New Avengers TP#1
(collecting issues #1–6)
by Brian Michael Bendis & David Finch
I didn’t grow up reading the Avengers. Bendis destroying them meant nothing to me. Even though I enjoy Bendis’ work and Finch’s art, I wasn’t compelled to try this out when it first arrived in stores. I was also trying to keep my weekly pull list to a manageable size. However, curiosity and a nice trade persuaded me to give this a chance. And I’m glad I did.
This isn’t earth-shattering superheroics but it is enjoyable superhero comics, which is exactly what I want from it. Essentially a story of rebuilding the team, with a specific reason for the team, it does what it says on the tin and does it well.
The stories starts with a secret bad guy obtaining the services of Electro Man to power down Manhattan in order to allow a breakout of the 87 super-powered villain currently in residence at Ryker’s Island Maximum Security Prison, although our mystery man only wants one person in particular to be able to escape; the rest are a distraction.
Unfortunately, even though the Fantastic Four and X-Men are unavailable, there are some superheroes in the vicinity. Matt Murdock (Daredevil) is visiting Robert Reynolds, aka The Sentry, on behalf of Reed Richards. He is being protected by his bodyguard, Luke Cage, formerly Power Man, and they are being escorted by Jessica Drew, formerly Spider-Woman, in her capacity as a SHIELD agent. Captain America is on the way back from Washington, and Spider-Man follows the problem after the blackout in New York. In the middle of this, Iron Man joins in, helping them detain the villains. Together, they stop the breakout, but with 42 escapees still unaccounted for.
Captain America divines a link between the way this disparate group were drawn together for a specific instance, their combined powers adding to the sum of the total in a more-effective manner, and the way the original Avengers were brought together by Loki, which was equally silly in my opinion. From this, he believes that this team of New Avengers has assembled itself, and seeks them out, asking them to join the new team. Only Daredevil refuses, due to his outing situation. And a new team is born.
The mix is very bizarre, it has to be said, and reflects Bendis’ own personal ideas and characters (Spider-Woman and Luke Cage particularly), but he makes it work. The team is interesting, has a specific goal (related to the secrets concerning the breakout and the remaining escapees), works within the context of the present-day Marvel Universe and has great characterisation, an obvious Bendis strength. And it has a great sense of humour. Having Spidey on the team means it doesn’t take itself seriously (‘Oh no. I am not joining The Champions.’) and the dialogue between characters, another Bendis trademark, is fun to read.
The story is basically a blockbuster film in comics form, something Bendis & Finch did so well with the story of the same name in Ultimate X-Men. Finch handles the action and the cinematography of the story well, and he has a nice dynamic to his art style, sort of a Silvestri without the obsession with cross-hatching and a bit more presence in reality. Where he falls down a little is in the faces; dialogue in comic books requires the talking heads to express and emote a lot, something which is lacking in his mid-shots, but should improve with time.
Apart from the very odd decision to include Wolverine (and I don’t buy the reasoning attempted in the story), I’m sufficiently intrigued and impressed enough to read more of these New Avengers, especially the conspiracies and SHIELD stuff, who are a team with a purpose for joining and a specific goal to achieve by their continued presence, rather than just existing to service the trademark. Bring me more.