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The New Avengers: Search For The Sorcerer Supreme

The New Avengers #51–54 by Brian Michael Bendis, Billy Tan and Chris Bachalo

Time to catch up with more trade paperbacks I purchased over the course of the months in which I wasn’t blogging regularly. Today, the latest New Avengers paperback collection. I have been enjoying the odd mix of stories that Bendis has been creating in The New Avengers, but not enough to continue reading a monthly comic series with no extra pages or material for $3.99. Therefore, it seemed a good time to become a trade-waiter on one of Marvel’s top selling titles.

Bendis talks a very good comic – his interviews about the thinking behind his storylines are always fascinating and show that his stories always come from character, but his plotting doesn’t always get across the strength of his ideas in the final execution. Take for example this collection: it is basically about the passing of the title of Sorcerer Supreme from Dr Strange to Brother Voodoo. This is a great concept – it shakes up the status quo for Stephen Strange and is an interesting way to examine his character and what being Sorcerer Supreme meant to him and what it means to the Marvel universe when the powers are transferred. It also sets up an intriguing situation for Brother Voodoo, being the novice in charge of the most powerful magical tools in the Marvel universe, and needing Strange as a mentor. However, the resulting four-issue story doesn’t reflect all of this.

Bendis works best when it comes to dialogue – I know people typecast him for it, but his ability to have characters speak to each other is really good, like the very silly but still enjoyable banter when Spider-Man reveals who he is and Jessica Jones recognises him, much to Luke Cage’s dismay – but the action stuff seems to be paying lip service to the Marvel way of doing things: there must be fight scenes. It doesn’t help that the artists aren’t the best for the job. Tan is mostly flash over substance, with only adequate storytelling skills, excessive lines and a slightly strange look to his characters’ faces. The only good sections come at the end with the Brother Voodoo section. Bachalo is a good artist – some of his panel designs and dialogue scenes are very good – but he has a tendency to draw overly complicated and obscure panels, making reading the comic book a chore rather than a pleasure.

There was another odd reaction to this book: the fact that it was only four issues. I’ve become so used to trades containing at least five issues that I felt short-changed by this collection. It’s good that Bendis didn’t drag the story out just for the sake of filling a larger trade (although it was probably more to do with the Dark Reign/Siege timelines than anything else) but I felt that I should get a more satisfying chunk of comic books for my money. We comic book fans are so hard to please …

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