Better Living Through Graphic Storytelling
A Comics Blog About Shit We Like
15 March 2007
New Avengers #28 (Quick Review)
Since Eli has already covered last week's Mighty Avengers, I thought I'd take a stab at the newest issue of Brian Bendis' New Avengers or "(Secret) Avengers" as I like to refer to them.

Let me start off by saying that Brian Bendis is the writer that made the Avengers make sense to me. As a primarily DC oriented super hero fan, and havin been burned by the quality of books Marvel had been putting out by the mid-to-late 90s, I really didn't care to give most of Bendis' work a try. However, books like Ultimate Spiderman and Daredevil were among some of the few Marvel books I would pull regularly. Anyway, it was when I read Bendis' opus (IMO) Alias that I began to change my mind about the current state of the Marvel Universe. Bendis brought decades worth of forgotten history to the foreground with this book, and made it all fresh and exciting (even if I was reading it several years after the fact). That being said, I still thought the first few issues of his New Avengers book were a bit hit or miss for me.

Enter Civil War. I think of all the writers working on big titles at Marvel, Bendis was the one who took their flagship title to the next level, and thus handled the whole event in the best manner possible.

Most of my criticism of Bendis' New Avengers seemed to be centered around the usual troubles that many writers have dealing with a larger cast. Unlike books like Alias or Daredevil, or even The Pulse, which all handled the large cast of the entire Marvel Universe quite well, Bendis didn't have a titular or protagonist character to constantly fall back on. With New Avengers, Bendis was given the tough task of having to make b-list characters like Luke Cage and Spiderwoman seem as important and irreplaceable as Iron Man or Captain America. It wasn't until the Civil tie-in arc that Bendis was able to give each character at least an issue of face time, thus letting us get to know the characters on a more intimate and relateable level.

Anyway, I liked this issue of New Avengers, which focused on the Avengers who chose to not register with the American government. Unlike, Mighty Avengers, the line-up for this team seems so much more organic than the tactically chosen line-up for Iron Man's government sanctioned Avengers. This generally yields better chemistry than on either Mighty Avengers or even the previous line-up featured on the pre-Civil War New Avengers title.

Unlike before, this line-up features all heavy hitters, but no "icons" (I've already discussed how I feel that "iconic" super heroes seem antithetical to me in the context of the Marvel Universe) like Cap or Iron Man, who always gave the generally buoyant nature of the teams chemistry an added weight. In the post-Civil War Marvel Universe, the weight is already out there. It is nice to see a group of super heroes acting less like a military unit, and more like a band of brothers.

I was originally a bit wary of the book originally, given that I have absolutely loved Lenil Yu's artwork in the past (especially his collaborations with Gerry Alanguilan), but was still on the fence about the new non-inked method utilized in this book. While the intense clarity of Yu's previous work seems gone, it is replaced by a certain ethereal quality that works well with the lighter dynamic of this team.

And that seems to be the big thing. This book, and even Mighty Avengers to a certain extent, seem far more fun than prior to Civil War. It's as if the dire grimness that has characterized so much of Bendis' major Marvel works (Avengers: Disassembled, House of M, Daredevil) has finally given to the latent humor constantly peaking behind the corner. The Mammet-esque "Wait...What?" moments have now formally been replaced by actual punchlines, and referential continuity jokes have been replaced by visual gags (which Yu helps pull off quite well).

With Captain America "dying" in his own book, and Ellis' constant need to exploit the criminal nature of his characters in Thunderbolts, it seems that Brian Bendis' new Avengers titles, as well as Matt Fraction's Punisher War Journal title seem to be picking up the slack of the now finished Nextwave book, by shining some light on the supposedly dark Marvel Universe post-Civil War. New Avengers is everything that I expect from an in-continuity super hero book - fun, fun, fun.

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NOTE: I haven't finished reading all the books that came out this previous week, but there are few worth talking about. Unfortunately, this week seems to be the best week during BAM's month long Shohei Immamur retrospective. So that being said, I probably won't be touching reviews until this Saturday, while my girlfriend is off doing a Manhattan-wide "pub crawl" in celebration of St. Patrick.

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Blogger Laura said...
In the post-Civil War Marvel Universe, the weight is already out there. It is nice to see a group of super heroes acting less like a military unit, and more like a band of brothers.

For all that I despise Marvel's "kiss the boot! listen to your smart white male betters! authoritarism is great!" spin on the ending, and thought CW itself was pretty crappy, what people have done with the setting so far has been kind of awesome.

I commented on scans_daily that when you read Iron Man it feels like an edited propaganda film for the Tony Reich, because it's so desperately light and shiny. By itself in a trade it will no doubt feel like the Adventures of Tony Stark, Spy Commander as they intend, but read in real time, against the black grief loose in the MU, it's chilling.

Blogger TonPo said...
I totally agree with you. I do find that certain parts of Civil War read well and were fairly entertaining, but overall it fails as a story for me.

The switch from being sympathetic with one view, and rushing the other viewpoint to the forefront for a slapped together resolution just ruined the whole thing for me. I often wonder what would have happened if they gave Millar the original 12 issues to work with. But using the new environment as story fodder has yielded some interesting story potential.

I commented on One Diverse Comic Book Nation about the make-up of the team in regards to what that kind of diversity represents, given their alternating positions in the new Marvel U. The line-up of the Secret Avengers is much more culturally tied to dissent and social uprising - especially if you choose to include Jessica Jones & Wong as part of the team, which I do 'cos they're such awesome characters - while the Mighty Avengers are primarily made up of wealthy white government agents.

I'm not positive that that was specifically intentional on Bendis' part, but I think it speaks well of the inherent chemistry these characters have together.

Where the Mighty Avengers seem stiff, because they're united for tactial military reasons, the Secret Avengers are united in their belief and their passion to fight for a higher right.

P.S. I also maintain my faith that Brubaker can make something like Cap's death work to his advantage. Comics Should Be Good's recent Urban Legends column has an interesting story about Jim Shooter shooting down a story very similar to this. Even at its weakest points, Brubaker's Cap run has been stronger than anything Millar has done for Marvel.