Avengers Power Reviews #4

“New Nation” is right, as this month my Power Reviews are growing by leaps and bounds as the universe explodes!

New Avengers #47

Written by Brian Bendis
Pencils by Billy Tan and Michael Gaydos

If there is one thing that Brian Bendis does better then almost anybody in the business, it’s character pieces. Few people can tell a great moment these days without resorting to action, especially in super hero stories. And if there is another thing that he does better then almost anybody, it’s write Luke Cage. He turned a guy who was the Shaft of Marvel comics into someone fit to lead the Avengers in the wake of Captain America’s death. Under Bendis’s time with him, Luke has become an Avenger, a father, a husband, a leader, and all in all, a better man. And it all traces back to Alias, one of the finest books that Bendis has ever written, which means that this issue is made that much more special as it sees a return by Michael Gaydos to pencil the flashback scene.

The story of how Luke fell in love with Jessica.

The pretense, penciled by Billy Tan, is that it’s before Civil War when Danielle had just been born and Luke was still in the process of adjusting to being a father. Crying babies, changing diapers, Sweet Christmas! What is this thing and is it doing? Taking a suggestion from Jessica, he chooses to tell the baby a story, and after going through a list that felt very organic given their relationship, he chooses to tell the one of how he fell in love.

This is where Gaydos comes in as Luke Cage hires Jessica Jones to find his dad for him, who he hasn’t spoken to in years. We watch time move along as she searches, and when she finally finds out where he is it’s at a continuity setting moment during a somewhat infamous (if you read Bendis’s Daredevil) team up between Daredevil, Spider-Man, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage. We’re treated to a several fine character moments, and an understanding of how Cage’s father views him, and at the end of the story there’s this feeling of love and hope around the family.

Alas, it’s not to last as all who read Secret Invasion #8 know, and this issue extends on the scene of them discovering their missing child. The look of fear and loss on Luke’s face on the last page makes this book alone. It’s one of the few fantastic issues of this book, and it is entirely because of Bendis finally getting to do something he’s actually good at it. We’ve received promises that this thread is going to be wrapped up quickly, rather then drawn out to an ungodly length like most Marvel stories wind up, which is a good thing, because the fate of Danielle Cage is actually really wearing on my mind. More so then the real question Marvel wants me to ask “Who are the Dark Avengers?”…..don’t care, give me Luke and Jessica!

Mighty Avengers #20

Written by Brian Bendis
Pencils by Khoi Pham

People, the impossible has come to be. I have enjoyed Khoi Pham’s art in an issue of Mighty Avengers, and actually find myself looking forward to his art next issue. It was quite astonishing, and I wont complain. His style finally let go of some of the Yu-isms that had been driving me insane, and while it’s still sketchy, it’s much more solid then it was several months ago.

This issue is the funeral of the Wasp, as well as Hank Pym’s being reintroduced into society after the Skrull issue. Unfortunately for Hank, he has to come back and immediately face that the love of his life is dead, and that there is no good bye. There is answering questions, planning a funeral, thinking of a eulogy….and being filled in on the time that he missed. House of M, Civil War, just what the Skrulls did…..the death of Steve Rogers. The death of Jan. Hank got off the ship with hope in his eyes, thankful to be alive and have another chance. But in this issue the despair in his eyes is clear as day, and you can tell that there is no hope left in him. That without Jan, he doesn’t want to be alive.

The funeral features a lot of familiar faces, so many mourners you can’t count. Jan touched the lives of so many, but unfortunately, politics rear their ugly head. Norman Osborn appearing causes a small commotion between him and the unregistered heroes that are there, and Hank causes a scene when he goes off on Tony Stark and blaming him for all of this. For the Invasion, for the War, for Jan. Thor makes a timely intervention and takes Hank away, but the message is the same. Hank will not forgive Tony for this, never. And the world will never be the same.

Invincible Iron Man #8

Written by Matt Fraction
Pencils by Salvador Larocca

Tony Stark remains the most brilliant man alive after what he did in this issue. The new status quo hits us in full swing as we dive right into Tony’s life now that the Invasion is over, and beyond that we’re immediately treated to the exit of her former office by new supporting cast member Maria Hill. Maria and Tony have their last days together, both clearing out their offices and facing the shame and anger that come from not only the embarassing exits, but from the disdain their colleagues have for them (Maria faces leaving a place where everyone hated her, but where she was great her job, while Tony leaves as the man who everyone thinks sold out the Earth).

Norman makes some demands of Tony, namely access to the Superhuman Registration Database which houses the full information of every registered hero. Tony warns him that he wouldn’t even be able to access it anyway, as it’s highly classified and he would need countless warrants among other things just to access single ones. Needless to say, the conversation doesn’t really end well and Stark leaves to go and persue the next juncture of his life while Norman continues to seek the files. Upon finding them, however, we finally become aware of just what lengths Tony went to protect the identities of his friends and comrades, and the table is set for him to become the most wanted man in the world.

Larocca’s art was always hit or miss for me for a long, long time. And it’s nice to be able to say that he fits this book perfectly. And is it just me, or does his Tony channel some Robert Downey Jr.? Not complaining at all, but for once I’m reading an Iron Man book and all of the characters look the way I’ve always tried to envision. It’s nice.

All in all, this book is where the new status quo debuts, and it does so with a bang. Best issue of the series yet.

Avengers: The Initiative #19

Written by Dan Slott and Christos Gage
Pencils by Harvey Tolibao

This was it! The epic conclusion to the Secret Invasion as the Initiative and Kill Krew did all that they could to hold off the final Skrull assault, one that would enter the entire world into the Negative Zone. The last ditch effort in case all else fails. The new Kill Krew is branching off, and every group has one person that can see Skrulls. This leads to the usage of three severed heads of three former members, in what amounts to a humorous moment. Slott gets a half of a page to devote to the Great Lakes Initiative as well, complete with Tippey-Toe making a joke about Squirrel Girl and nudism.

The entirety of the issue was rushed in execution, and while I can see why it was, it could have stood for a few extra pages so that the story would have a chance to breathe. As it stands the issue is non-stop from beginning to end, and it takes a little while to absorb everything that happens over the course of it. Not really a complaint, but one of my few problems with the issue. That and the art, as I would have hoped that Casseli could have been the one to finish this off. His art has made the Initiative stand out since the beginning, and while I can understand he has new work on Secret Warriors, he was very missed in this issue. No offense to Tolibao, but it’s hard to replace someone that did the job so well.

The best part of this issue, in my eyes, was Crusader being the one to finally stop Skrullowjacket and save the Earth. I doubt many books will mention it, but despite the battle in New York, it was this issue that secured the safety of the Earth more then any other. And it was all stopped, in the end, by one Skrull standing up for Earth. Not to take away from the rest of the Initiative, however, as we got to see various teams fighting their invader with help from members of the new Kill Krew. While rushed, these scenes were fun and gave us a chance to see more of the landscape of the overall Initiative instead of the usual firm view of just the Camp Hammond team.

Thor #11

Written by J. Michael Strcyznski
Pencils by Oliver Coipel

Captain America has been dead for one year in the Marvel universe, and the world is still unsure what to say or even do about it. People are still arguing and debating, using his name and legacy to try and define their actions, but nobody seems to have it straight. What would Captain America do? Would he support this? Would he condemn that? Would he like the direction his country is taking? Would he support the new president? How would he feel about the Invasion? There is so much talk going on from all sides, but how do you reach a decision when the person you’re talking about is resting peacefully in his coffin somewhere in the arctic? And most importantly, isn’t this a Thor review?

This issue proved to us that God’s can die on Earth, as two get into a drunken brawl and one actually slays the other. Baldar casts his judgement as the new Prince of Asgard, and Loki continues her machinations as they come to terms with their vulnerabilities and lay a comrade to rest, preparing his journey to Valhalla. It’s a very interesting side story that has a good matching tone with the true highlight of the issue.

And by highlight, I don’t mean the art of Oliver Coipel which is gorgeous as usual. I’ve been a huge fan of his work since I first saw him on Legion with Abnett and Lanning, and I’ve followed him as well as I can since. He was the best part about House of M, and with this book? He’s not the best part, he’s just another fantastic cog in the machine that is Thor.

The true highlight of this issue? Thor finally decides to say goodbye to his most important comrade, the one warrior who he’s grown to respect more then all others. A warrior cut down doing what he thought was best at a time when Thor was unable to stand at his side. That’s right, Thor visits the public memorial grave of Steven Grant Rogers. The grave of Captain America. It’s not just your standard talking to the memorial though, no, that would be too normal…too human for a God like him. No, Thor actually raises the spirit of Steve Rogers from heaven and speaks to him for several pages, having his final conversation with his most respected comrade in one of the most moving moments I’ve seen in a Marvel comic in years.

Secret Invasion: Dark Reign

Written by Brian Bendis
Pencils by Alex Maleev

You have got to be fucking kidding me. This is the big deal? This?! Yes, and evil Illuminati is a cool idea. Yes, Norman Osborn is made out of awesome right now. And yes, no group of evil can be missing Doom. But at the same time, no. No, the Hood is not a whiny little bitch who pulls his guns out at someone the caliber of Dr. Doom, Parker isn’t that stupid. No, the White Queen is not some sympathetic point of view character that we can feel sorry for, she’s a cold hearted bitch who has lost a lot, but even beyond that there’s one key thing…..SHE’S A GOOD GUY! And beyond that, no, Namor is NOT a fat old balding man! Just like he’s not about to be trying to pick up a broad at a super secret meeting!

The premise is fine, but the story telling is contrived. Emma and Parker feel completely forced into their roles, while Doom comes across as much more submissive then the despot should ever be allowed to. Yes, it’s the Norman show, and yes, Norman is the most powerful man in the Marvel Universe right now, but Doom is fucking Doom! He’s killed people for touching his cape! He’s not going to stand by and let Norman order him around and do him favors.

The best part of the issue comes near the end when we see Namor and Doom share a moment of solitude after the meeting, as they discuss what two men of their stature, who know each other as well as they do, would do in this situation. They form their own cabal within the cabal, and is by far the most natural feeling part of the issue.

The art is downright hideous. There, I said it. I love Alex Maleev, but I have to believe that this was someone else mimicking his style, or that he broke his hand or something. This is just horrible. Only Doom comes across consistently on target, with Norman doing pretty well even if I couldn’t recognize him at first. His Loki, at times, came across as a man with a pair of double D’s. I wish I was making that up. Emma was nice, but for some reason just kept seeming too innocent for the situation, and at times her looks even seemed childish.

Namor, however, was absolutely horrible. If there was any sort of research done for this character, it must have been to some time he drew Bendis. No offense to Bendis, but this image, at closer inspection, looks like a fat, old version of the writer. This would have been a funny little easter egg if A) it was intentional or B) it wasn’t done for such a main character. It was as if at no point in his life had Maleev ever seen Namor before, which is hard to believe as just a few years ago in the original Illuminati one shot he did a rather good job. So what the hell happened?

This issue just felt like a waste of time and money, as while it did set up the new status quo, there was no need to devote an entire issue to this worthless conversation. And worse yet, it felt like at least the third of the book was just preview for upcoming books, which brings me to my next review.

Dark Reign: New Nation

I got this book thinking “Cool, previews so I can see which books I’m picking up based on actual content”. Then I pickled it up and found three of the nine page stories that I had already read the first three pages of in the previous weeks Dark Reign one shot. That’s right, to pad out a horrible book they actually spoiled this book. Good job!

That said, it’s not a bad book by any means. It’s just everywhere, and that hurts it. With so many books being launched with previews from here, it becomes hard to get a firm grasp on any of the stories before they just seem to end with a buy the book credit. A few of the stories just give you a brief lead in, without really doing too much so as to not take away from the first issue (Secret Warriors and Ronin and Mockingbird), while the others each just try to push a story out.

The best of these stories, in other words, the ones I’m actually going to buy, are: Secret Warriors, Ronin and Mockingbird, and Skrull Kill Krew. Yeah, that’s; right, Ryder is back! And he kills himself some Skrulls in cow form! It’s a new writer taking the reigns, and he does a pretty damn good job. It’s only nine pages, but damn is it fun! Secret Warriors is exactly what I was expecting, and if you read what Bendis did with them in Avengers it seems like it’s going to be more of the same. But hey, monthly Nick Fury, FTW. Finally, Ronin and Mockingbird. I actually thought this was pretty fun, and it provided exactly what I wanted for this book. A preview of the writing and art that I actually enjoyed. Awesome.

So what about War Machine and Agents of Atlas? Well, no offense to War Machine because from what I read it seemed pretty cool, and I actually do really like the premise. It’s just not my kind of book. While I think a proactive super hero who goes after all the people that most just ignore is a brilliant idea, I just can’t really feel reading something like that at this current moment. Agents of Atlas, however, completely fucking lost me. Apparently if you’ve never read the lead in mini, you’re not going to have a God damn clue what’s going on in this series because there is absolutely no rhyme or reason to the actions to someone like me who never read it.

So the end verdict on it? It’s not bad by any means, as the good outweighs the bad, but it does suffer from the fact that three of the better stories have already been partially (one third) spoiled in other books. While others (Agents of Atlas) just don’t feel complete or even accessible. If you get it, you’ll probably find something you like, but if you don’t, you wont miss a damn thing.

New Avengers #47: 10/10
Mighty Avengers #20: 7/10
Avengers: The Initiative #19: 8/10
Invincible Iron Man #8: 9/10
Captain America # : 9/10
Thor #11: 10/10
Thunderbolts #1 : 8/10
Secret Invasion: Dark Reign: 4/10
Dark Reign: New Nation: 5/10

A few long hand review were omitted, but rest assured, next time there wont be any slips or misses.

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