Finally, I got round to reading my back issues of The New Avengers. Even though I don’t have issues 7 and 12 yet, I read the rest as they aren’t story conclusions, and I assume I’m not missing vital information necessary for enjoyment.
The Sentry storyline (#7–10) is a strange attempt to integrate the metafictional character of Bob Reed, The Sentry, into the Marvel Universe. There is some silliness about mental blocks and such, and it’s all a bit of a stretch, but it’s enjoyable on the whole, and Steve McNiven’s art is very nice – smooth, strong lines, nice figurework and a freshness.
David Finch (a sort of modern-day Silvestri, with less cross-hatching and more solidity) is back on art duties for the Ronin storyline (#11–13), which has lots of ninjas – Bendis likes ninjas, as you can tell from the Daredevil mini-series he did – which don’t really seem to be the level of villain one would expect the Avengers to fight. That’s about it for story (there was something about the Silver Samurai, but, you know …) The whole excuse behind it is for Bendis to use Echo, the character created by his best buddy, David Mack, something that is symptomatic of his choice of characters for this team (Spider-Man, Luke Cage, Spider Woman) who are only there because he really loves them. The most glaringly unnatural fit, Wolverine, should fit in with all the ninjas, but Logan just looks out of place here, and I don’t buy his just hanging out with this team.
Next up is the Spider-Woman story line, for issues 14 and 15, with the sumptuous artwork of Frank Cho. His male figures look a little stiff and awkward, but who cares when he draws the ladies so beautifully (and with such improbable breasts and clothes)? Bendis does his spy stuff, another genre he loves, to do something a little different. Personally, I rather liked Jessica Drew back when Chris Claremont was using her in the X-Men (well, he had written a lot of her early stories), so I don’t mind too much seeing her in this setting, even if it doesn’t blend seamlessly.
Then there is part of The Collective storyline (prologue in #16 with McNiven art), in issues #17–19, with art by Mike Deodato. What the hell happened to him? His art looks like he’s turned into a Brent Anderson clone. It’s muddy and unattractively loose and is not nice to look at. Which is a shame, as it distracts from the story. I was warned by Anonymous that this wasn’t Bendis’ finest hour, and that’s the truth. When you use almost a third of an issue in splash pages and no dialogue to show the explosive arrival of the character, you know you are reading a ‘wait-for-the-trade’ story. The story involves fallout from the House of M, and the removal of the mutant genes from most of the population. Based on this, I don’t think that Bendis should be allowed to go near any mutant storyline in the Marvel U, especially in the Avengers.
I also had the annual, which was sweetly old-fashioned but with a modern polish, with lots of fighting and a wedding, and Ariel Olivetti’s rather good art being messed around by a plethora of inkers. An enjoyable tale, but perhaps not completely necessary for an annual.
The question I have to ask now is whether or not I continue buying the book in the monthly format. The line-up of artists look good, and Bendis might work better with the dialogue-centred stories that Civil War should bring (and stop him from coming up with such silly story ideas as The Collective). However, I did enjoy the Sentry, Ronin and Spider-Woman stories – they worked well within the framework that Bendis has created for the series, there was humour and adventure and a different feel to them. Whether they should be part of the Avengers lineage is highly debatable (I’m not an Avengers fan, but even I can tell that this doesn’t feel like the Avengers), but The New Avengers is certainly something a little different from the usual Marvel team book. I’m even tempted to get The Illuminati. He must be doing something right …