disgruntled Dark Avengers recover from the surprise attack, but are further dismayed when the New Avengers arrive on the scene. The inevitable fights break out with Dr. Strange subduing Dr. Covington, Spider-Man and Daredevil teaming up to take on Ai Apaec (now in his more monstrous spider-form), and Ms. Marvel exacting revenge on Superia.
Mockingbird surprises Trickshot, her former brother-in-law, by deflecting his arrows and delivering a vicious dropkick. Iron Fist faces off with Gorgon, receiving assistance from Daredevil. Captain America returns with Skaar and Wolverine, helping Spider-Man in his fight with Ai Apaec. Captain America thanks the New Avengers, especially Victoria Hand, and rallies them to help the Avengers. But first, he asks where Luke Cage is.
Cage is wandering the streets of New York. He comes to the former office of his wife’s private investigation agency, Alias. Inside, he looks sadly at an old picture of himself as Power Man, alongside his wife as Jewel, and his Heroes for Hire partner, Iron Fist.
This issue picks up right where the last left off. It explains the relationship between Skaar and Captain America right off the bat. The interaction between the two wasn’t as extensive as I hoped it would be, but it was interesting to see the Osborn-Skaar history from another angle. I would still like to know how long this cooperative relationship between Cap and Skaar has existed, so hopefully we haven’t seen the last of Skaar and the New Avengers. It was a little funny to see how huge and impractical Skaar’s cell phone seemed when he called Captain America for input.
Skaar and his double agency was the focus of this issue. Seeing him take down the Dark Avengers in the beginning was awesome. I liked that he was able to block or shrug off the attacks by Trickshot and Dr. Covington. The fight looked a little brutal with Gorgon hacking at Skaar’s hide, but the young hulk was obviously able to handle the damage. His interaction with the A.I.M. scientists in the hallway after the fight was pretty humorous as well.
The only downside I had with Skaar’s part of the action was the opening panel using the “versus” lay out once again. That’s the third time that format has been used in this story arc and it’s a little played out at this point. But, it was still awesome to see how Skaar manhandles the bad guys.
Despite being relegated to clean-up duty, the New Avengers still had some decent moments while wrapping up the Dark Avengers. Dr. Strange was well represented yet again, easily containing the toxic doctor with the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak. There were even some nice throwbacks to earlier issues of this series. The fight between Iron Fist and Gorgon was cool because it was reminiscent of the Wolverine-Iron Fist sparring session in New Avengers #15. I liked how the combatants were represented as silhouettes, making the glowing hand of Iron Fist stand out more. It was also nice to see Ms. Marvel get her revenge on Superia for the beating she gave her in New Avengers #10.
Spider-Man had a good fight with Ai Apaec as well. I like it when artists depict Spider-Man’s path of movement by showing multiple Spider-Men outlines behind him, similar to the way his hyperspeed was displayed in the video game Edge of Time. His banter about copyright infringement with the spider-like villain was enjoyable as well.
The rest of the art is great again. Deodato and Conrad still split the duties, but it looks like Deodato was in charge of the majority of it. I like Deodato’s signature cross hatching style, and it’s present throughout the issue. I also like his use of lines to help express speed and action. It gives a fast-paced movement to the characters and fights..
Most Valuable Avenger: Skaar. He may not be an official New Avenger, but he definitely deserves to be recognized for being on the right side of the fence. I think it would be cool to have a Hulk on the New Avengers, but that would mean a character like the Thing would be unnecessary. It’s also nice to see that Skaar knows who to trust and who not to.
While the fighting was great this time around because of how much action there was, it wasn’t as knock-down, dragged-out as some of the other Dark Avenger/New Avengers skirmishes. Skaar did the majority of the damage early in the issue, and the New Avengers just came in to wrap things up in a nice neat package. Most of the Dark Avengers were easily subdued and didn’t put up much of a fight. And is it a Bendis rule to always have a hero tell the bad guys to “shush” or “shut it,” before they punch the bad guy? Normally, that seems to be a trademark of Luke Cage, but Ms. Marvel handled it this time in his absence.
The dialogue always seems to be a problem when you put this many people on a team. Bendis tries to give each character something to say at the start of a fight, and it’s usually just a cheap throw-away line. For example, would the Dark Avengers really have time to cry out “Why are you doing this?” when they are jumped by Skaar? The New Avengers are always fighting to get a line in, as Thing jokes when his teammates don’t let him finish his own slogan.
I wouldn’t mind seeing the Avengers go back down to only five members. This would allow more focus on the individual characters, and then the writer wouldn’t have to worry about giving every character a witty line. There were eight New Avengers that showed up to the fight and maybe the action would have seemed a bit more involved if it didn’t have to be shared between that many characters.
And if we are going to start cutting characters, I’d like to suggest Mockingbird. She isn’t the least valuable member this time, but her fight with Trickshot left me with the most questions, mainly because I’m not familiar with the history concerning her ex-husband’s brother. Does Trickshot really want to kill her that badly? And do her powers really raise her ability to deflect projectiles? But I guess if all her other senses are heightened, that could only help things like eye-hand coordination.
Least Valuable Avenger: Luke Cage, again. Now that Bendis is leaving, I think we may be hearing Luke Cage’s swan song. He isn’t seen in this issue at all until the end, and when he is, he’s breaking and entering into his wife’s office, probably not the most heroic move.
Least Valuable Dark Avengers: All of them. They get tossed around pretty easily this issue. You also see the folly of putting a bunch of unstable psychopaths on a team together. Their differences and annoyances with one another begin to get the best of them and they stop working together. Considering how shady the group is, I’m surprised most of the Dark Avengers were shocked to find out one of their members would betray them. But if you enjoyed this issue, you will enjoy issue #175 of the Thunderbolts, when it’s repurposed as a title for these Dark Avengers.
Spider-Man: “I’m so torn! I was about to slap you so hard with a copyright infringement your kids would feel it… but now that I see the real you… I think I’d rather you go back to ripping me off.”
Story arc rating and overview: This is Bendis’ storytelling at its finest (or worst, depending on your opinion of the writer): seven issues spanning a five month period. There were nice callbacks to some earlier stories and plot points, but the story takes way too long to tell. The involvement of the federal government, for example, could have been moved to the Avengers title, or just left out completely. The New Avengers’ main role in this H.A.M.M.E.R. war was to serve as a foil to Norman’s Dark Avengers, so there was really no need for the feds to be involved to begin with.
If some of that story was trimmed down, the arc could have been wrapped up sooner. It would have been better if this issue had come out before Avengers #24 when Osborn actually falls as well, but that won’t be a problem when the complete story is collected in a trade. I’m surprised this H.A.M.M.E.R. war wasn’t hyped as more of an event considering how grand it turned out to be, but a few less-than-stellar parts bring the overall quality down.