Or – “Bendis And Luke Cage Sittin’ In A Tree! Kay Aie Ess Aitch Something-Something TEE!”
The New Avengers had barely settled into their new digs in Avengers Mansion when the crazy came a-callin’. Someone or someTHING has taken out Daimon Hellstrom, Jericho Drumm and Stephen Stragne, a trio of the most powerful mystics in the known worlds, and that unknown presence now wants the Eye of Agamotto, currently in the possession of the New Avengers. Of course, ‘possession’ is the operant word here, as the thing from another world has taken over the body of Luke Cage to get the artifact back, and demon Luke Cage isn’t likely to take no for an answer.
New Avengers #2
COVER BY: STUART IMMONEN
WRITER: BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS
PENCILS: STUART IMMONEN
INKS: WADE VON GRAWBADGER
COLORED BY: LAURA JEAN MARTIN
LETTERED BY: NEUROTIC CARTOONIST, INC
PUBLISHED BY: MARVEL COMICS
Previously, on New Avengers: From his days as Power Man to the events of Civil War, Luke Cage has always been headstrong. In the wake of the Dark Reign, the powers-that-be of the Avengers realized that they needed someone like Luke, someone to be the wild card, the balancing force that will keep the various Avengers franchises in check. To that end, Tony Stark sold Luke the old-school Avengers Mansion (for the tidy sum of $1.00) and Steve Rogers gave him pick of the litter for his team. Choosing from the heroes he had already worked with, Luke assembled a team of Iron Fist, Wolverine, Spider-Man, Hawkeye, Mockingbird, Ms. Marvel, his wife Jessica (the former hero called Jewel) and Ben Grimm, The Thing to spearhead his new squad. Their first meeting was interrupted by the arrival of the Eye of Agamotto, followed by Doctor Strange and the Son of Satan, whose actions are clearly not their own. They’ve been a team for all of five minutes, and now they’re thrust into the midst of interdimensional conflict on a cosmic scale. Sounds about par for the course…
FIGHTY-FIGHTY CONFLICT PUNCHY TIME GO!!! Luke grows to giant size and begins trashing their newly-renovated home trying to get to the Eye. The team isn’t sure how to respond, as THREE of their comrades are glowing and trying to kill them, but Wolverine quickly comes up with a plan, ordering the Thing to grab the Eye and run like Forrest Gump. When he asks why, Wolverine replies, “Because you’re big and made of ROCKS!” Heh… Someone wonders if it’s more Skrulls, causing Mockingbird to scream out, “Oh, please, God in heaven NO!” while Luke quickly swats the Thing out of the mansion and halfway across Manhattan. “That is a bad way to find out who would win in a fight,” mutters Ben as he tries to right himself after a collision with a tree. There’s a lot of nice character work in this battle, as Spider-Man ends up with Baby Danielle, Jessica punches her boyfriend in the face, and Wolverine uses the old Oddball Runaround trick to get Agamotto’s amulet away from whatever is running Cage’s body. He then turns and STABS Doctors Strange and Hellstrom, proving that one good idea is pretty much all Logan’s got. The fight enters the street of Manhattan, leaving Wolverine and Spider-Man to deal with the chaos. “If only we had [a doctor…] Oh, wait, you STABBED the doctor!” snarks Spidey as the scene cuts outside…
Ms. Marvel and Jewel outsmart the giant Cage creature (although Ms. M gets strangled for her trouble, a sequence that made a bad day a little bit brighter.) Stuart Immonen does really amazing fight sequences, but I’m starting to wonder if this issue is going to be nothin’ but punchy-punchy, at this point. Before Giant Evil Power Man (DOO DAH! DOO DAH!) can triumph, the man called Iron Fist gets involved, snatching away the Eye and snarling that he hates “demon sass” as he punches his best pal in the breadbasket. Heh… Unfortunately for our stalwart Fist, the creature transfers it’s essence from his former costar to HIM, just as Doctor Voodoo arrives to break up the donnybrook. As the once and future Sorcerers Supreme (and the one infernal upstart to that throne) prepare a little zappy kablammicus, Iron Fist smiles and teleports away. Strange and Hellstrom are both stunned, and Daimon rages at Brother Voodoo. “You bastard! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE???” The heroes are quite shaken by this, as a saddened Stephen Strange explains: “Without the eye, we forfeit…” When Spider-Man asks what, the sky suddenly opens and otherwordly creatures can be seen passing through into the heroes’ dimension. “Everything,” answers Doctor Strange, as all hell literally breaks loose over Manhattan.
I was afraid of that… Bendis has a tendency to punctuate long sequences of dialogue and punching with a declaration of armageddon, but there’s seldom any real explanation of how or why these things happen. The issue has little cute moments, but they don’t amount to much. Hawkeye up and disappears in the middle of the issue, with no discussion of how or why (here’s hoping he went to summon Thor) and the choreography of the battle, while neat and all, isn’t enough meat to support the whole issue. Aside from Daimon saying that the mysterious “they” want to tear the dimension apart, there’s never even a clear understanding of what the menace IS! I would say that I’m puzzled by this, but it’s pretty much to be expected these days, as individual issue breakdowns are sacrificed to the longlost god TeePeeBee. Given that the only real strategy that the team has (stab the magicians) is revealed to be unintentional, it all breaks down to an issue long fight scene with a scary teaser. Overall, there’s nothing really WRONG with what we get in these pages, they’re well drawn and contain some interesting characterization, but the contents of this issue are really about 1/3 of a standard twenty-odd page comic book story expanded to fill the page allotment. I like the individual team members, and hope that they congeal into a cohesive whole, but I’m pretty much resigned to the fact that this won’t happen for at least three arcs, minimum. New Avengers #2 is a well-crafted issue, but there’s just not enough traction to progress on our main story, earning 2 out of 5 stars overall. The ‘Filler Effect’ is unfortunate, given that this title has a fine pedigree and a pretty impressive cast of characters (including 3 bonus heroes!) but ends up playing Royal Rumble a little too long for my tastes…
Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day: The Thing is an unusual choice for an Avengers team. If you had free reign of the entire Marvel U., what SINGLE character do you think deserves some play with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes?