The Avengers #14
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson, and Dean White
This issue was doomed from the first page, where I turned from the credits to talking heads as drawn by Romita. After last issue being so damn beautiful, and with Chris Bachalo doing an insane amount of justice to the title and making it just that much better…this is a jarring, jarring shift. The story of the issue isn’t bad, but the art hurts. A lot. Especially the women.
The talking heads approach used last issue carries over here with Avengers talking in documentary mode for the Oral History of the Avengers, though the timeline locks itself in the present by the bottom of the first page. The issue boils down quickly to being about two characters; Red Hulk and The Thing. Now, this is a Fear Itself tie in, so one of those guys is wielding a hammer, and the other is getting the tar beaten out of him with it. The fight is most of the issue, but that will be he focus of the next paragraph. For now I want to talk about the talking heads and how it’s everyone saying how they accept the Red Hulk for whatever reason, but how nobody really trusts him. This shouldn’t even require discussion, up until he joined the Avengers he was a monster. A Jeph Loeb written monster. Throughout the issue they go from that to, well, thoughts and opinions change due to epic battles.
The fight is actually pretty epic, despite how painfully short it is. It’s also the only halfway decent looking part of the book. It’s pretty straight forward, Rulk is giving his all to try and bring down Thing, but that hammer is a mountain to climb all its own. Rulk gets some nice characterization through this, with both his inability to surrender as well as how quick he rushes into danger in an effort to save others. The fight is his heroes journey, and given that I’m not a huge fan of the character…it works just as well as it doesn’t at all. There are nice moments, but they feel a little bit forced together to put the character over in short order.
Romita’s art is painful for this issue, and I just don’t get why he’s here. Bachalo gets a three part arc, but it’s really just two issues with Romita doing the fight scene in the middle? I understand that he does great action, especially with Hulk, and hell, the action in this issue could very well be how they rationalize the move. The action and the scope of the destruction are very well handled, and those are the signs of Romita’s veteran talents. However, the talking heads that open this issue…when did he forget how to draw women? Why does Spider-Woman look like a mannequin in a weird costume? Why does Carol look slowly look more and more like she’s propositioning a guy at last call? Let’s jump to the men; I couldn’t tell Noh-Varr wasn’t Quicksilver until I realized Pietro wouldn’t grow a goatee. The character work on the Worthy redesign of Thing is inspired at times and painfully lazy at others; especially the perceived emotion, or lack thereof, that he gives us.
So maybe I spoke too soon in dooming this particular issue. It’s not great by any means, and Romita’s art doesn’t do it a lot of favors…but it doesn’t kill it either. Yes, I’d much rather see Chris Bachalo handle this title, especially at the point of “I don’t think this looks good at all” that I’ve reached. Only the men and action look decent. On the point of the issue though, it felt a little forced to try and give Rulk a hard face turn in the eyes of his teammates in one issue, but I’d really like to see any other character take the beating he does at the sheer scope Bendis presents us. One thing he does much better than Fraction, to be honest and candid, is something major does get destroyed in this issue and it stands out as more important than super terrorists attacking DC. Why? Because characters help us feel the damage and devastation through their thoughts, their emotions. It feels bigger despite being so much smaller.
The issue isn’t perfect, but it’s readable. Nice big action fight scene, almost cover to cover. The art is hurting the score, which honestly would be in the nine range if it just looked better.
Tags: Brian Michael Bendis, Fear Itself, john romita jr, Reviews, The Avengers