Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Why I Love/Hate Bendis or New Avengers #1 a Review

New Avengers #1

Publisher Marvel Comics

Writer Brian Bendis

Pencils Stuart Immonen

Inks Wade Von Grawbadger

Colors Laura Martin

Price $4

Format 24 Pages of Story and Art

This book is a perfect example of what makes me alternate between loving Brian Bendis’ work and hating his work. To give you a peek into my view of the world you have to follow my journey through New Avengers #1.

First off I came into this book with many doubts because the dialogue Bendis has his characters engage in as a group is often inane and the characters come across like they are all the same person. Second the group they are advertising on the cover makes no real sense. Next, Stuart Immonen is one of the most talented pencil artist in the business, by the style he has adopted of late is uneven in my view. Finally I was paying $4 for a book that would have less than 30 pages of story and art.

Page One, Panel One. It is a single panel that takes one third of the page and we see Dr. Strange appearing in a mystical burst of light. His words are “Damion Hellstrom how have you been?”.
So I’m immediately hooked into the story. I love Dr. Strange and Hellstorm can be a cool character when used correctly. I’m intrigued as the opening appears to have nothing to do with the Avengers at all. A great way to start the book, but I notice in the lower right hand corner a text piece (since text boxes are passé we now just put text on panels) and it says “The Gorgerell Transportation Spell. From the Book Vishanti, Page 567.” I stopped in my tracks and was thinking, “no you did not just add that crap into this book”. It reminded me of the crappy Fraction captions in Uncanny X-Men that ran for awhile.

Why did this and the multiple uses of this throw me out of the book so much? It slows the book down for no reason. Comics are a marriage of pictures and words. The pictures tell the story and the words since add to the flow of the story and should be used only when needed. We don’t need this and it smacks of a writer wanting to be “cool” like these are real books or some such crap and the spells are akin to recipes, anyone could do them. It subtracts from the book and makes us stop when we should be into the flow of the story.

The next two pages we find out Damien is possessed and he attacks Dr. Strange in a glorious two panel spread by Stuart.

We then jump to Luke Cage and his complaint, which came off very odd in Avengers, but was actually a great point in this book. His question is why he would want to trade one dictator for another. No matter how benevolent of a ruler, having Steve Rogers tell him to jump is just as bad as Norman or Tony telling him what to do and when to do it. Luke wants to be a hero in the old mold and deal with the bad guys as they come. Some silliness with Tony selling the old Avengers Mansion to Luke for a dollar ensues, but it gets us to the idea of Luke now being in charge of his own group of Avengers. You have to love how Bendis managed to make the New Avengers its own thing and still be part of the new “Heroic Age”.
The next section we catch up with Brother Voodoo who is visited by the now possessed Dr. Strange and Hellstorm. We get two pages here and two pages later of that mystical battle with the horrid spell footnotes so we can look them up for ourselves later, I guess.

This stuff is all good as we foreshadowing the first menace this group of Avengers will have to face.

We then switch to moving day as we see Luke carrying in furniture to his family and his group’s new home. They have a run in with Victoria Hand who opens the door with a gun in her hand. Then Luke claps his hands and creates a wind force that takes her out.

Here again the book stops dead in its tracks. Luke is one of the MU strongmen, but has never been Thing or Hulk strong and I have never seen him use his strength like that. Or top of that it shows Victoria is thrown so far that she should have had multiple broken bones and Cage dealing that forcefully with a normal human seems very un-heroic.

Eventually with Wolverine coming along to sniff out if she is lying or not she is accepted as a liaison for the group as she was recommended by Steve Rogers. We have the apparent de rigueur eating scene by Bendis. We are spared the normal dialogue exchange as Bendis needs to bring the Thing into the group. The group at the table is Wolverine (in Avengers and X-Men and his own books), Hawkeye and Mockingbird (their own book and Hawkeye is in Avengers), Spider-Man (Avengers and his own books), Ms. Marvel, Luke Cage (here and Thunderbolts where he is doing what Steve Rogers asked him to do), The Thing (FF and here) and Iron Fist.

I don’t mind a person is in a group or has their own book and is in a group. I do not sit down and try to figure out how a character can be in two places at once. I just assume they happen at different times. It is so bad with Wolverine Bendis makes a joke about it. What bugs me is Wolverine, Spider-Man and Hawkeye are in Avengers. Having the same character in two different sub teams of the same group is just flat out ludicrous. Still since I have dropped the Avengers already I can ignore that stuff. What I can’t ignore is following this and Thunderbolts is the portrayal of Luke in this book is inconsistent with Thunderbolts. Also the Thunderbolt thing seems like a full time job and if Marvel wants a cohesive universe they have to work out overusing some characters. When I start thinking about how something can work it is something that takes me out of the story. Comics are a suspension of disbelief and within that suspension there needs to be an internal logic that works.

The book ends with Dr. Strange and Hellstorm showing up chasing the Eye of Agamotto and Luke grabbing it and being possessed.

So the pluses, a good premise for why we have the book, solid artwork, a good start for a menace for the group to face, an interesting group is put together. The bad the inane dialogue is still here. Whenever we hit those points I glossed over it in the review because I get tired of harping on just how bad those exchanges are. The other bad things 24 pages of story and art for $4, with some text piece by Bendis being called the oral history of the Avengers. It is a frigging comic book, if I want a prose piece I will pick up a book. The stupid spell text items, it took me out of the flow of the story every time one appeared.

Bottom line: I loved it and I hated it. How can I even put a grade to this book? I guess we can say I will be buying issue #2, so that has to be a good thing.

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