Posted - March 4 to 8, 2012 | Updated : June 19, 2012 | August 16, 2015
New Avengers : Breakout
New Avengers would be the comic book that I would give to anyone who likes the superhero movies but aren't into comics. That's because the experience of reading New Avengers (Bendis/Finch issues) comes closest to having a movie experience than any comic I've ever read. Bendis' fluid, never-a-dull-moment plotting has something to do with it, but a lot of the credit goes to the art team headed by penciller David Finch, followed by colorist Frank D'Arnata plus Danny Miki on inks.
Let's take a closer look at why this art is so "cinematic". First of all, Finch does very detailed, very life-like art, being able to capture subtle facial expressions, every figure anatomically correct. Also, during key times, Finch pulls back and gives us a two-page or page-and-a-half spread. The changes from panoramic shots to close ups. Well, let's just say that I came back to the book after I read it just to stare at the panels. There's also the use of shadows. It's not noir. Actually, the term 'the use of shadows' isn't the correct term at all. That term would fit the art of Gene Colan or Frank Miller. This is more of a Jim Starlin type of thing - the use of black. That's right. The use of black. Finch and Miki use black to focus the scene on the dialogue - just like when a movie focuses us on the dialogue; coupled with the double spread shots, and D'Arnata's vibrant color, well, this is a movie on the comic book page.
The start of the story takes us to the Raft, a prison for superhumans. Already, the team that would become the New Avengers are beginning to gather. Luke Cage arrives with some others including Matthew Murdock. They are met by S.H.E.I.L.D. agent Jessica Drew. That's Power Man, Daredevil and Spider-Woman. Things start to go wrong as the Raft's security is compromised by an electrical attack. There is one page in particular, showing a New York blackout caused by the attack on the Raft, that is a standout : Four horizontal panels stacked on top of each other. The top panel is the New York skyline at night showing the lighted buildings of a city that never sleeps. The bottom, and fourth panel shows complete blackout, with the night sky suddenly showing up against the dark buildings. In between we are shown the transition from light to dark. It's just wonderfully composed. The actual attack on the Raft is a two page spread with D'Arnata's coloring taking center stage.
I'm quite surprised by this attack on the Raft. I never knew Electro was so powerful - he comes across as an electrical Magneto in this pages. Before the attach ends we are joined by two more heroes. two of Marvel's biggest, Captain America and Spider-Man. Look at this pair. The first is Marvel's biggest Golden Age hero; the second is Marvel's biggest Silver Age hero or biggest hero, period. Both descriptions are right for Spider-Man.
Back in the Raft, with nearly a hundred super-powered prisoners free and only five heroes so far, the situation goes from bad to worse. Seeing Spider-Man fall in a hold containing a lot of villains, including some members of his rogues gallery, and getting beaten up, well, the depiction is pretty graphic. It makes me angry to see Spider-Man getting humiliated by this. Later on, he is shown fighting back but these panels are nowhere near as intense as those showing him getting a beating.
There are two things happening here. On top of the Raft, Captain America and Spider-Man are both fighting a losing war of containment supported by S.H.E.I.L.D agents. Below, Cage, Drew and Murdock, find themselves encountering two very powerful villains in the dark bowels of the Raft : Carnage and Mr. Hyde.
With that, we have the introduction of the Sentry, the so-called "most powerful hero on Earth". I hate this guy. But he does turn the tide of the battle. Allowing heroes from above and below to meet up - with Iron Man being added to the roster.
Then we are shown the actual formation of the New Avengers. It's no surprise that Captain America is the catalyst for this new team - he was always the heart of the old one. Still, it's interesting to note that this is the first Avengers team in which Cap is a founding member. Contrary to what a lot of people expect, and contrary to the upcoming movie, Cap wasn't around when the first team was formed.
I enjoyed this very much because Cap gets to do the rounds of every hero that was there the night things turned violent in the Raft. The dialogue shows the different personalities behind each hero. I find it enjoyable to note that the two "spiders", Spider-Man and Spider-Woman get to be on the same team. Daredevil is also a potential recruit. Imagine that, Spider-Man and Daredevil, two of the great loners in the Bronze Age of comics - Avengers. How cool is that?
Of all the reasons for joining I like Luke Cage's the best : He wants his daughter to be able to say 'My Dad was an Avenger'. Yup, that's a very good reason.
This is a back to the basics Avengers team. No salaries, no government oversight and no mansion. I miss the Mansion and I don't like the Stark Tower, maybe because it was introduced in comics around 2005, the worst year of my life, or maybe because I live in a building and I'm sick of it. But, there we have it, the Avenger's new HQ - three stories including the penthouse.
There is a full body shot of Spider-Woman in costume that is worth the price of the book. I'm not kidding. It's so gorgeous I smile everytime I look at it. Luke Cage said it best : "Damn, girl!".
I guess the next gorgeous thing here is the Avenger's Quinjet. This comes as a surprise (together with the Stark Tower HQ), because Tony keeps saying he's not as financially well-off as he was. Well, the only conclusion I have is : Tony Stark's poverty definition would be my definition of winning the lottery.
We are all mature comic readers who appreciate this wonderfully entertaining craft that combines the power of story and art. That said. I have two words (or is it three?): Spider-Woman naked.
Yup. The Avengers are caught, stripped down, and hanged by the arms - including Jessica Drew.
That's pretty much the price of admission for me; I'd be happy if there was nothing else special but, the book will give me more value than I paid for it in the form of Iron Man's remote control armor.
See the New Avengers trapped by their foes? See there foes decide to kill them and dispose of their corpses? Hear Tony Stark give the command "assemble" to his inanimate armor? See his armor, form itself into a badass battle robot and proceed to give it to the bad guys?! Yup, this comic book moment is as good as it sounds.
Center stage for me in this issue is Iron Man's armor. This time the armor generates two different "fields" at key times of the issue. The first is a "polarizing" field which magnetized everything within range. Everything means all the weapons trained against the Avengers - and, yes, plus Wolverine. Next, we get to see the armor generate a repulsor field - a traditional force field that protects (though not perfectly) our heroes.
A major subplot is born as the Avengers uncover illicit doings from within S.H.I.E.L.D.. I like the way this subplot is being handled by Bendis. It's mysterious without being frustrating, it seems very elaborate and real and Bendis is unfolding it with a lot of confidence.
Thank you so much David Finch for New Avengers. It was a movie, it was a freakin' movie!
New Avengers : Sentry
I've always enjoyed the Illuminati, the self-proclaimed gathering of heroic leaders for purposes of coordinating the actions of all the major super-teams. Members are Dr. Strange (Defenders), Mr. Fantastic (Fantastic Four), Namor (Atlantis), Black Bolt (Inhumans), Iron Man (Avengers), Professor X (X-Men). T'Chala of Wakanda, the Black Panther, declined to join. The story starts with an Illuminati meeting. Dialogue is as interesting as ever but check out what Reed Richards is using, a sort of clunky version of the iPad circa 2005 complete with buttons and joysticks. Reed is surfing the web and querying his remote database with the thing. Ha!
As mentioned before, David Finch is no longer illustrating. But, wonderful news, the art does not suffer at all because we have the great Steve McNiven illustrating this arc. The excellence of the art is maintained, we just get a different art style. More happiness, Spider-Woman is as sexy under Steve's pen as she was under David's.
The story arc is about the Sentry . What really got my attention in is the New Avengers, sans Iron Man and Captain America, starting to go after the escapees from the Raft from the first story arc. First up is the Wrecker. You are going to be wowed by the Wrecker pretty much tossing around our heroes. Luke Cage, Wolverine, Spider-Man, all of them go flying. I was about to be astounded by the Wrecker's power until I remembered that this villain was created by Loki. Yup, power level is way up. It's just an enjoyable fight and is the centerpiece of the issue.
By the way, for the month this comic came out, July 2005, it was the number 2 best selling comic.
The fight against the Wrecker ends this issue with Spider-Woman the only one left standing. How Spider-Woman "handles" the Wrecker by coaxing his gentle side one moment and hitting him with his own crowbar the next has left me with my mouth hanging open. It's a real 'bad guys will get their ass handed to them' moment. Amazing fight from start to finish; and this is just one escaped villain. I hope we have more of this.
We really start to get into the Sentry plot in this issue. Nobody remembers this guy but he seems to have been a major hero. A lot of the story focuses on how the Sentry is a mental and emotional wreck. At one point, he is shown an old comicbook of his exploits. Quite delightful. Done in the Bronze Age style and illustrated by no less than Sal Buscema!
Before the issue ends, we are treated to a two-page splash showing the Avengers, the FF, the Inhumans, S.H.I.E.L.D. and Dr. Strange. It's amazing and serves to showcase just how good an artist Steve McNiven is.
This is a pretty harrowing issue. What was done to the Sentry by an unknown villain and Mastermind is the most disgusting, cruel deed I've ever seen done to a hero. Right after reading that I'm hoping that Sentry dishes out some major payback. What they did to him was erase him from history, from the memory of his friends, from everybody's memory really. It's beyond cruel. This is a very impactful crime that just focuses this issue.
Aside from this darkest of deeds, the standout this issue is the White Queen. Emma Frost demonstrates her power as a telepath. I love how Bendis and McNiven renders the inside of Bob Reynold's mind; particularly the long 'wall of screens' in a white background. Just really great to look at.
Most poignant and touching part of all is a sequence of panels showing a recording of the Sentry from the past. The word balloons nearly push out the pictures but the dialogue effectively conveys the hell in which the Sentry finds himself. After reading this segment I am more invested than ever to seeing a satisfying resolution to the Sentry dilemma.
The end of the Sentry story arc does not really resolve the Sentry's issues but it does give Bob Reynolds a starting point to - hopefully - kick the ass of the bastard who did this to him.
Emma Frost brings it home just in time to save our heroes from the devastating attack of the Void. The Void, is the dark half of the Sentry. The Sentry is the Void. I think that's brilliant. More than that it typifies the classic conceptualisation that each one of us is Janus-faced. Light and dark in one being. Just like that, the Sentry has deep psychological possibilities; I hope we find the writer who can exploit this.
We end the story with an unquiet peace - a shattered hero with the power of a thousand exploding suns.
New Avengers : Secrets & Lies
The story opens with a mysterious ninja-like warrior with a great looking costume and glowing green eyes. His identity is kept secret but based on Matt Murdock's and Steve Roger's conversation later on in the story I think this 'ninja' is none other than Daredevil. He's in disguise to do some work for the New Avengers without "staining" the Avenger's name with all the black propaganda surrounding Hell's Kitchen's favorite hero.
By the way, David Finch is back doing he art. Thank you for the fill-in Mr. McNiven.
Japan looks like the Japan I see on TV and I love the silent panels showing the 'ninja' warrior sneaking into a secret meeting between the Hand and the Silver Samurai.
Of course Tony Stark has his own building in Japan.
Oh shit, this issue ends with our enigmatic ninja full of shuriken hits!
I love what Bendis does here. He goes back to a sequence of events from the past. In that sequence Bendis had us look in from the point of view of the mysterious Ronin as he spied on the Silver Samurai and Viper. This time we are shown the same event from the ground level point of view of somebody standing near Silver Samurai and we get to hear the dialog - something that was missing in the prevous sequence because the point-of-view was too far way. I think that's genius because when I was reading the older story I was trying to find out what was going on through action alone; this time I get to hear what is being said and confirm or correct my guesses. I appreciate this kind of twist.
Once again Fitch's rendition of Spider-Woman is wonderfully distracting. Keep on the lookout for the panel were we see Jessica from on-high flying towards the japanese castle arms outstretched as she is gliding. Wow.
Iron Man has been stating since this arc began that his repulsor rays can take care of all the Hand ninjas in one blow if only the other Avengers would get out of the way. This issue he actually gets to prove it.
It's been shown in the previous arcs that Spider-Woman is compromised, also known as a traitor. She's forced to "capture" her boss from the other side, Viper, to avoid suspicion from her fellow Avengers. Watch the incredible way she lets Viper go this issue. I mean, they're all in a Quinjet and Jessica somehow has to let Viper go. Its amazing.
And just as I thought that was the highlight of the issue, something even better happens. Captain America, because of the circumstances of Viper's escape, plunges into the Pacific. Spider-Woman does the catch and what a catch as she straddles Cap with her legs before he hits the water! Don't miss that panel.
Frank Cho takes over the art chores. Just a tad below Fitch and McNiven, but just a tad, the art doesn't really suffer - it's still very, very good.
Spider-Woman is finally caught so we get to hear her story about how she got her powers back.
At long last! Somebody comes in who can match sheer sexiness with Spider-Woman - Ms. Marvel is here! And Carol Danvers looks really good. Isn't she Marvel's answer to Power Girl?
Up until now, the Avengers have been operating more or less clandestinely but this is their coming out. I know that eventually there will be a group called Secret Avengers who will go into action under everybody's radar but he Avengers have always been Marvel's mom and pop team (conservative team?); up until recently they're recognized by the government. And this is how they should be - a public team.
Okay, the problem with double agents like Spider-Woman is I don't know which side she's really on. After her elaborate double speak, what do you think? Oh, I know the answer - Jessica does things for Jessica.
New Avengers : The Collective
The awesome Steve McNiven is back doing the art chores.
Pay attention to Maria Hill's face on the panels. Damn! She may be a pain in the you-know-what but she is one gorgeous jerk.
And what a jerk! I was very affected by a particular scene in this issue, me being an employee and all. So there's a big emergency and everybody is in super-serious mode in the S.H.I.E.L.D Helicarrier, and one guy, this guy, he cracks a joke, just, you know, fires something off without thinking, it can happen to anybody, it can, and has, happened to me. What does Maria Hill do? Her royal jerkness! She tells him to get off her ship - that means fired right? My God. That really hit some buttons with me. Look at the panel were the guy is walking away dejected head between his shoulders. Please God, let there be a special hell for asshole bosses.
Is it me, or does Alpha Flight get no respect - they pretty much get flattened. Alpha Flight isn't really here. Not in that sense - one panel shows them standing; then the next one shows them taken out.
The highlight is what is going on in Maria Hill's head. She's a proud one, recent "encounters" with the New Avengers have not made them her favorite team. Seeing her struggle against calling them when every other option is failing is, quite frankly, a pleasure to read.
Uber-powerful and uber-mysterious bad guy makes his appearance.
I just learned something new : Impact Police Work. This is when city officials saturate a trouble spot with a lot of police, forcing the "bad element" to leave. Amazingly, after that, the riff-raff tend not come back. Sadly, I don't' think this is a real life phenomenon. I googled it and came up with nothing. If I'm wrong, please tell me through the comment section below. Anyway, Luke Cage can explain it much better in this issue. He not only explains it, he does it, but instead of police he has the Avengers. This is all part of the deal he cut when he joined. He made it very clear to Captain America that he wanted to be heard; and this is the Avengers hearing him out and implementing. Impact Police Work, what a great idea. Although if I had impenetrable skin like Cage and class 70 strength like Cage - I would clean the ugliest most dangerous part of town just like that. One can fantasize.
Art is by Mike Deodato Jr.. A step below McNiven and Fitch but still good.
We are finally shown what happened to Alpha Flight from last issue. It looks very bad. Are those guys dead? This issue doesn't tell.
Whoever the villain is here, he has major powers. I was very relieved that Captain America chose to strengthen the team by calling Ms. Marvel - a definite heavy hitter. This is beyond the capabilities of the Spider heroes so both Spider-Man and Spider-Woman get other, more cerebral, assignments. In the midst of all the tension I just had to chuckle as Cap tries to call in the Sentry; but the most powerful hero of them all is having an episode. He's in bed, under the sheets, looking terrified.
We leave the story mid-action as two of the most powerful heroes : Iron Man and Ms. Marvel take on - we still don't know who this guy is.
By the way, I just learned today that the Sentry has been around since the year 2000 and Jenkins, the guy portrayed in the Sentry arc a writer, is a real person and he really wrote the Sentry's stories.
If you want to know how powerful Ms. Marvel is you will in this story. You'll also know how powerful the Sentry is.
Add to that, that Iron Man has entrusted Captain America with a special code that allows Winghead (how long since the last time you've heard that Cap reference?) to control Iron Man's armor. That speaks volumes for level of trust plus it makes sense.
It is Peter Parker the genius, not Spider-Man, who is front and center here and the issue ends with our man, Peter, figuring out who or what the threat is at last. Although he keeps everyone in suspense by not saying it.
Yes, there is this incredibly powerful threat, that, as of now, only Spider-Man knows what it is, but there is also this wild subplot where S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers don't trust each other. With Peter figuring things out, Tony Stark suddenly tells him to get out of the Helicarrier. Maria Hill has other ideas though. Bendis really handles this tension very well. Did I say very well? I meant perfectly.
Back to the main threat. Iron Man, not to be outdone by Ms. Marvel and the Sentry, shows everybody his power levels - and smarts - here. Very impressive and satisfying. This threat has shown he has enough power to take on Ms. Marvel, the Sentry and Iron Man one after the other. What is this thing? A herald of Galactus ?
Back at the Helicarrier, they've captured Spider-Man and he's being "interrogated" by Hill in her usual super-jerk style. She may be gorgeous but she's starting to get on my nerves. In the meantime, Cap and the rest of the New Avengers, including Wolverine, land on the carrier in search of Spidey. You can just imagine the tension. This part is fantastic.
We are shown the entity going to the blighted landscape of Genosha.
I love this. This story arc has a tie-in to the then recently concluded 'House of M' event. The threat is revealed to be the collective power of every mutant who lost his or her power during House of M. This vast energy base is being controlled by Xorn - a former X-Man introduced during Grant Morrison's run on the New X-Men. Xorn goes to Genosha and attempts to give all this power to Magneto so that he can restart the rise of homo superior over homo sapiens.
This comic is way before Walking Dead but we get a part of it were the dead of Genosha rise from their graves to attack the Avengers. Just good old cheesy fun.
This is the finale people. It's a bit cliche but after all the action of this story arc, I, for one, appreciate some level of predictability.
New Avengers : Civil War
What we have here is a montage, five stories that give us glimpses into the larger picture of of Marvel's "Civil War" event. Ah, what the heck, let's call a spade a spade - these five stories are Civil Wars crossovers. Still here? Good.
Each of the five stories are about a different Avenger : The first story is about Captain America, the second about Luke Cage, then Spider-Woman, Sentry (boo!), and last of all, Iron Man. The stories are also set apart by the fact that different artists showcase their talent in each story : The Captain America story is done by Howard Chaykin, Luke Cage by Leinil Francis Yu (a countryman of mine, go Leinil!), Spider-Woman by Oliver Coipel, Sentry by Pasqual Ferry and Iron Man by Jim Cheung. Brian Michael Bendis does the script for the entire set.
Chaykin's Captain America is a bit jarring - artwise. Chaykin's style is blocky, there's a definite lack of fluidity in the moving figures, the extra-heavy ink doesn't help. Still, Bendis' script manages to survive the heavy handed art. Content is excellent - this issue reveals just how strong the bond between Cap and the Falcon is; remember all those issues of "Captain America and the Falcon"? As a bonus, we also get to know where Hank Pym stands in this whole Civil War scenario. I love the detail in the beginning when Steve Rogers has this monologue about what drawing means to him.
The Luke Cage issue is very moody and dark. I initially thought it was too dark, but no, it all comes together well in the end. Bendis is in top form; Luke Cage, the tough-talking, skeptical, street-wise hero from the pages of "Luke Cage, Power Man" and one of the few heroes to be so practical as to hire himself out comes across loud and clear. God, I'd love to stand up to authority like this - having steel hard skin and being able to bench seventy tonnes helps too, I'm sure. Perfect pacing and a great ending.
Leinil Yu's Luke Cage
Now here comes the Spider-Woman story and based on the previous appearances of our gorgeous Jessica Drew I'm hunting the panels for babeshots. Results: None. Nada. Even though Jessica is shown in her undies for a significant part of the tale, just no babeshot-worthy panels. Content wise, this story answers a big question. In the previous stories we are left doubting whether Jessica is a Shield loyalist spying on Hydra or a Hydra loyalist spying on Shield. This story puts all doubt to rest.
Ah, next is the Sentry. I hate this guy. Even so, Pasqual Ferry's beautiful art just draws me in. The location helps a lot - the Blue Area of the Moon. The supporting cast is just awesome - I love the Inhumans. Just ignore the Sentry, or as I love to call him Mr. Whiner. I can't believe Crystal had an affair with him right after Johnny Storm and before Quicksilver. Yuck.
Last in the collection is a very strong Tony Stark story that brings home something very believable: Tony Stark did not design all of his tech. Stark tech is more a team effort. I knew it. The issue almost gets stolen by Maria Hill who does a little "James Bond" of her own using the latest Shield technology, that was fun.
Maria Hill shows her playful side
Well, this is as disparate a collection I've ever seen for New Avengers up to this point. I'm praying to a return to more sequential stories but these stories proved surprisingly revealing and if you're a "Civi War" fan, this is well worth picking up.