Waiting for the Trade: Avengers

Waiting for the Trade

by Bill Miller

 

Avengers: Fear
Itself.

by Brian Michael
Bendis, John Romita Jr., Mike Deodato & Chris Bachalo.

collects Avengers
13-17 and New Avengers 14-16.

 
Why I Bought This: As
I mentioned in my Fear Itself review
all of the tie-in trades were in the discount bin of my local comic shop, and I
decided to break my usual no event story rule (and in this case my no Bendis’
Avengers rule as well) and give it a try since the event was supposedly
Cap-centric.

 

The Plot: It
could best be described as the missing fight scenes from Fear Itself; plus Daredevil joining the New Avengers.

 Chapter 1 – We get a framing device of the Avengers being
interviewed for a book shortly after the events of Fear Itself. This leads to recollections of Red Hulk’s recent
joining of the team, Tony blathering of how the Avengers repairing Asgard will
inspire people, and Hawkeye flirting with Spider Woman.

Chapter 2 – Red Hulk fights a hammer-possessed Thing and
loses badly, after which Thing destroys Avengers Tower.

Chapter 3 – Hawkeye, Spider Woman, Ms Marvel and Captain
Marvel (v6.0) battle a hammer-possessed Hulk in South
America. Spider Woman in particular gets a big moment where she
has to fight Hulk one on one for a little while the other three recover. Ultimately
despite the Avengers best efforts the Hulk just keeps walking towards NYC.
Afterwards Hawkeye and Spider Woman have a romantic moment.

Chapter 4 – Cap is feeling down about Bucky’s death. Cap
gets a tip that Sinn is in some old Nazi castle in Sweden, so he takes female SHIELD
agents Sharon Carter, Maria Hill and Victor Hand with him to investigate but
instead they find Master Man (a Nazi with a more powerful version of the Super
Soldier serum that Cap’s been fighting off and on since WWII). Cap defeats him
and the castle blows up as we learn Sinn was never there, she just leaked the
info to set a trap for Steve.

Chapter 5 – Hawkeye’s squad from Chapter 3 arrives in NYC,
which is now in flames thanks to the Nazi Mech-Warrior exoskeletons. When Sinn
arrives Hawkeye shoots her through the neck with an arrow; but thanks to magic
that not only doesn’t kill her, it barely annoys her. Ms Marvel then engages
Sinn for awhile and just as Carol is blasted across the city, the New Avengers
arrive. They are still barely a match for Sinn, so Captain Marvel uses Kree
tech to send all of Tony’s former Iron Man suits in the rubble of Avengers
Tower after her too (with the Iron Patriot suit leading the way). Sinn is still
winning but when the two Avenger teams surround her Sinn chooses to teleport
away rather than continue the fight.

Chapter 6 – Switching over to the New Avengers Mockingbird reflects on a recent near death experience
that resulted in her getting a dose of the super soldier serum. When the Nazi
exoskeletons arrive in NYC, she thrills in the use of her new powers until Avengers Tower falls and makes her ashamed that
she was enjoying the battle.

Chapter 7 – We flashback to Wolverine beating Iron Fist in a
sparing session, after which Squirrel Girl is invited to fight and beats
Wolverine. We also see a little of her civilian college life before returning
to the present, where she fights her way through some of the Nazi exoskeletons
to get back to the mansion so she can babysit Luke Cage’s kid, while the New
Avengers go to work. After the Avengers leave a squadron of the Nazi-bots
surrounds the mansion and open fire on it.

Chapter 8 – In the framing sequence we get some
self-referential meta-snark about what type of hero belongs on the Avengers
before introducing Daredevil into the story. He singlehandedly takes down a
sh*t ton of the Nazi machines before Avengers
Tower falls. DD’s
super-hearing lets him know the Nazi’s plan to take out Avengers Mansion
next so he heads over their and saves Squirrel Girl and the baby, taking out at
least another dozen Nazi robots off-camera (we see the wreckage so we can get an
approximate count). Three weeks later Cage invites DD to join the New Avengers
team in thanks for saving his kid and he accepts, after which we get more of
the framing sequence to justify his decision.
Critical Thoughts: This
is better than the main Fear Itself
story, but then considering how poorly I graded that it’s not hard. The
action/fight scenes are generally very good–far better than in the usual
Bendis story. On the other hand this is full of some of the Bendis-isms that
make me hate most of his Avengers run: the talking heads, the placing of action
in the past tense, the poor characterization of Hawkeye, his tendency to show
not tell and his going to ridiculous lengths to make situations seem more
grave/impactful than they should be.

I’ll take it chapter by chapter. Chapter 1 is your typical
Bendis super hero talking head story in which no one actually attempts to solve
any crimes that make up at least 50-percent of the issues in his Avengers run. We also see Bendis’
continued characterization of Hawkeye as a man-whore despite his wife
(Mockingbird) recently returning from the dead, and his insistence that the
Jessica Drew Spider Woman is an interesting character worthy of being the focal
point of the title. In other words, nothing to see here.

Chapter 2 is a decent fight scene between Red Hulk and
Thing, helped by the fact that JRJR’s art is a good fit for this type of story.
But any good will it builds up is pissed away when Bendis has Jarvis call the
defeat of Red Hulk and fall of Avengers
Tower the worst day of
his life in serving the Avengers. Off the top of the head here are four days
that Jarvis would think of as worse: being hypnotized by Ultron and forced to
betray the team as the Crimson Cowl in the 60s; Being beaten half to death by
Mr. Hyde during Under Siege: a storyline in which Avengers Mansion was
destroyed for the first time (whereas Avengers Tower falling is at least the
fifth time the team has lost its headquarters) and several other members of the
team were hospitalized; The Avengers core members being killed during the
Onslaught crossover, after which the team was disbanded for a year; Bendis’ own
Avengers Disassembled story in which yet again the mansion was destroyed, four
members lost their lives (including main-stays Hawkeye and Vision)—made worse
by the fact the carnage was caused by one of the team’s other mainstays losing
her mind and the team disbanded for six months. But nope clearly this was a
much worse day than those, I mean a building fell down (again) and a dude who’d
been a member of the team for about one week was beaten in a fight. Even if Red
Hulk was missing and presumed dead at the time, the Jarvis comments are
supposedly part of the book interview that takes place after Fear Itself is over so he knows by now Red
Hulk’s not dead; and even if Red Hulk died in that fight, why would that be
worse than days when multiple team members with years of service died? That
sentence right there is everything wrong with Bendis’s writing. He just says
big things to show how grave the situation is that the story doesn’t actually earn
and that anyone with a cursory knowledge of continuity knows isn’t true.

Chapter 3 is probably the best chapter in the book. It’s a
very good fight scene with the heroes employing clear tactics even if is yet
again it is Spider Woman centric and continues the trend of the heroes being
completely ineffective in this story. I will say in the art Ms. Marvel and
Mockingbird are almost indistinguishable from each other in the book interview
scenes (something also present in Chapter 1 and beyond). There is another logic
gap here that is very typical Bendis, in which it implied the latest C.M.’s
teammates still don’t know what his powers are; which I just don’t buy that Cap
sends a team into the field without everyone knowing each other’s capabilities.
Of course this is hardly surprising since it seems Bendis can’t write a team
book without having one character whose powers are “whatever the hell Bendis
feels like pulling out his ass that day” (see Sentry). In fact a few months ago
I reviewed a Dark Avengers trade (by Bendis) where this new Captain Marvel
received a power upgrade from the Supreme Intelligence and yet I couldn’t tell
you what his powers were/are either before or after the upgrade because Bendis apparently
does not want to be hemmed in by firm details like that.

Chapter 4 – I’m always up for a Cap centric issue where he
battles one of his classic foes. Again JRJR’s art rocks here. That said Bendis
clearly has no knowledge of physics in this issue as apparently metal bounces
in the Marvel Universe now, since Cap jumps out a building, lands on his shield
and bounces in one motion (with the shield apparently glued/magnetically
attached to his feet) all the way up to the top of another building. I love Cap
as much as the next dude but that is some fairly inexplicable physics (and it
contradicts stories from Gru’s Cap run, in which he uses a vibranium shield to
break his fall from a plane, and notes his classic shield would not have been
able to absorb falling impact like that.)

Chapter 5 – The dynamic of Hawkeye’s squad is well-written
as is their fighting tactics. I HATE Bendis’ insistence in writing Hawkeye as a
casual killer as it contradicts everything about the character’s first 40-years
of appearances and we see Bendis do it again with him having Hawkeye take an
assassination style head shot at Sinn from the rooftops to kick-off the fight.

Chapter 6 – More continuity ignoring at the expense of a
favorite character of mine, in this case Mockingbird. Here she is exhilarated
to get the super soldier serum when she should be terrified. Mockingbird
started as a SHIELD scientist tasked to recreate the serum and as such is an
expert on the madness it causes without the vita-ray treatment. And this isn’t
arcane continuity; it was a key point in a story published less than a year
before this one in the Hawkeye and
Mockingbird
ongoing series/trade. (The one where Hawkeye also proclaimed
his enduring love for Mockingbird instead of trying to bang Spider Woman in
front of her). Also the serum seems to have given her ridiculous leaping
ability more akin to Spider-man than Cap.

Chapter 7 is about Squirrel Girl, an odd running joke of a
character that you wouldn’t expect to be carried over into the main Avengers title or an event story as a
better fighter than Wolverine. For that matter Wolverine beating Iron Fist
without using his claws in hand to hand combat seems off to me also, but screw
it I don’t care enough about Squirrel Girl to discuss this in-depth.

Finally Chapter 8 is way too self indulgent to even be a story. If you have to
bookend your story with three pages of justification on each side on why a
character belongs on the Avengers that is probably a sign he doesn’t really
belong there. Not that I care if Daredevil joins the New Avengers one way or
the other since they are all bunch of low-powered urban heroes anyway at this
point. I’ll add Bendis’s justifications are a total snake eating its own tale
since the examples he cites of how DD belongs are mostly other characters like
Wolverine and Luke Cage who don’t really belong that Bendis previously
shoe-horned into the series. Also the New
Avengers
chapters highlight another major flaw of the main crossover: which
is why are the Nazi exoskeletons steamrolling from DC through New York in the
main book if glorified acrobats like Mocking Bird and Daredevil can destroy
large numbers of them singlehandedly?

 

Grade: C. Some
good fight scenes and the JRJR art get this a passable grade for a discount
pick-up, but many Bendis’ bad tendencies are on display here as well. In
general the Avenger chapters are a
lot better than the New Avengers
chapters.

PS – Shameless Self Promotional Alert: For those who enjoy my Trade reviews here, feel free to check me out at Spiderman Crawlspace, where I am now the Venom ongoing series reviewer. My first two reviews there were posted earlier this week.