Review: New Avengers #61

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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: ★★☆☆☆