Or – “Have You Ever Noticed How Many Super-Creepy Marvel Villains There Are?”

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Guys like Purple Man, The Mandrill, The Corruptor, The Controller…  These are all horrible, horrible manipulator jackasses who should be set on fire and rolled down a hill.  What’s even more scary is that some of these jerks are considered SMALL POTATOES compared to the major-league evils in the Marvel Universe…  But, stay tuned, Faithful Spoilerite, as you’re about to see what makes these idiots so scary.

New Avengers #61

NA2.jpgWRITER: Brian Michael Bendis
PENCILS: Stuart Immonen

Previously, on New Avengers: This incarnation of the Avengers started off with Steve Rogers and others uniting to stop a group of minor villains from escaping from prison.  The new team spent a lot of time futzing around, doing things that really didn’t make anybody much happy before a big conflagration caused a new status quo.  Lather, rinse, repeat, and we have a Civil War, during which Steve Rogers is seemingly assassinated.  The New Avengers went underground, running from first Tony Stark’s SHIELD and then Norman Osborn’s HAMMER, leading to Luke Cage’s capture and heart surgery at the hands of the super-villains.  (When you say it like that, it all sounds silly…)  Now that Steve has returned from his Red Skull-engineered trip through time and space, he’s teamed up with his old partners (some of them REALLY old, thanks to the presence of James Buchanan Barnes) to once and for all get Norm-O out of his position of power.  Now, Captain America, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, Ronin, Mockingbird, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Ms. Marvel and the other Captain America may be the world’s last hope…  Unless Hank Pym is.  Or Reed Richards.  Or maybe Scott Summers?  Either way, The Hood has new powers as well.

Speaking of Parker, he has returned to his League of Losers (a team which includes Blackout, whom I’m sure was dead) with the news that his new power source, the Asgardian Norn stones, will allow him not to gear up his own abilities, but theirs as well.  In Brooklyn, the two Captains deal with the aftermath of the explosion that destroyed Steve’s apartment a couple of issues ago.  Their ruminations are interrupted by the appearance of the Living Laser, one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel Universe.  Amazingly, he doesn’t melt them both in their tracks, instead luring Bucky Cap into the clutches of the blue-skinned wackjob called the Corruptor, who uses his powers to take control of Barnes.  He then disturbingly tries to force Captain America to kiss the barrel of his own gun, causing me to look for a bag of jeebies to go with my big ol’ plate of heebies.  Elsewhere, Spider-Man and Spider-Woman stake out Avengers Tower and discuss the nature of the world.  Jessica can’t believe that Spidey doesn’t want to gun down Norm-O for all he’s done, and he can’t believe that she’s buying into this whole “aliens among us and only I can find them with my magic watch” vibe.  What starts as a cute bit of character business turns sour when she thought that he was married and he denies it, in a moment seemingly designed to do nothing but bug those who are still bothered by ‘One More Day.’  They share an awkward silence, after which Spider-Man asks, “Are we on a date?” 

Steve Rogers sifts through the rubble of his apartment, finding his Kurt Busiek-early-90’s-era energy shield, just in time keep from getting shot by his latest namesake.  “Steve…  Run.  I can’t… NOT do this,” grits Bucky as the Corruptor records his agony on a cellular phone.  God, sometimes Bendis’ dialogue sounds awful out of certain characters mouths.  The Spiders are suddenly attacked by The Griffin and The Mandrill, while the Captains fight off Corruptor and Living Laser.  ‘Rupty makes things even more creepy by ordering Bucky to kill and eat Steve, while the orignal Cap tries to help his partner break the villain’s hold.  This sequence brings back all the disgust that I felt about Purple Man in ‘Alias,’ which also serves to annoy me by undermining that story’s drama by giving a similarly-powered character THE EXACT SAME SCHTICK.  It’s not even like Purple Man is gone or anything, which makes it feel doubly-cheap.  Adding fuel to my irritation, the Mandrill uses HIS mind-control powers on Spider-Woman (since they only work on women) and orders her to kill Spidey, tell him what he wants to know, then kill herself.  We end the issue wondering whether Peter Parker is dead, whether Jessica Drew is really under Mandrill’s control (what with her having pheromonal control powers of her own) and whether the writer intentionally designed this whole thing to be this skin-crawling.

I’ll admit that I have some issues with Brian Bendis as a writer, but mostly I find his work to be at least intriguing.  This issue, though, just felt…  I don’t know.  Trite?  Cheap?  Given the way that Hood’s goons have been dispatched in the last couple of years of this book, I have to think that Parker’s Norn power has more than just made them powerful, it’s made them twisted as well, which doesn’t bode well for the Avengers.  It probably says more about me than it does about the writer, but I find the repeated use of forcible mind-control here to be distasteful on a number of levels.  It’s more than just ‘making the characters do things that they shouldn’t,’ we’re dealing with an issue where main characters have been ordered to commit homicide, suicide and cannibalism as if this sort of mind-crime were the same as knocking over a bank or shooting out a window.  A number of years ago, I was a voracious reader of the ‘Wild Cards’ series of novels, but my enjoyment of the books waned as similar mind-control powers and the unsavory undertones thereto started taking over the books.  Add to this the fact that Bendis has already stomped this particular ground in “Alias” several years ago, and you get a throughly unlikable storyline.  The irony for me (in an Alanis Morissette sense) is that I wonder if more conventional fighty-fighty (which, I’m sure, is coming next time around) would have made me like this book more, or if I’d be whining about how conventional it all seemed.  Bottom line for me, I liked Stuart Immonen and Daniel Acuna’s art here, but once again we didn’t get a satisfying portion of story and what we did recieve was troubling on a number of levels, causing New Avengers #61 to earn a disappointed 2 out of 5 stars overall…

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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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9 Comments

  1. Armaan
    February 2, 2010 at 8:23 am — Reply

    It’s interesting… The latest Dark Avengers made you uncomfortable, too, although in a different way. I wonder how you’re going to like the next issue of Mighty Avengers(or, um, has that not come out yet?). All the teaser images for Siege I remember, “What Price Victory?”, I wonder if uncomfortable things are the price to pay for the Heroic Age, or if with the Heroic age coming up this is the writer’s last chance to do creepy dark stuff.
    Either way, not getting comics in India SUCKS!

  2. Brother129
    February 2, 2010 at 9:18 am — Reply

    I’ve jumped all over Bendis before…and I admit I have this love/hate thing going with this writer. I feel like he can nail the intimate character moments and dialogue. Save the throwaway “weren’t you married” line, I thought the Spider-Woman/Spider-Man banter actually saved most of the issue. And I agree, we’ve been there and done that with latest Bendis-written character who can control other people to disgusting/repulsive ends. I think the major deficit that has permeated Bendis’ entire run on New Avengers, is that he is good at building a slow burn to climax but then it fizzles out when its time to deliver. I felt this way with Secret Invasion for example. Now, it’s obvious that Bendis has wanted us to take the Hood and his goons seriously ever since he’s introduced this storyline, but I still have to yet to see the threat. Especially when these guys actually only seem to fight every five issues or so with a bunch of talking, scheming, and dialoguing in between. So I suppose the payoff is supposed to come during Siege, but color me skeptical. Don’t get me wrong, this book is actually one of my favorite reads ever month, but I truly hope we can return to “normal” super hero stuff once Avengers reloads. (And yes, I’m aware that it is the same writer:))

  3. Carl
    February 2, 2010 at 9:52 am — Reply

    I think there are a couple of problems with the Bendis’ concept of The Hood. First of all, it automatically diminishes every villain in his gang. These guys used to have their own goals and now they’re just flunkies for some newbie with a Red Riding Hood fetish. The fact that the Hood is now Loki’s flunky only exacerbates the situation. His presence in the Cabal kind of reminded me of The Wizard among a similar group in Acts of Vengeance. He simply doesn’t belong amongst such a collection of heavyweights (although prior to Secret Invasion you could have said the same about Norman Osborn).

    The only reason this group is a threat is due to the current status of this Avengers team. If this were the government sanctioned, Avengers Mansion living, interstellar empire beating team, they wouldn’t give The Hood the time of day. It’s more about the New Avengers lack of resources as anything else.

    • ~wyntermute~
      February 2, 2010 at 7:53 pm — Reply

      Ghetto Avengers: New from Marvel~! Now with 33% more Luke Cage!

  4. MaximusRift
    February 2, 2010 at 11:07 am — Reply

    You know it’s really hard to let go of something when the company keeps shoving it in your face. That’s one of the reason I don’t like reading anything with Spider Man in it for the last 2 years.

    Also, it’s really weird to have 2 villains in the same book who almost have the same power. You’d think the writer could make due with just one. Couldn’t the Controller control more that one person at a time? And if not, couldn’t the power up have allowed this to happen?

  5. CMonocle
    February 2, 2010 at 12:51 pm — Reply

    Good point, Carl.

  6. February 2, 2010 at 7:57 pm — Reply

    Also, it’s really weird to have 2 villains in the same book who almost have the same power. You’d think the writer could make due with just one. Couldn’t the Controller control more that one person at a time? And if not, couldn’t the power up have allowed this to happen?

    Corruptor and Mandrill have similar powers, but the key difference is that Mandrill makes women love him and want to obey him with pheromones, while the Corruptor weakens inhibitions and causes others to be more susceptible to his suggestions.

    They are both, however, assclowns of the highest level.

  7. Navarre
    February 3, 2010 at 8:30 pm — Reply

    The problem with psychic domination is that it necessitates the subversion of another’s free will, by definition. To make the villain ever more villainous, the subversion must be ever more heinous.

    But there is only so far you can go with that. Compound it by having more than one character who (through whatever specifics) is a dominator and you end up with a rather unsettling experience. Which, I suppose, was the plan.

  8. Thelastavenger
    February 5, 2010 at 5:55 am — Reply

    wait living laser was killed/combined with the universe in Modok’s eleven/super-villian team-up. why is he working as muscle for the hood? did this change or is bendis once again ignoring a characters recent history?

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