New Avengers #51New Avengers #51
From: Marvel Comics
Written by: Brian Bendis
Art by: Billy Tan and Chris Bachalo
As the dust settles from the events of last issue Brian Bendis takes a decidedly different route on his latest arc in New Avengers, and just in the nick of time. Don’t get me wrong I have been thoroughly enjoying what Bendis has been doing with this particular set of Avengers, but due to the nature of events like Secret Invasion and Civil War it has been a while since the New Avengers have actually taken on a mission of the superhero variety and while the main plotline is a set-up for Doctor Strange’s story, the real moment of this issue is a stunning revelation that may seem familiar but works perfectly in the parameters of what Bendis is trying to establish within this group of Avengers, trust someone.
Picking up on threads left over from a multitude of events Bendis jumps immediately into the story which mainly focuses on Dr. Strange’s search for the new Sorcerer Supreme. As most readers will remember not only was Dr. Strange ineffective against the Scarlet Witch when she disassembled the Avengers but he was also forced to release a mystic demon, Zom, when the Hulk declared world war. Throw in the fact that he all but disappeared during a secret invasion and it becomes understandable why the good doctor has lost his mojo as well as his mantle as Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme. Using his trademark exposition Bendis does a good job of not only reminding the reader of the Doctor’s current shortcomings but also his feeling of doom as to who may in fact be the current Sorcerer Supreme. Meanwhile the Avengers begin to form a bond but there is one problem with their team, secret identities.
Bendis is smart to utilize the doubt and fear brought about by Civil War and Secret Invasion to address the elephant in the room that is Spider-Man’s secret identity as it adds a nice layer of intrigue to the moment of “will he” or “won’t he”. By using a little logic and a lot of balls Bendis gives the Avengers and readers the answer in one startling panel that was completely unexpected but made perfect sense in the context of the story. I have to admit I forgot how long it has been since the New Avengers have been on a real mission and seeing them finally moving forward not only as individuals but as a team was a nice surprise.
I’m sure there will be some readers who will be completely unaffected by the moment, but for me it really shows how far the New Avengers have grown as a team and the respect they have for each other. Not only that it allows Bendis some time to flex his writing muscles by basically recreating a scene that took place during Civil War with even better comedic effect thanks to a little deja-vu. With the New Avengers finally a team and their leadership in place the Avengers newest missions falls quite literally into their laps, but at least it does come in the form of one of their own.
Billy Tan and Chris Bachalo handle the art chores with varying degrees of success. On the team art, Tan continues to have some problems with anatomy and has a tendency to make Ronin/Clint look almost Hulk-like in the upper body. Shortcoming aside Tan is really becoming a master of emotive expression. The conversation between the Avengers works well mainly due to Tan’s growing skills in portraying emotion and his Bagley-inspired layouts allow his art to really stand out and help to sell the story. Not only do Tan’s layout make the conversation feel natural as the scenes flow together in a believable manner which really helps to ground the story.
Chris Bachalo handles the art chores on the mystical aspects of this issue and does a solid job of capturing the mystic aspects of his scenes. The main problem I have with Bachalo’s art is the complete lack of expression. His Doctor Strange comes across as bored and uninterested as does his companion from the Young Avengers, Billy “Wiccan” Kaplan. This proves to be a minor problem as the majority of Bachalo’s pages are one long conversation and the lack of any emotion distracted from the overall seriousness of Dr. Strange’s conversation. Yet that is all but forgotten when one goes back and looks at the imaginative way in which he renders one of Strange’s oldest adversaries the Dreaded Dormammu.
After the multitude of events that basically had them spinning in place and never really forming a workable team dynamic it’s nice to see Bendis address the issue. I especially enjoy how this issue really is a natural story extension of events that have taken place in the Marvel Universe over the last few years as it adds another layer of cohesion to the story and anchors it firmly into established continuity. Plus Doctor Strange is back, who doesn’t want that?