Who is Keyser Soze? He’s not a member of the Illuminati, but for some reason I was thinking of the movie The Usual Suspects while getting this review up. I should probably have made a nice Usual Suspects movie poster using the heads of the Illuminati members, but I haven’t, and now the point is getting away from me. If I ever had a point. It was probably the fact that the Illuminati are back together in this issue and summoned to another secret meeting, this time by Captain America. The usual suspects are all here… (there it is…) but will Captain America be able to reason with Namor? That is, if the King of Atlantis even decides to show up to the meeting in the first place.
The New Avengers, vol. 2 #29
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Mike Deodato
Color Artist: Rain Beredo
Letters & Production: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover Art: Ron Garney & Jason Keith
The Illuminati: Captain America, Iron Man, Dr. Strange, Mister Fantastic, Professor X, Namor
Plot: The Invaders, a team of heroes including Captain America, Namor and the original Human Torch, assisted the allied forces in a skirmish with the Red Skull and Nazi forces during the World War II Battle of Anzio. When Captain America is knocked to the ground, vulnerable to an attack, Namor comes to his defense. Using a menacing-looking Nazi contraption, Namor wipes out the Red Skull and his men by smashing the large device on the beach. Namor offers Captain America a hand, declaring that the heroes are brothers.
In present time, Captain America waits alone in a secret warehouse. Iron Man arrives and states that calling a meeting of the Illumanti together was a bold move. Tony tells Cap that Namor will not show up to this secret meeting despite Cap’s belief that the newly Phoenix-powered Namor will attend. Dr. Strange teleports into the room and is concerned there may be secret agendas to the meeting. The sorcerer is in agreement that Namor will not come, but trying to meet with him is worth a shot.
Professor Xavier arrives next, and is rudely greeted by Tony who makes a joke about Xavier’s training of Cyclops. Professor X is quick to take offense and lashes out at Tony. Cyclops’ former mentor admits to being tempted to telepathically turn off Cyclops’ brain, and questions why the rest of the Illimunati members aren’t using the Infinity Gems to destroy the Phoenix Force. Reed Richards enters and admonishes his allies for merely hinting at the idea of using the uncontrollable gems.
Tony asks Professor X about his recent encounter with Cyclops. Professor X talks about the pain Cyclops’ transformation causes him. The world’s most powerful telepath lashes out once more and admits to knowing the rest of the men in the room secretly blame him. He storms out of the room after declaring he’s ready to stop Cyclops, no matter what the cost. Reed sympathizes with the Professor, but also surprises Captain America when he claims he doesn’t view the Phoenix Five as a threat.
Reed claims that the math and science are in the X-Men’s favor, and that they are changing the world for the better. The Avengers are only at war with the X-Men because the Avengers are poking the mutants who have done nothing but help the world since they received their new powers. Reed is ready to embrace the future, and questions Captain America’s motives for wanting to stop the change that has already begun. Reed is also quick to point out that Captain America and Iron man were once at odds because a difference of ideals, similar to the current situation between the Avengers and X-Men.
Before leaving, Reed reminds Tony and Cap that they are responsible for splintering the Phoenix Force and if that tamed the Phoenix, then the Avengers should take pride in that accomplishment. If not, Reed is still ready for humanity to take the next step. Dr. Strange departs shortly after, leaving Iron Man and Cap to debate Namor’s decision once again. Tony leaves, still dismissive of Cap’ s idea that Namor will make a difference.
Now alone, Captain America is visited by Namor. Namor expresses his pleasure that Cap didn’t try to ambush him. Cap extends a hand of friendship to Namor, and asks for his old ally’s help. Namor refuses, holding firm to the X-Men’s belief that the Phoenix Five are changing the world for the better.
Unable to come to an understanding, Namor tells Captain America that there should have been a trap. Cap reminds Namor of their brotherhood, and it’s because of that reason there wasn’t a trap. Namor reveals that their brotherhood is the very reason he didn’t alert the Phoenix Five to this secret meeting. It’s also why Namor didn’t destroy Captain America “in a blink of an eye.” Namor is saddened by the memory of the bond formed between them in past days of war. Captain America looks down and finds himself alone once more in an empty room.
Avenging Analysis: The opening splash page is a good highlight of some of the strengths and weaknesses of the creative team behind this New Avengers series. The scene of the Invaders storming a beach during World War II looks amazing, so much so that I wouldn’t mind having a print of that hanging on my wall. Deodato’s art and Beredo’s colors are superb. On the writing side, you have Bendis’ unbalanced words.
The Red Skull’s cry to get the “costumed Allied interlopers,” was well-phrased, but I don’t understand why Bendis would cut off Cap’s first sentence. When the Super Soldier was exchanging retorts with his sidekick Bucky, he says “..the Skull was looking directly at you when he — ”. It seems he left off the words “said it.” Why not just finish the sentence?
In that World War II flashback, Bendis did a great job of setting up the bond of brotherhood between Namor and Captain America as the theme for this issue. I enjoyed this story because of that focus. It must be a comfort to Cap knowing that there are allies from his World War II days still around. Although, I guess with retcons and other story developments, several characters in the comics have ties to Cap from those times.
Some of Cap’s latest allies are the members of the Illuminati. I’m a fan of this group of Marvel A-listers, and it’s nice to see that Captain America is part of that club now. I find it interesting how the writers interweave the Illuminati’s background history into past Marvel events. And because of that, I find it more interesting when the characters appear in the current events in the Marvel Universe. This collection of heroes is also a good mix of the major factions in the Marvel U: The Avengers, The X-Men, The Fantastic Four, and so forth. It’s a great chance for a writer like Bendis to handle characters he may not normally get to write.
Bendis’ grasp on these characters is the main takeaway from this book. Bendis has plenty of experience writing for some of these characters and it shows. Captain America is a dreamer and idealist. He’s someone who always tries to be positive and he hopes for the best outcome, no matter how much of a long shot it is. Most of the other characters in this issue are quick to remind Cap of how futile it is to wait for Namor, but Captain America holds out.
Tony has been the foil to Cap in many ways, both in and out of the Iron Man armor. Tony is smarmy, cocky, and much more of a pessimist than Cap, as evidenced by his claim that he always knew Namor was going to bond with a cosmic force of destruction to change the world. Bendis has Tony’s jokes and attitude under control in the beginning, but his writing slips again as the story goes on since he tries to give Tony a funny rebuttal to comments by all the other characters. I considered Tony’s line about a burrito being able to surprise you off-color and unnecessary. However, Bendis did save that bomb by following it up with Tony’s own admission that not all of his jokes can be winners.
In addition to Namor and Cap’s brotherhood, Bendis shows off a touching friendship between Tony and Cap effectively. At the end of the issue when Tony is leaving Cap, Tony admits to feeling bad about the jokes he directed at Xavier. Cap reminds Tony to be nicer and not so aggressive. This was a nice subtle allusion to the fact that similar friendly discussions about Tony’s attitude in the past have occurred between the two. It reminded me of one of those Snickers candy bar commercials which show people acting in a negative manner when they’re hungry.
Dr. Strange, while not really having a role other than to be our token New Avenger in this comic, comes off as the Illuminati’s optimist. Even though Dr. Strange doesn’t believe Namor will show up to the meeting, he is at least willing to admit it’s worth a shot. I appreciated Dr. Strange’s apprehension when he first arrived at the meeting as well. The highlight of Dr. Strange’s presence in this comic was when Reed Richards entered the room and the two men addressed each other using their proper titles. This resulted in Tony’s best joke about how the two men just like referring to one another as “doctor,” while Tony himself has three doctorates.
Dr. Reed Richards is the voice of reason, the pragmatist. Reed is the smartest man in the Marvel Universe and Bendis shows why that is in Reed’s brief exchange with the Illuminati. Right away he admonishes Xavier for mentioning the Infinity Gems, and the rest of the time he’s fiddling with his own little gadget, barely even paying attention to the meeting. When it does come time for Reed to say his piece, he conveys his stance on the Phoenix Five perfectly. Realistically, the X-Men have done nothing but improve the world since they bonded with the Phoenix.
Reed calls Tony and Cap out on the fact that the Avengers are the ones poking at the X-Men, which has caused the negative backlash. Granted, this meeting takes place before Namor went crazy and destroyed Wakanda, but at the time, Reed had cold hard facts, math and science in support of the Phoenix Five. Bendis succeeded in making me a bigger fan of Reed Richards than I was before because of Jonathan Hickman’s run on the Fantastic Four title.
Considering the fact that Bendis will begin writing the X-Men this fall, the most interesting character Bendis tackled in this comic was Professor Xavier. I can’t say that I’m the biggest fan of Bendis’ representation of Xavier, but I also can’t say I’m the biggest fan of Xavier to begin with. Professor X, who has more at stake in the Avengers vs. X-Men then the other Illuminati, seems to have fallen off his hover-rocker.
Everybody is concerned about how crazy Cyclops has apparently become, but look at Professor X. He’s screaming at the Avengers, reading their minds without their permission, and even threatening to kill Cyclops. I know this must be an incredibly trying time for him, but Xavier doesn’t seem to win anybody over in this meeting with his actions. Xavier’s anxiety is raised to new levels, most likely to serve as the drama in the issue, but this is a different Xavier then we see in the pages of Avengers vs. X-Men. In the main event, Xavier seems to be much more in control of his emotions and freely working with the Avengers.
I’m glad Namor proved Cap right and eventually showed up after all the other Illuminati members left. Their interaction was bittersweet since they still showed a great deal of respect for one another, despite being on opposite sides of the battle in this war. I’m glad Namor was able to retain that bit of respect after his transformation. The silence between the two when they reached their impasse was saddening. It makes Namor’s rage towards Captain America in Avengers vs. X-Men #8 seem a tad extreme.
For the second time in a row, Bendis delivers a great one-shot story which ties into Avengers vs. X-Men. His last issue was a good example of his ability to tell an engaging story, and this time he highlights his skills in characterization. This was a great look to see where some of Marvel’s major characters stand concerning the events of AvX.