Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Chris Bachalo
It’s astonishing how much better Avengers reads when someone other than Romita is on art. Seriously, I hate that I’ve made a habit of bashing one of my favorite artists, but his work on this title has been horrendous. So what do we call this issue? A breath of fresh air, just like 13 was, a joy both to read and look at. On top of that, Bendis goes ahead and turns in a story that plays up to his strengths at a writer while still giving Chris Bachalo the ability to spread his wings and show off why he’s so good. So in other words, lots of Bendis-speech, and lots of awesome visuals. Sure, I usually like to build up to this kind of a sell in a review, but I figured I’d just open up with “This book is awesome and you should read it”, and then if you want to run out and get a copy and read it, come back and read the rest so that you can stay surprised.
Throughout this arc Bendis has been taking advantage of talking heads panels, initially to put over his history of the Avengers, but moving it forward in this issue to have the characters put over their own struggles as well as to emphasize their own beliefs on the situation at hand. The struggles primary being Spider-Woman’s almost obsessive need to have a single defining heroic moment of redemption. You know, that one act of heroism that makes everyone forget all the bad you’ve done or been associated with. That impossible act that happens once or twice in a generation, but even then is only worth so much. Through the talking heads, the reality show confessional portions of the book, we are witness to Jessica talking about how she wants to do it, Ms. Marvel explaining the impossible nature of it, Hawkeye fawning over her, and Wolverine talking about how it takes the actions of a full lifetime. There’s some great Spider-Woman character moments here, and I honestly wouldn’t expect anything less from Bendis who always seems to bring out his A game when he’s working with his pet projects (Spider-Woman, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, etc.).
Now, that’s the struggles portion, the situation is that Steve Rogers is sending out teams of Avengers towards the hammer drops without knowledge of what he’s sending the people into. Thus a woefully undermanned team of Ms. Marvel, Spider-Woman, Hawkeye, and the Protector wind up fighting a hammer wielding Hulk. This is a team you wouldn’t send to fight a rampaging angry Hulk, but they wind up fighting one with a Thor hammer. What follows are some intense signs of bravery, great action, and one of the best paced Hulk fights I’ve seen in ages. As the two core elements of the issue tie together, we’re treated to Spider-Woman trying to solo the Hulk…with a Hammer, and while there are some definite fan moments at work on the part of Bendis, the fight is pretty clever. On top of that, there’s the obvious controlled chaos which goes over great, with little things like Protector being knocked out for most of the fight in the first page of it. Then you’ve got them all trying to get civilians out of the line of fire, which is nicely handled.
Bachalo’s art is far and away the best part of the issue, and that’s saying a fair amount as this was far and away one of the better scripts he’s turned in. Bachalo does far better face work than Romita, and with the talking heads approach of the issue it makes it really easy on the eyes. Especially when two of the main characters with screen time are females, and outside of Bachalo’s issues….the women have not looked so hot. This means that the women in this issue don’t have anorexic cheek bones, or big pointy jaws. They also don’t have the ‘super model’ body type, as Bachalo makes them look…well, like people. I want to go on a rant about how he needs to be on this book full time, but he’s getting an X book after Schism, so I can’t really complain. He’s one of those special artists that anybody is lucky to have attached to their book, he brings so much to the table and seems more than capable of acing his deadlines. And did I mention the splash pages? I probably didn’t, but WOW! The man has an uncanny knack for attention to detail, and I can’t give enough credit for how great it looks. Also a huge amount of kudos to the small army of inkers that made this issue happen, because if not for the list of last names in the opening credits I would have thought one person handled the entire issue.
So I’ve already told you that this issue is great, and that you should buy it, and that Chris Bachalo deserves monthly titles. What else can I say? Well, how about that I could actually buy the fight with the Hulk as conceivable, despite early Spider-Woman fan service? Or how much better Hawkeye is when he’s actually getting page time, not to mention that Bendis is a complete natural with the character when he’s being classic Hawkeye and not the moody Ronin? Pre-spoiled love is in the air, but given the nature of the encounter one could raise quite a few questions…which I’ll save for an upcoming spoiler post on this. Oh, and Spider-Man shows up to randomly make a few jokes, because why not!
I’m actually confused about what’s next in this title, as the back page has an Alan Davis cover featuring Steve Rogers (not as Cap), Sharon Carter, and Maria Hill fighting Master Man, but the solicits feature the already mentioned pre-spoiled love in the air with its cover and promises to remain a Fear Itself tie, while the one in the back of the book seems completely different. There’s no Annual coming up, no .1 issue. Did Alan Davis do two covers for the same issue? Are they 50/50 so I can take my choice? These are things I want to know!
Like whether or not the next issue is part of Fear Itself!
Tags: Brian Michael Bendis, Chris Bachalo, Fear Itself, Hawkeye, Ms. Marvel, Reviews, spider-woman, The Avengers, The Hulk