Review: New Avengers #1

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Or – “Isn’t This Actually New New Avengers?”

I’ve previously made clear my reservations about Marvel editorial’s tendency to have more than one character running around with the same name, as well as having a character with MORE THAN ONE name ala Captain Marvel/Marvel Boy/Noh-Varr.  My worry with having Avengers and New Avengers running concurrently was that the books would be pretty much indistinguishable other than which jumpsuits were featured in the big splash-pages.  Given that this title is apparently going to be sharing personnel with THREE other teams, (possibly more, depending on how one counts) I wasn’t sure how it was all going to shake down…

New Avengers #1
WRITER: Brian Michael Bendis
PENCILS: Stuart Immonen
INKS: Wade Von Grawbadger
COVERS BY: Stuart Immonen/Marko Djurdevic
COLORS BY: Laura Martin
LETTERS BY: Chris Eliopoulis
PUBLISHED BY: Marvel Comics

Previously, on New Avengers:  The original Avengers were blowed up real good a few years ago, with long-term Avengers Vision and Hawkeye murdered, the Scarlet Witch apparently mad and nobody respecting Hank Pym.  The founding of the New Avengers gave us a different sort of team, with Spider-Man finally making his way to the big show and Wolverine appearing for little reason other than selling books.  The relaunch was successful, and led to many more changes, including the group fragmenting into two teams (Mighty and New) and then three (counting Avengers: Initiative.)  Now, in the wake of the Norm-O unpleasantness (putting it shot, the Green Goblin took over the world with corduroy hair and chuzpah) the Avengers are reforming under the auspices of the man formerly known as Captain America.  Who’s on the team?  EVERYBODY. 

We open  festivities this month with the long-absent Stephen Strange making his presence known (apparently able to use his magics properly again, given his spectactular teleportation light show) in reponse to a request for aid from Daimon Hellstrom, the erstwhile Son of Satan.  Daimon’s distress call turns out to be a trap as something from somewhere else has possessed him.  Elsewhere, in the background of the Captain America meet-and-greet also seen in Avengers #1 a couple weeks ago, Luke Cage is unhappy.  The artist formerly known as Power Man isn’t happy with being a part of a huge team and working for Steve and Tony again.  Stark tries to talk reason, but he’s too smarmy and Luke is too angry for it to work, so Tony flatly asks, “Do you still WANT to be Avengers?”  A stunned Luke replies in the affirmative, but is even more poleaxed when Tony asks for a dollar.  Iron Fist ponies up, and Tony smiles that smile that started this whole mess in the first place, saying “You just bought the newly renovated Avengers mansion.  Now go be Avengers.  Save the world.”  Captain Steverica pats him on the shoulder, and tells him that he’s officially recognized as leader of an Avengers team, that Luke now has the power to do what he wants above-board and legal, and wants to discuss a roster.  “You can’t have Thor or Iron Man,” smiles Rogers as we crossfade to…

…Doctor Voodoo, Sorcerer Supreme.  Voodoo is surprised when his sanctum voodorium is invaded by the law firm of Strange and Hellstrom, Ph. D, DDS, 666.  The obviously possessed former Defenders attack Doctor V, and only his dead brother’s quick actions save the day.  I’m not entirely hooked by the issue yet, but this moment is pretty suspenseful and loaded with dread, as Immonen keeps their faces in shadow, and the dialogue is just wrong enough to make you realize that something wicked this way comes.  Kudos to Bendis, here.  Moving day at Avengers Mansion arrives, as Luke, his wife Jessica and Iron Fist start carrying things into their new home (“I’ll give you fifty dollars for it right now,” says Iron Fist of the mansion.  “That is a huge return on your initial investment.” Heh..) only to be confronted by a crazy woman with a gun!  Victoria Hand, formerly the deputy chief of HAMMER, has a message for the New Avengers, but was afraid they’d kill her.  Luke simply claps his hands and sends her ass-over-teakettle, and Ms. Hand stalks off in a huff.  As mystic battle rages in New Orleans, Cage and Wolverine track down Victoria Hand and interview her about her recent actions.  Vicky tells them that they really need a perspective different from their own in order to keep from going the way of Osborn, Stark and Fury before them, and Luke agrees to give her a position liaising for his team.  The next morning, we are treated to the first meeting of the New Avengers:  Luke “Don’t Call Me Power Man” Cage, Daniel “What Happened To My Iron Fist Title?” Rand, Jessica “Am I Jewel Again?” Jones, James “I Think I Have Nine Wolverine Titles, Danny Can Have One of Mine” Howlett, Peter “Naaah, He Can Have One Of My Spider-Man Books” Parker, Bobbi “Hawkeye And Mockingbird Is The First Title I’ve Ever Had My Name On” Morse, Clint “I’ve Had Half  A Dozen Hawkeye Books Cancelled, Honey, Don’t Get To Used To It” Barton, Carol “Stop Calling Me Hallina Jordan, I’m Ms. Marvel!” Danvers and…  The Thing.  Their breakfast is interrupted by the sudden arrival of the Eye of Agamotto (appearing in Luke’s hand) and the invasion of the possessed Ex-Red-Caped-Defenders.  The issue ends with Luke suddenly being filled with mystic energy by the Eye as battle is imminent.

First off, there’s a downside of this book from a roster perspective.  Three of the members are also part of the Avengers book.  One is also an X-Man.  The Thing, of course, is appearing in Fantastic Four.  Hawkeye and Mockingbird have their own title.  (Heroic Age is apparently going to be an exercise in selling fifty books that star only six or eight people.)  I like this lineup, in fact, Spider-Man and Wolverine fit in better here than I think they will in the other book based on what little I’ve seen so far, but I’m truly annoyed at how incestuous our castlist is.  At least there are more women here than in Avengers, even if one of them is the relatively flat and unappealing Ms. Marvel.  That said, the idea that this team will be taking on threats that the other team might not notice is a good one, and I like the reveal of Avengers Mansion as their HQ (although the solicits saying “You won’t believe it” were a bit disingenous.)  It’s always hard to separate a relaunch like this from it’s sister titles, and I’m forced to realize that although I like this cast more, I find that Avengers and Avengers Academy both had superior kickoff issues.  Immonen’s art is excellent throughout, especially in the short sequence between Cage and Hand, and the magic sequences were well-rendered as well.  I will also say that Bendis has improved on his “Mat-mitty, matt-mitty, bibbity bobbity boo!” magical ridiculousness from previous appearnaces of Strange in his writing, and Wolverine and Cage make a great central focus for this team.  My sincere hope is that as things shake out, the various Avengers books will have a more separated cast list and that things will all work out in the end, but right now, I’m just not feeling it.  I’m troubled by the seeming wish at Marvel to have their cake and eat it too, to have a traditional Avengers title (with Spider-Man and Wolverine) as well as retain the New Avengers mystique and fanbase (with Spider-Man and Wolverine.)  On paper, it works, but the execution is off here.  New Avengers #1 earns 3 out of 5 stars overall and I’m hoping that the infusion of new blood will create some excitement in the long run…

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Faitfhul Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  With nearly everybody belonging to the Avengers at the same time, are we watering down the concept so much as to be meaningless?