Or – “I’m Not Going To Make a ‘Kiss Me!’ Joke…  But I Probably Should.”

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The Marvel Universe is in chaos, under seige by an alien race, and (depending on what order you’re reading the books in) gearing up for or fully engaged in an all-out war with the Skrull Empire.  It’s one of those ideas that sounds great in theory, tying all the company’s project together into an overarching plot, but the actual execution has been leaving me less than satisfied.  This issue promises to examine the mysterious return of Captain America (who, as of last report, is, as you might have heard, still dead) and possibly continue explaining things that happened in the very first issues of this series, four or five years ago… 

Previously, on New Avengers:  A mysterious ship crashed in the Savage Land, and the Mighty Avengers NA2.jpg(representing the establishment, the status quo, and The MAN) and New Avengers (representing the rebellion, the urge to think for oneselves, and other filthy hippie ideals) both arrive to check on who is onboard, only to be surprised by the revelation that…  it’s them!  Marvel heroes pour out of the ship, and both teams of Avengers are suddenly forced to fight the friends, lost loved ones, and in some cases, themselves.  During the battle, Spider-Man is separated from the pack, battling the shipborne Captain America, and encounters Ka-Zar and Shanna the She-Devil, the protectors of the Savage Land.  After some Laurel and Hardy routines involving who is and isn’t a Skrull, Spidey and Mr & Mrs Plunder find Skrulls harvesting the Savage Land’s supplies of vibranium for (obviously) some sort of nefarious purposes.  The threesome try to figure out this plot point, dating back to issue #1 of New Avengers, but their thought processes are interrupted by the return of the Star-Spangled Sentinel, mad as hell, and not gonna take it anymore.  The invasion… has begun…

Spider-Man is hopeful-slash-angry at the sight of the living legend of World War II, sputtering that this can’t be Cap, even though part of him hopes that it IS Cap.  “The real Captain America DIED.  He was SHOT.  On TV…  He’s gone.”  The Captain grits his teeth in his best John Wayne fashion, stepping forward, and snarling “Stop your talking, SKRULL.  I don’t believe  a word you say.” He then appeals to Ka-Zar for help, but the K-man repeats what Spidey said, and refuses to help.  Captain America turns to leave, and Shanna brandishes a spear to stop him.  Before she can move, before ANY of them can move (and Ka-Zar and Spidey ain’t fat guys in little coats, mind you) his shield has shattered Shanna’s weapon, and Cap is in combat with Zabu (who has a TAIL!  Sabre-tooth tigers don’t have tails!!  SKRULLL!!!!!!!) Spidey and the Plunders trip all over themselves to get to Cap (Spider-Man keeping Shanna from shish-ka-bobbing Cap with her blade) when suddenly a dart strikes Cap in the neck.

Ka-Zar’s hidden tribesman start to attack, but the king of the Savage Land holds up a hand, and they all watch as Cap literally melts in front of them.  “I… I am Captain America…  I am a human.  I am a male…  I… I am an Avenger.”  The Skrull passes out, and Spider-Man rages at the unfairness of it all.  Shanna takes a moment to put her knife to Spider-Man’s throat, and stab him with the toxin that returned “Cap” to his Skrullian form.  “Still pink,” she deadpans.  “Yeah, and now it’s all bleeding and numb.  Thanks a ton!” shoots back Spidey, as she finally lets him go.  The Skrull thinks back to his selection, how the Queen Skrull (in the body of ((sigh)) Spider-Woman) gave him his sacred suicide mission, sending him out to become a martyr to their weird quasi-religious cause.  We also see that they DON’T have Cap’s memories (as they do the members of the Illuminati after their disastrous attack on Skrullians after the Kree-Skrull war years ago) so they feed him the other heroes’ memories OF Cap.  See the story tie in to (I think) Avengers Annual #17, 20 or so years ago, when the team ended up fighting Skrulls alongside the Fantastic Four, and implanting fake memories to make him think he’s Cap.  He then spearheads the escape of the other heroes from the Skrull ship, bringing us back to the moments right before Secret Invasion.  This whole memory takes place in seconds, and we cut back to Spider-Man and company just in time for them to hear gunfire and run away from the dying Cap-Skrull…

And we’re done.  Seriously.  Some of you reading may be thinking “Was that all?”  Don’t feel bad, I read the issue, and felt the same way.  Much like the issue of Mighty A’s a week or so ago (I reviewed it on the podcast a while back) this information, while interesting, is inessential.  Back in the day, Stan and Jack would have done this ENTIRE ISSUE as a three-panel flashback at the beginning of an issue, then made whatever happens next the meat of the story.  It’s interesting, in a way, to see such versimilitude and depth being given to the alien aggressors, but the underlying point of this story seems to be that the evil Skrulls must be stopped.  Much as “The Killing Joke” unnerved me by making me almost sympathize with the mass-murdering #&@$head known as the Joker, this issue (and the Elektra issue as well) are trying to make me feel empathy for the shape-shifting invaders.  Fine enough, and a very post-modern viewpoint, but I don’t WANT to sympathize with these shmucks.  They’re killing humans left and right, destroying helicarriers, undermining Spider-Women and making Marvel comics virtually unreadable if you don’t want “Secret Invasion Background Vignette #1,012.”  From a craft point of view, the issue is well-drawn (by Billy Tan, bringing an almost Phil Jimenez vibe to the book) and the dialogue is classic Bendis, but… NOTHING REALLY HAPPENED.  We saw two minutes of fight, a looooong flashback in the mind of an alien footsoldier, and then we’re done.  Frankly, no matter how competent, it’s just not 3 bucks worth of quality.  New Avengers #43 ranks a right-down-the-middle 2.5 out of 5 stars.  It’s not a bad book, it just sort of… happened.

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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21 Comments

  1. Josh P.
    August 2, 2008 at 3:25 pm — Reply

    And here I was really hoping this Cap was going to end up being U.S.Agent while he was Cap.

  2. DrStrangeCubicle
    August 2, 2008 at 3:39 pm — Reply

    “Frankly, no matter how competent, it’s just not 3 bucks worth of quality. New Avengers #43 ranks a right-down-the-middle 2.5 out of 5 stars. It’s not a bad book, it just sort of… happened.”

    Pretty much feel the same way, although I’d probably give it 1.5 stars at best – it’s filler book that will make tons of money by cashing in on the SI label. Similar to how Marvel’s charging $4 for the main book without giving extra content, I was less than pleased to see how the last few Avengers issues have basically spun their wheels while claiming to be important tie-ins. Wow, so another of the 1970s heroes was a Skrull? Shocking reveal!

  3. Brad Ball
    August 2, 2008 at 5:47 pm — Reply

    Thank you for saving me 3 buck Matthew, I’ve got the main SI title on my pull list, but unless there is a compelling story I’ll skip the tie ins, your right though it seems like they are trying very hard to do look at both sides, it makes me think about how people are looking at WW2 now and trying to show both sides of the pacific fight, nice observation.

    I personally think that they will have some people that are skrulls try to stay hero’s after the invasion which it the reason for this, like capt Marvel, Sipderwoman is out (unfortunately)…. that reminds me is the black bolt that the hulk fought a skrull……

  4. Cory
    August 2, 2008 at 6:20 pm — Reply

    I’ve pretty much dropped all the Marvel titles I used to collect. The retards are running the sanatorium. Make no mistake: This is all JoeQ (Joe Quesada), Dan Buckley, and Brian Bendis’ fault. Joe Quesada is so dumb he couldn’t find is a-hole with map and flashlight. Dan Buckley wants to cater to the lowest common denominator and Brian Bendis ran out of ideas six years ago. Yet, they are all in control of Marvel Comics’ chief “Intellectual” Property.

    Bad decisions:
    – Brian Bendis in control of all of the “Avengers” comic book titles. Bendis is incapable of writing good science fiction – which is what the Avengers titles are in serious need of. Bendis is basically just eating up and vommiting out the previous stories of the Marvel Universe.

    – Abandoning promising Sci-Fi titles. Newuniversal was marketed to be an ONGOING SERIES by Warren Ellis. Quesada gave it 6 issues before he changed his microscopic little mind. Quesada killed this series before it could get to its feet. And now Warren Ellis is just going through the motions on the second miniseries.

    – Big-Event Summer Comics written by Brian Bendis are worth less than toilet paper. The boilerplate stupidity displayed by the primary creators and editors of all these Events is creating the conditions that will lead to another burst in the comic book boom. These “Events” are boring and utterly forgettable.

    – Big Name Hollywood Creators will only take you so far: Let’s face facts, Joss Whedons’ Astonishing X-Men was a piece of garbage. Initally, the decompression of the threadbare first two stories ruined the experience. Secondly, while the dialog was well done, Whedon had no idea what he was doing with the plots – and the plots ended up being meaningless and forgotten.

    It is clear now, that the only thing that will dislodge this junta of failure is a catastrophic crash in the comics market. But, by then, Quesada, Buckley and Bendis will have made their money and they won’t give a damn what happens.

  5. August 2, 2008 at 8:49 pm — Reply

    Busiek killed my Avengers love with his retro fan wank run so I adore Bendis and everything he has done with the franchise. He could do every other Summer event and I’ll be a happy man. Am I thrilled with this months Avengers books? Not completely but I would take them over any issue of the previous volume of the book.

    And have you considered anger management, Cory? Your little tirade was way OTT and personal attacks on people you don’t know is never a good sign.

  6. August 2, 2008 at 11:38 pm — Reply

    i won’t repeat what I wrote in the forum about this, but I would rate this a 1.5 as well. Cap was the worst choice they could have done for this. It would have meant so much more had it been Ronin & Mockingbird vs. Shanna & Zabu & Kazar vs. Spidey.

  7. August 3, 2008 at 2:24 am — Reply

    And have you considered anger management, Cory? Your little tirade was way OTT and personal attacks on people you don’t know is never a good sign.

    Words out of my mouth, sir…

    Cory… All opinions are welcome here. Personal attacks are not. You are assuming things you cannot know based on fan press, popular opinion, and apparently no small portion of anger.

    Please stop with the biased, unnecessary and potentially libelous rants. Frankly, it’s gotten way past old. Thank you.

  8. Slappy
    August 3, 2008 at 8:03 am — Reply

    When will this and all of the DC company-wide crossover crap be truly finished. I mean aftermaths, requiems, and epilogues, as well as the aftermath to the epilogue of the requiem. It is very rare for one of these events to live up to the hype and have their repercussions felt in a meaningful way.

  9. Cory
    August 3, 2008 at 9:00 am — Reply

    @ M. Peterson:

    Marvel Comics is being ruined by the current regime. I’m not going to remain silent while comics that I’ve loved in the past are ruined by incompetents.

    Off Topic? New Avengers is a symptom of a much larger problem that Marvel Comics has. And is a perfect example of Brian Bendis hackery.

    And if you don’t like my comments, then why don’t you just ban me. We all know how much you like diversity of opinion.

  10. Maximus Rift
    August 3, 2008 at 9:01 am — Reply

    You know, on one hand, I feel for you Cory. I am also not enjoying Secret Invasion and most of Marvel U much, but you did go too far. The stuff you wrote was more like thing you read on other comic boards that the stuff you read here.

    You need to think about how your comments will be received before you hit the submit button.

  11. Slappy
    August 3, 2008 at 9:33 am — Reply

    Cory,
    I think what everyone is trying to say is that there are more intelligent and creative ways to express your dislike of the present leadership. Lowering yourself to the standards of WWE dialogue is not the best form of expression on an intelligent and thoughtful website such as this. I do not think that anyone wishes to ban you, because you have some very valid points. I also agree with what you say in part, just not how you said it. Just try to be PG on here.

  12. Brad Ball
    August 3, 2008 at 9:44 am — Reply

    I can understand frustration over the direction of a comic company for characters you love. For the most part I have not enjoyed some of the things that DC has done and I’m more of a DC fan than marvel, but for the first time ever (and for the last year) I have no DC comics in my pull box at the local comic shop.

    That being said, I’m sure eventually their will be a Superman story that gets me to start following the title again, until then I’ve really been enjoying other things such as Joss Whedon’s Buffy & Angel & Serenity. (now I know you have gripes with Joss over Astonishing X-Men, but while i didn’t follow his x-men run I really enjoy his other series). The Boys has been a wonderful guilty pleasure as well.

    I guess all I’m saying is comics go in a cycle, and unless you work for marvel then I doubt your complaints will be addressed. So either you can remain angry at the direction or take this time to vote your dissatisfaction with you wallet and find other series that you enjoy and support them.

    Either way I’m sure eventually there will be titles produced by Marvel that you enjoy, but comics are supposed to be enjoyable, don’t let your enjoyment of comics get soured just because you don’t like what one company is doing.

  13. August 3, 2008 at 10:03 am — Reply

    and cory says: And if you don’t like my comments, then why don’t you just ban me. We all know how much you like diversity of opinion.

    to which I reply: If that were the case cory, you would have been banned long ago. In the two plus years Major Spoilers has been around, I’ve only had to delete three comments, all of which were personal attacks on others and brought nothing to the conversation on hand. we do like a diversity of opinion at Major Spoilers, and do appreciate your point of view, however, your loud rants have become more of a “Oh here comes that crazy guy again,” when they could be, “Oh what insight does cory have to share today?”

  14. August 3, 2008 at 10:48 am — Reply

    Marvel Comics is being ruined by the current regime. I’m not going to remain silent while comics that I’ve loved in the past are ruined by incompetents.

    “Marvel is being ruined” is an opinion. Calling someone incompetent is an attack.

    Off Topic? New Avengers is a symptom of a much larger problem that Marvel Comics has. And is a perfect example of Brian Bendis hackery.

    Once again, your opinion. I didn’t think this issue acheived what the artists behind it intended, either, but I’m not psychic, and neither are you. We have no idea what they intended. You don’t like it. That’s fine. Stop attacking the creators, using words like “retard,” “hack,” and the like.

    And if you don’t like my comments, then why don’t you just ban me? We all know how much you like diversity of opinion.

    I think Stephen handled this comment elegantly enough, but I do want to take a moment to put something before you, sir.

    I am not nearly as circumspect or as diplomatic as Steve is, so let me put this bug in your ear… Being the loudest voice in the room doesn’t mean that you’re right. It’s a mistake I’ve made many times over the years, and an an admonition that I hope you take to heart. You’re perfectly within your rights to compain about New Avengers, Marvel Comics, the state of Spider-Man, and whatever else strikes your fancy.

    But you insist that this is all a personal vendetta by current management to destroy the things you love in the name of cash, and you festoon your posts with personal attacks, cheap shots, and the underlying notion that only *YOU*, Fox Mulder, the lone voice in the wilderness, really knows what’s going on.

    You. Do. Not. Know. Any. More. Than. Anyone. Else.

    You’re ranting. Loudly. Embarassingly. Annoyingly. And quite frankly, you used to bring something interesting to the discussion, and you haven’t been lately. I like hearing dissenting views, or else I wouldn’t stick my words in front of people to be contradicted. But you’re not espousing a viewpoint anymore, Cory… You’re repeating personal dogma as if it were fact.

    I apologize for not wanting to read that.

  15. Brother129
    August 3, 2008 at 11:37 am — Reply

    Good review and unfortunatley accurate. This issue was a waste of 22 pages for a story that could have been told in a back-up.

    At the end of the day, giving Bendis control over the Avengers was a great idea. Let’s face it, more people are reading Avengers now than they have in years. Which always brings us back to the argument, if we’re so disappointed in these books, why are we still reading them? I digress. Bendis is a good writer, but like most talented writers with an ego, he needs to be reined in editorially when his storylines sprawl and go on forever. All the cool moments get diluted by pages of nonsense.

    On to the other part of the argument. I love this site because it gives us comic fans an opportuntity to have intellectual conversations about the medium we’ve loved since childhood. We aren’t always happy with it..but we can always vote with our dollars. I’ve dropped books, picked up books, and returned to books I’ve dropped-because of sites like these. I salute Brothers Schleicher and Peterson for love and soul they put into this.

    So I echo their sentiment: let’s make it about the books. If we want personal political attacks I can just turn on CNN and Fox News:) At the end of the day,we’re just comic fans who love these talking pictures and we’re all prone to getting a bit too passionate…

  16. Jim
    August 3, 2008 at 9:27 pm — Reply

    I understand what this issue was *trying* to do but I think, like others here, it doesn’t seem to feel important. Don’t we like comic issues to be either really interesting or involve characters we feel strongly about (either negative or positive)? Bendis gives us no background on this Cap Skull so why should I care that he believes that he’s Cap? The issue serves no purpose except to explain one facet of the Skrull invasion, which seems pretty trivial for an ENTIRE issue of NA. I mean, if they’re going to make NA an outlet of background stories of Secret Invasion at least give a good background story….

  17. August 3, 2008 at 10:13 pm — Reply

    At the end of the day, giving Bendis control over the Avengers was a great idea. Let’s face it, more people are reading Avengers now than they have in years. Which always brings us back to the argument, if we’re so disappointed in these books, why are we still reading them?

    Because when they work, they work really well…

    And when they don’t, it’s noticable because of how well the others worked…

  18. Josh P.
    August 4, 2008 at 7:25 am — Reply

    I actually have to dissent with the majority of opinions on this issue.

    I enjoyed the portrayal of a Skrull who so strongly beleived he was who he was masquerading as even when slapped in the face with being a Skrull he wouldn’t acknowledge being a fake. With how angry Cap was acting in the previous issue I had really thought he sounded more like Walker-Cap than Rogers-Cap.

    I also enjoyed finding out the intricacies of the Skrull invasion plot. I thought this issue was better than say the Crap-On-Yellowjackt! issue of Mighty Avengers last month (more based on the continuous crapping on Hank and Jan by every writer in the Marvel U. for the last five or so years (seriously, Busiek and the Johns gave them a happy ending so to speak)).

    And as for the discussion tangent, I come here because of the lack of fanboy rant. If I wanted to read how “retarded” Joe Quesada, Dan Buckley and Brian Bendis are, I would go to Newsarama or CBR and post. I enjoythat while the majority of us who post will not agree on everything, we keep away from personal attacks on anyone (creator, publisher or poster). I don’t agree with the direction DC is going, so instead of decrying Didio and Morisson (ok, I have decried them once or twice (but i didn’t call them schoolyard names)), I just don’t buy the books.

  19. August 4, 2008 at 8:25 am — Reply

    @Matthew

    You’re right about Bendis … when it works it works. For a while there MA would totally kick ass when NA would suffer … and vice versa. I like having one voice telling the story across related tales, but that could just be me.

  20. Morpheus11
    August 4, 2008 at 9:40 am — Reply

    Now, that I have finally found time to sit down and read the comments I would like to post my 2 cents… although worth much less than 2 cents.

    First, I will agree with Matthew and others that this issue didn’t feel like a full issue. It left me wanting more, but just about every monthly comic that I pick up leaves me wanting more. So, I am going to buy next months to try and get that.

    Secondly, I will agree with Josh P. and say that I really liked the background story. Was it essential to the story line? Probably not, but what it did do was set up some future drama. I thought that Bendis was trying to push the idea that the skrull impersonators are “people” too. They could have families. I personally would have liked to see this developed on. I like the idea of creating empathy for the enemy in a story. I also thought that by explaining the thurough process of impersonating a super hero and how completely the skrull mind is wiped has openned a huge door for another writer or for Bendis himself.

    Let me through an idea out there that has my mouth watering already. The skrull invasion has been repelled and the world is saved. Years pass, and life seems to return to normal for our super heroes. And as time goes on, the mind wipe that was done to “a fan favorite” super hero starts to fade. He/She starts to remember things of the past. The things are confusing, but this hero starts to feel connected to this race of skrulls. But, he/she doesn’t know why. Now, the internal conflict starts. This character has both memories of being a human and a skrull. Which is it? Can it be both? Was I part of the invasion? Who can I tell? What do I do? All questions running through this characters head.

    Obviously I am not a writer, but I know I would want to at least pick up this story. Matthew has said in his reviews on the podcast that a comic needs a hook to get him to pick it up, and I think this issue of New Avengers sets some “hooks” up for future titles. I would agree that this comic is only a 2.5 out of 5 stars, but if this is built on in the future people could look back at this comic and say, “Oh that was what that was about”. And I think that is what makes some of Bendis’s stories so good.

    Thank you Stephen, Matthew, and everyone else involved with this great website/forums/podcast for all ther great work that you do.

  21. Mark I.
    August 4, 2008 at 1:36 pm — Reply

    Morpheus11: “Years pass, and life seems to return to normal for our super heroes….Now, the internal conflict starts. This character has both memories of being a human and a skrull.”

    I doubt they’ll wait more than six months before doing this with either Spider-Man, Iron Man, or Wolverine. Maybe Hawkeye.

    This entire issue could have been credibly relayed in about four pages. This is about the equivalent of that Batman/Joker showdown from early in the original Crisis series, where the Flash of several issues later is passes back through time, says a few words, and disappears. That didn’t take a whole issue back in the day, but I bet it would now.

    Finally, @Cory…I’ve had my share of rants here and about the general interweb. You aren’t going to win over your fellow commentators by pushing buttons, throwing insults, and then acting all defensive about it when you’re asked–nicely–to tone it down. If your immediate response to that is “I don’t care what other commentators think,” then I have two questions: 1. Why respond to the criticisms if you don’t care; 2. If that’s the case, why should we care what you think in turn? Or are you criticizing to hear yourself criticize?

    (I guess that’s three questions.) Excelsior! *snort*

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