Brian Michael Bendis

Avengers #19

Avengers 19I have not read an Avengers comic in awhile.  There are several reasons for this, but the biggest is that I have been more excited about DC Comics than Marvel lately.  The second reason, by no means insignificant, is that Fear Itself really slogged a lot of the Marvel titles. It was a not a good event and because so many Marvel titles were tie-ins or caught up in that event, it messed up the energy and momentum of a number of titles.

Anyway, #19 is the second to come from the event without the Fear Itself banner. #18 was okay, but honestly, by the time I read this one, I had long forgotten the contents of #18.  The cover for #19 was done by Daniel Acuna; the writing continues to be done by Brian Michael Bendis.  When I first glanced at the cover, I thought the art had been done by Howard Chaykin (whose art I do not like.)  However, I learned that it was done by Acuna and I have given it some deeper examination. I like the white background. I realized that the white background really stands out among other issues because it looks so clean and bright.  However, the characters are actually outlined in a light blue color. I’m not sure what this is about – maybe to make the transition from white to the other colors better? I am no artist, but somehow these outlines look odd to me. Also, well, I don’t like the layout of the cover, although Captain America is in a rather traditional pose.

The issue starts off in Rikers Island Maximum Security Penitentiary – the Raft – where Norman Osborn has recently escaped. I confess that I do not remember this from previous issues, but it’s not exactly a surprising thing.  Anyway, we are introduced to Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Daisy Johnson who has been specifically assigned (by Captain America) to root out the situation at The Raft.  Again, I know better, but I thought this was Maria Hill. Oops. Do all female S.H.I.E.L.D. agents look the same and have the same attitudes?

Meanwhile, the media has gathered outside of Avengers Mansion for an announcement by the Avengers regarding the roster of the team.  We see Captain America trying to recruit Black Panther, who turns him down but suggests that his wife (Storm) be included. Storm gets a full-page entrance, surrounded by the falling leaves of the back courtyard of the mansion. She should, I think, be given a nice entrance, but I find the odd “confetti” leaves a bit odd.  Tony Stark has a surprise, too.  He reintroduces The Vision – the robot of the old, old Avengers teams.  Everyone is surprised, but happy to see Vision.  But the best moment is when Vision sees Red Hulk; Red Hulk’s reaction to Vision is also funny.  It’s fun to see Red Hulk in these awkward moments. All of these frames, drawn out of doors in sunshine, make the comic have a lighter, brighter appeal to it. After all, Fear Itself (and plenty of other storylines) have been very dark and heavy. It’s nice to not be reading a comic taking place in a basement-bunker at night.

Victoria Hand is there to “liaison” and the team steps out in front of the media on a stage.  The frame with all of the Avengers there before the media is pretty standard – I feel like every so often we see some variant of this frame. It would actually be sort of interesting to collect and look at all the frames that have the Avengers on the stage before the media. Anyway, this one is done fine, nothing too remarkable about it.  However, guess who is in the crowd? None other than Norman Osborn!

Easter Egg:  Last frame – on the microphone the newsman holds out toward Norman Osborn are the letters CBR – presumably standing for Comic Book Resources (www.comicbookresources.com).

Overall, the issue is standard fare – nothing at all amazing to it. The art is clean and matches the story.  Acuna does draw a good Captain America. He also uses bold primary colors, which gives the issue a solid feel to it. The writing? Well, again, we’ll just have to see where Bendis is going to take this storyline.  However, on its own, there’s nothing remarkable that makes me know it’s Bendis as opposed to someone else.

3 stars

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Avengers (2010) # 7 – 9

In 2010, Marvel started a new several new Avengers titles, including The Avengers and New Avengers. This is some of the aftermath of Marvel’s several years of universe-wide events like World War Hulk, Civil War, Dark Reign, etc. I was rather excited about a new Avengers title for a number of reasons. First, the Avengers are Marvel’s “team.”  The Avengers represent the main core team of superheroes in the Marvel Universe and regardless of anything else that is going on, the Avengers have the history, the clout, and the job of being the driving force in the Marvel universe.  Second, I felt that Dark Reign and Siege struggled as major events and its a good feeling to come out on the other side with a new title starting from issue #1.  Marvel was touting it as “The Heroic Age,” but whatever one calls it – it feels like a step forward with some good direction.

The Avengers title is written by Brian Michael Bendis, who has been one of Marvel’s main architects for the last several years.  He is joined on the title by John Romita, jr. who is the son of famous John Romita, the comic book artist of Captain America and Spider-Man fame.  JRJR (as John Romita, jr. is often designated) is an artist who has worked on a variety of titles to include Iron Man, Thor, Amazing Spider-Man, and Daredevil.

After issue #3, I was ready to drop The Avengers from my pull list. At $3.99 per issue, it was making my forehead hurt way too much. I have no idea what the heck issues #1 – 6 are about. I think there is some time travel / alternate reality stuff going on. Kang the Conquerer is involved – and you know what that’s like! Sheesh! Anyway, I really hated the cover for #1, I really did not like the storyarc for #1 – 6.  But I kept it on my pull list. Like I said above:  this is The Avengers. In other words, you don’t just drop Avengers because of a bad arc or because you didn’t like the cover. If you want to be “in the know” in the Marvel Universe, you’re pulling at least one Avengers title.  In my world, the first six issues don’t really exist – or, they do, but only in the alternate future of Kang the Conquerer.  So, let us never speak of them again.

Avengers 7

Avengers #7 cover

The Avengers title starts off with issue #7.  The whole story starts with some criminal activity like murder and theft in some dark snowy place.  Who’s doing all this?  Looks like the ex-The Hood. You may remember him from Dark Reign or by his name, Parker Robbins. (I really don’t like this character’s names. He wore a red hood – which makes me always want to call him Red Hood Cp. DC’s Jason Todd. Also, Parker Robbins is like some amalgam of Peter Parker + Red Robin in my head. I wish The Hood was just called Bad Guy and his real name was Bob Smith.)  Most of the first issue is follows Robbins as he gathers two of the Infinity Gems. This is great, because I liked some of the cosmic Marvel stuff dealing with the Infinity Gems, particularly in the Infinity War, Crusade, Gauntlet.

So this loser criminal gets a hold of two Infinity Gems – the yellow and the red. One of the first things he happens to do with these gems is beat the hell out of Red Hulk. (Or Rulk if you prefer)  Anyway, in this issue there is a very charming centerfold piece of artwork showing Robbins in his hoodie, sneakers, and shorts socking Red Hulk directly in the eye. I like the way Red Hulk is drawn in this “frame” and it definitely gives a title like The Avengers a superhero feel to it. (What would an Avengers book be without someone punching a Hulk?) Don’t ask me who Red Hulk is – its a long story and I’m not certain I’m the one to tell it.

The last pages of the issue take place at the Avengers Tower in NYC. The Avengers team is having a get-together, including Spider-Woman, Noh-Varr, Thor, and many others. Red Hulk crashes the party – literally. He smashes in the window and lands on the floor in a mess. I like here how Thor takes such a leadership role by being one of the first heroes to react to the situation.

Avengers 8

Avengers #8 cover

Issue #8 has the tag “Return of the Illuminati” written on the cover, which is very cool because the sneaky and conflict-driven “Illuminati” has been one of the cooler, more interesting threads in the last several years of Marvel history.

Upon seeing the cover, I had no idea who the chick front and center is.  (But, boy doesn’t she have a lot of hair?!)  This issue begins with the members of the Illuminati gathering at the request of Iron Man. Most of the members are vexed because the group did not part happily previously.  We also learn that this is Medusa, wife of the deceased Black Bolt (former Illuminati member). This is good stuff and the dynamic between each of the characters is done well.  By way of explaining things to the members of the Illuminati, Iron Man tells us the story that Red Hulk brought to Avengers Tower regarding Robbins.

The problem is with JRJR’s drawing of Steve Rogers. Really. In one frame, I spent a few solid minutes trying to determine if I was looking at Steve Rogers or Noh-Varr.  I still have my doubts. Red Hulk is drawn very well. Professor X (one of the assembled Illuminati) looks a lot like DC’s Martain Manhunter – just without the green skin. I know Xavier uses his brain but I don’t think that means his forehead and brow need to look cro magnon.

Avengers 9

Avengers #9 cover

Issue #9 moves the storyline along by taking us back to Robbins in prison. We get some glimpses of how Robbins escaped, how he might be able to be collecting the Infinity Gems, and who might be working with him. In the present, we witness a confrontation between most of the major superheroes and the Illuminati.  Steve Rogers is really annoyed with Tony Stark. I have some problem with this because Steve takes the matter up with Tony, but honestly, the other Illuminati are as much to blame for the secrecy. After all, it’s not like Doctor Strange is just some tool that Tony uses.

The storyline is excellent. I am loving the Infinity Gems and Red Hulk and the Illuminati. However, again, I am really annoyed by the depiction of Steve Rogers. There are some frames where he looks out and out rotten. This simply does not look at all like any incarnation or rendering of Rogers. At all. Frankly, when I look at some frames, I see the main character from the anime Bleach, Ichigo Kurosaki.  The extreme youthfulness and the hair and even posture of Steve Rogers is not reasonable. And I really need JRJR to do better with this character. Medusa could be interesting, we’ll have to see. The writing for Thor is subtly good – once again he comes across as a wise leader. And Thor looks like Thor.

Ichigo

Ichigo

I give all of these issues 4 stars. The storyline is interesting and fun. Most of the artwork is great. I cannot, however, accept Ichigo as an Avenger.