Friday, August 17, 2007

REVIEW :: New Avengers (Current Series)

written by Brian Michael Bendis
art by a ton of different guys

I've never been a fan of the Avengers. When I was a kid, it always seemed like the dumbest excuse for a bunch of guys in capes to get together and fight, usually against each other. I mean really--what the heck do Thor and the Hulk have in common with Captain America and Iron Man? Plus the constant lineup changes were too hard to keep up with, especially since most of my comics came from yard sales, which meant that two consecutive issues of anything was pretty rare.

So anyway, I don't like the Avengers.

However, having been away for a while, and wanting to kind of get back into the mix of things, I recently read Civil War. While it was kinda good in places, it mainly seemed like a lot of speeches and not a lot of resolution. But it was good enough to make me go back and read The Avengers, just to see how all this is affecting the giant jumble that is the Marvel Universe. I went all the way back to issue 1 (of the current volume, mind you), and read the series up to the current issue (#33).

I have to say, I have thoroughly enjoyed it. Brian Bendis has somehow made the Avengers interesting to me; even Captain America, who--let's face it--is most of the time little more than a walking USA poster. By breaking them down and rebuilding them, Bendis lets you skip that annoying 45 years of back-story, and get right to the action. And with his dialogue-heavy style, Bendis makes the team breathe, even in the middle of the most-action heavy parts. Spider-Man, in particular, is probably the most surprisingly awesome addition to the regular Avengers lineup: the constant wise-cracking is great, breaking up often pretty dire dramatic scenes. I especially have enjoyed counting the number of times Spider-Man enters a scene from the top of a panel, usually upside-down, to say hello or otherwise introduce himself. I'm not as sure about Wolverine--he's useful in the "do you smell that?" parts, but otherwise the whole story for me is the interaction between Spidey, Luke Cage, and Cap. Oh! Except for the weird Spiderwoman/spy side-story, which sounded pretty bogus at the beginning, but now is turning into one of my favorite parts of the story. Although with all these jobs, working for all these shadowy agencies, she should be able to finance things herself without any old Iron Man's help, right?

Now, there are a couple of downsides: firstly, this book is ridiculously continuity heavy. You have to expect that with these A-list characters, but since I'm not reading Spider-Man or Captain America, I miss a lot of stuff. Par for the course with a lot of mainstream comics, but still annoying sometimes. Also: I don't know about this whole Skrull storyline that just started. On the off chance that you're the only other person reading this who's never read these books before, I won't say too much, but it sounds pretty weird so far. Not to mention the whole "...and then we woke up and everything had been a dream" ramification of this, meaning that anyone that might have been dead might come back now (Why, the dead guy was a Skrull along. Whew!), or annoying characters or plotlines can just go away (Oh, when Iron Man was being such a jerk, that was the Skrull Iron Man. Good thing, too.). On the other hand, Brian Michael Bendis is a super-popular writer for a reason, so the optimist in me wants to believe he can land this plane.

Last thing: the art! Man, it's good. Leinil Yu, Jim Cheung, Oliver Coipel, David Finch--the art never disappoints. Leinil Yu drawing Dr Strange is just too cool for school, and everything that Oliver Coipel draws looks good. All in all, even for an indie guy like me, I'm digging Avengers; at the end of the day, well-written action is still fun as heck to read, especially when it's as good-looking as this book has been. I'm out!


Rusty Baily said...

I most certainly agree Dustin! I've been on the Avengers bandwagon since the beginning of the new series! Mostly because o my homie Luke Cage, but how could you not like this book? It's got the baddest of the bad..Spiderman, Wolverine, Strange, and this weird Ronin cat. For someone who never ONCE picked up an Avengers book back in the day(which, BTW was a Thursday)I LOVE THIS BOOK! And the Leinil Yu art is absolutely stupendous!!!!!!!!!!! I had never really heard of him before this, except for Silent Dragon(which was a mediocre story but again, fantastic art!) So I checked out some of his other stuff, and I have to say that his book High Roads is now one of my favorite books. Just a lot of fun-kinda had a Star Wars feel to it-set in WWII era.
But back to New Avengers-it is written SO well. Never been a huge Bendis fan, but he writes the dialogue perfectly. The banter between Spidey and Cage is a riot and totally worth the read! Not to mention issue # 22 is probably my favorite comic EVER! I was practically standing and cheering at the end! If you're reading comics and not this title, you're cheating yourself! Can ya tell I like this book a bit? Thanks for the opporunity to chime in...I'll shut up now!

Jason Wheatley said...

I love me some Leinil Yu art - I've been a fan ever since he broke in on Wolverine back in the day. But Dustin, you are remiss not to mention the other stupendous artist who pitched in an arc of this book - Steve McNiven. Man, that guy could draw Marvel heroes reading the phone book, and I'd buy it.

Dustin Harbin said...

That is SO true, Jason--you COULD sit and watch someone read a phone book. But you would talk the whole time. Haw! I kid!

Shawn Reynolds said...

Oh, zing!