Avengers #501 Review

Reviewer: Tim Stevens
Story Title: Chaos Part 2 of 4

Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencilled by: David Finch
Inked by: Danny Miki
Colored by: Frank D’Armata
Lettered by: RS & Comicraft’s Albert Deschesne
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics

“¦CAPTAIN AMERICA?!?!

Nah, I’m just playing with you. Wouldn’t that be something though?

There’s a lot of weight to this review I feel, a bit of baggage if you will. So, with your indulgence, I would like to address that right out of the gate.

Yes, back on the old site, Jesse Baker savaged #500. He took it out behind the woodshed, beat it like a redhead stepchild, blew off its kneecaps, beat it just a bit more, and then tossed it into the chipper. If you are looking for more of the same, you are looking in the wrong place. I don’t write reviews that way, I don’t think I could if I tried. If it works for Jesse, good for him. It will never work for me. I only offer this up to make it clear that this review is neither an attempt to rebuke Jesse’s comments nor to confirm them. The Avengers review certainly made the rounds on the net so most of you probably have some opinion on it, and many of you may have an opinion of the site based on it as well. Leave it at the door. We reviewers speak only for ourselves. Please bear that in mind.

Alright, now that that disclaimer is out of the way, let’s get to it.

Avengers #501 represents a jarring change of pace from last issue. As you probably remember, #500 unfolded in a manner befitting of the storyline title, Chaos. Anything and everything was happening all at once. It was almost wall to wall action, most of it quite brutal. This issue, however, is nearly all dialogue. Now Bendis does the talking heads approach better than anyone these days, for my money, so it is not necessarily a poor choice. It was just, coming on the heels of 500 and my own impressions of where this storyline was headed, it caught me very much unaware.

However, after reading it again with my perspective adjusted, I would have to say that this ranks on the low end of Bendis’s work. Don’t worry, I’m not talking Elektra or Daredevil: Ninja here, but it just is not up to par.

And that is part of the problem. I am a big Bendis fan and therefore own or have at least read pretty much every damn thing he’s done. So, when I evaluate him, he is actually competing against all his prior work. Not fair, most likely, but I am smart enough to know that is what I am doing. Sadly, I am not smart enough to stop it.

The other bias I have here is prior Avengers stories. This, as I have surmised from surfing the net, is a pretty big problem for a lot of people. For me, not so much. However, there are still moments, missteps if you will, that get under my skin.

There is no better example of these two phenomenons (Bendis comparison, Avengers comparison) colliding is the Hank Pym’s bedside monologue to the prone Wasp. First, it is WAY melodramatic. All words, no heart. Secondly, it is a wildly inaccurate expression of the current (or prior to Austen’s work, anyway”¦I didn’t read so I can’t say it comes into play here) relationship over the past 8 years. What should be a scene fully in Bendis’s wheelhouse falls apart because of it.

What makes it all the more maddening is that there are some good moments here and Bendis does often demonstrate a knowledge of recent and long distance continuity. He makes use of She-Hulk’s issues from Johns’s recent stint and references Hawkeye’s issues with alcoholics. Falcon has a great throw away line about the Avengers’ history with recruiting Hulks, the gathering at last page is powerful (and looks great). There good pieces here, there truly are.

Perhaps none of them are as good as the art. Finch, Miki, and D’ Armata deserve all the praise I can shower them with, and more. Truly an outstanding job.

Two issues in and I still feel like Bendis hasn’t found his groove. For every moment he nails, there is one that fails. Yet, for every flub, there is something that gives me hope. “Chaos” is proving to be very chaotic indeed.

The Final Word: Much to recommend, much to find fault with. My fingers remain crossed.

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