Fear Itself Review: Avengers #16 By Brian Michael Bendis

Avengers #16

Written by Brian Michael Bendis

Art by John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson, and Paul Mounts

 

 

I don’t know why it is, but somehow despite my overwhelming dislike of Fear Itself, and the amount of hating I did on the Bendis written Avengers titles before it, but somehow when you combine the two I find myself enjoying the results. Maybe it’s the format, as Bendis has maintained a standard interview/documentary approach to narrating the story across both Avengers and New Avengers since the start of the event. Or maybe he just finally got into his groove with the titles. Either way, it’s about time that something clicked here, as a year of mediocre to bad Avengers was painful.

 

The story is about Steve Rogers, and to be honest, it’s the first story about Steve that actually has him reacting to the death of his friend and former partner, James “Bucky” Barnes. Intel has come in that Sin, the new Red Skull, has holed up in a Swedish castle, and since she killed Buck, Steve decided to personally lead a team in there. Not wanting to give away what his intents were, he also made it a point to not send in front line style backup. Anyone engaged elsewhere on the map wasn’t pulled back, there was no attention drawn to his actions…it was sound strategy. At the same time, it means that Steve is going in with a team consisting of Sharon Carter, Maria Hill, and Victoria Hand. Yes, Victoria Hand, Osborn’s former good right hand, liaison to the New Avengers, and in the words of Maria Hill “a glorified accountant”. What follows is a rather well executed attempted break in, with some decent twists and turns along the way. Some classic members of Steve’s rogues gallery appear, and the way they are dealt with is pretty cool.

 

I said before that the story is framed with the same interview esque documentary recordings that have been the norm across Bendis’s Avengers titles throughout Fear Itself, and just like in the previous issues, they work here. The issue opens with various Avengers from different eras discussing how Steve is more intune with the country than anyone, how he does more than just wear the flag…how he is America and America is him. With any other character, or plot, or explanation…this might come across a bit heavy handed, but as the opening two pages of set up for the issue, painting Steve’s mood and mindset as one with America, and then finally bringing Buck into the equation. From there on out Maria Hill takes on the duties of narrator. Her voice is an interesting one, not to mention one that hasn’t been used nearly enough during this book up until now. She explains why things happen, the mindset put into preparations, and even criticizes Steve’s decisions and offers up her own; but one thing she doesn’t do is question him to his face. It’s subtle, but it’s powerful, the woman who second guessed everything Tony Stark ever said has faith in Steve Rogers.

 

The conflict of the issue is somewhat obvious, after all, Sin is not going to be defeated in a tie-in issue of Avengers, her fall will have to happen in Fear Itself as she is too major of a character. Not to mention that the Master Man conflict on the cover spoils his appearance in the issue, but it doesn’t ruin it. The conflict is well put together with the teams of Steve and Sharon and then Maria and Victoria working well together. There’s some cool shield usage, and everyone gets a nice little moment, even the special guest who pops up in the end.

 

I don’t know if I’ve just gotten numb to Romita’s art, or if maybe it genuinely has improved, but I really liked this issue. I mean, Spider-Woman’s face was still pretty horrible, but the ladies who get actual page time all look much better than the women I’ve seen him draw since this book launched. Steve looks great, as do the villains. Maria looks leaps and bounds better in this issue than she did in the initial arc of the book, which means a lot since as our narrator she gets a lot of page time. The action looks great, there’s a lot of attention to detail, and it just looks smoother and cleaner than earlier issues. Like I said, maybe it’s a general improvement in the style, maybe I’ve just gotten used to it, or heck, maybe Klaus Janson changed his inking style, or it could even be the inclusion of Paul Mounts as colorist. Something about this issue just looks better than I’ve gotten used to on the Romita issues of this book, and I like it.

 

One thing I have to give major props to Bendis for doing in this issue is actually having Steve react to Bucky’s death. It’s not spoken much throughout the issue, but everything he does in this issue is for the sake of avenging Buck’s death. It’s one of the simplest and yet most in character renditions of Steve that we’ve seen during Fear Itself…hell, it was the best usage of any of Marvel’s big three in months (ignoring Brubaker’s new Captain America title). All in all it’s a really good self contained issue of Avengers, and I really hope that Bendis maintains the narration style he’s been using since Fear Itself began. It has been a really nice touch.

 

Overall?

7.5/10

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