If you’re a fan of Earth’s Mightiest, then you’re in luck today. THREE Avengers team books hit the racks in the form of Dark Avengers, New Avengers, and Avengers: The Initiative. As we discussed last time, each book has its own special flavor. However, the stories this week are particularly emblematic of the disparate approaches.
Possible Spoilers, though not severe . . .
Dark Avengers #8: This extremely critical chapter in the “Utopia” event comes packed with some great twists and turns. There’s a lot of payoff here for a lot of questions that were raised in the past several months. Technically, there’s less Dark Avengers here than there is of their crossover mates, the X-Men, but it’s a fun time.
New Avengers #56: One thing that I realized with this week’s issue is how effectively Brian Michael Bendis has shaped the army of villains under The Hood into potent adversaries for the “regular” Avengers. It really recalls the Masters of Evil line-up from the classic “Siege” storyline,and the fact that the super-villains have a plan and some coordination is actually quite refreshing.
Avengers: The Initiative #27: This is a rock-solid split issue. In the first part, Christos N. Gage takes noted nobody Johnny Guitar and really makes him shine. The second part focuses on the Battle of 42 (promised last issue), and delivers with action and sharp character moments. Bengal really emerges as a more interesting force here, and more Butterball is always good.
On a week like this, with all the cylinders firing, there’s a very good case to be made for several titles. If each one strikingly reflects a different mood or shading in the larger scope of super-hero narratives, then it makes for a fairly interesting family of books. Looking at things from a character level, I’d say that all three series found the time to do some decent work. Each issue had either a particular focus character, or managed to showcase someone in a compellingway. Those respective MVPs would be . . .
Dark Avengers: Cyclops: Wait, he’s not an Avenger! Say what you want: I have always liked Cyclops. And I love it when a writer gives Cyke his due. While I’ll give you that Captain America might be the best team leader in terms of inspiring confidence and spear-heading a charge, I’d say that Cyclops is the best strategist in the 616. He knows the powers and abilities of his people as well as they do, and he tends to think five moves ahead. Cap might be handed a steaming pile and give you victory; Cyclops knew what he was going to do about it ten minutes ago. This issue comes off as a satisfying read for fans, thanks to Fraction, and Cyclops is most of why.
New Avengers: Mockingbird: That’s right, Jim McCann; Brian’s looking at your girl. Bendis really gets inside Mockingbird’s head for the opening fight scene, and that lifts it above “outmatched hero takes on more powerful villains” scenarios that we frequently see. I’d frankly like to see more of this shifting-narrator introspection from Bendis, as I found it really interesting. There are also some telling clues dished out in her perception of Clint/Ronin’sreaction to the Harrow device.
Avengers: The Initiative: Johnny Guitar: Low-level Dazzler villain Johnny Guitar gets a big moment as he prepares to fight for 42. This is a goofy loser of a character, but Gage forces you to identity and empathize with him in a few short pages. The sharply observed moments here are almost matched by Butterball, the perpetual optimists whose illusions are slowly being shattered.
So, as a run-down of this week’s avenging . . .
Best Moment? Pages 25-27 of Dark Avengers. Enormously satisfying on several levels.
Weakest Moment? Perennial candy-ass The Sentry on New Avengers page 19. This guy hits the ground more than rain.Characters to Watch? Bengal, Tigra, Mockingbird, and Danielle Moonstar.
Continuity Question? When do “Utopia” and the New Avengers issue happen in relation to one another?
Follow-Up: Last time, I speculated on the possibilities for a post-Dark Reign set-up for the various titles. We’ve heard the rumblings of the “big three” returning; I’m guessing they would helm the “New Avengers” space while Hank kept his “Mighty” team. Of course, that could be wrong. I could still see a post-Norman “Dark Avengers” team of Ronin, Mockingbird, Wolverine, Luke Cage, and a couple of other characters. I also wouldn’t be surprised by a post-DR flip in Initiative where Gauntlet, Tirgra, the New Warriors, etc. come back under the government umbrella and are tasked with hunting down the various villains that were employed in the various states. Any idle thoughts from you on the direction of the franchise, readers?Exclusive artwork is from Avengers: The Initiative #28, out next month!