REVIEW: New Avengers #7

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Or – “One Of Those Heroes Would Die…  I Don’t Know That Anyone Was Truly Surprised By Their Choice.”

In the wake of magical war, the world is without a Sorcerer Supreme, and the New Avengers are at the center of it all.  With Doctor Strange in their midst, will the team be able to defend the world against mystical menaces from beyond, or are we all doomed? 

New Avengers #7
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciler: Stuart Immonen
Inker: Wade Grawbadger
Colorist: Laura Martin
Letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Previously, on New Avengers:  Luke Cage has long shown the characteristics of a natural leader, but it took the assassination of Captain America and bastardization of Iron Man for him to be able to express them.  As the leader of an underground team of Avengers, Luke fought against Tony Stark and later Norman Osborn’s respective reigns of terror.  When the dark days finally ended, Luke was approached by the resurrected Captain America to assemble and spearhead an above-ground team of Avengers, headquartered in Avengers Mansion.  Their first mission was a cosmic clusterschmozz, as Doctors Voodoo & Strange and the Son of Satan joined them in opposing what seemed to be an incursion to our dimension by alien overlords.  The upshot (at least I *THINK*) was that Agamotto wanted his eye back, leading to the ignominious death of Doctor Voodoo, the incumbent Sorcerer Supreme.  With the giant threat ended, Luke and his Avengers squad gets to rebuild that which was barely even established.  (That last sentence, by the way, describes a large portion of Brian Bendis’ Marvel content over the last five years or so.)

We open in the midst of Avengers Mansion’s courtyard, as Luke and his team meet with Damage Control about rebuilding Avengers Mansion.  As with previous issues, this one really shines in the little conversational moments, as Luke interacts with Ann-Marie Hoag, the founder of Damage Control, and she clearly intimates that she and Luke had a relationship (much to the chagrin of Mrs. Cage.)  Captain America has sent word that he will pick up the bill, but Luke refuses his help until he hears the pricetage:  $250,000 dollars plus.  As the team settles in to have their first meeting again, in a clear parallel to the first issue, Doctor Strange awakens from a 15-hour nap to find his friends waiting for him.  When Stephen tells them he has to leave, the entire team rises up and Luke declares that he can stay at the mansion for free and be “The Magic Avenger.”  Strange tries to demur, but Luke reminds him that when THEY needed help, it was Strange who housed them in his home, and they all owe him.  (Well, all except Ms. Marvel, who was in the Fascist Avengers team at the time.)  Strange reminds them that Joshua Drumm has sworn to kill him, but nobody is listening.  “Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a bad guy threaten all holy hell on you before he dies, went to jail, disappeared, vanished or just felt like lipping off,” asks Cage, and every hand in the room goes up.  Heh…

Victoria Hand calls the meeting to order, and hands out paychecks, causing Luke to once again lose his cool about Steve Rogers’ promise of “no strings attached.”  Before he can do it, though, Jessica slaps him down, reminding him that they have a baby, no insurance, and are flat broke, and moreover, Luke has no right to answer for everyone ELSE in the room.  (Spider-Man doesn’t get a check, though, since his identity isn’t known, and besides that, he has to be the hard-luck hero, even when there are dozens of simple ways around the issue…)  In another nice bit of continuity, Spidey tries to quit when he finds out that Vicky used to work for Norm-O, but is convinced to stay, and Ms. Marvel gets in the best line of the issue as he does it.  The rest of the issue consists of Luke and Jessica trying to hire a nanny (with the patented two-page spread of a large group of characters looking into the “camera” and talking, including the second best line of the issue from Nighthawk: “Clearly, you guys are the Defenders, but you’re calling yourself the Avengers?  I mean, is it me?”) and finally settling on Squirrel Girl.  There is some awkwardness when it is discovered that her ex-boyfriend in on the team (and that reveal is amazingly funny as well) and as we close, Doctor Strange’s majordomo Wong arrives with all his stuff.  “I prayed that one day I would grow up to be a second-rate Jarvis for a second-rate pile of Avengers,” he snarks, warning them all that if anyone touches his kitchen, he will burn it to the ground.  The issue ends with Ms. Hand realizing that everyone on the team is completely out of their mind…

Comparatively to the primary Avengers title, this book comes off superior in nearly every way.  Stuart Immonen’s art is breathtaking, even when rendering Squirrel Girl or D-Man.  The cameos by U.S. 1, Echo (“You know I used to be ON this $#&ing team!”), Machine Man, Groot and others make even the filler material fun to read, and the overall effect of the issue is one of necessary (and elegant) housekeeping, explaining the team finances, their layout, getting baby Danielle someone to care for her, and squaring away the questions that we might have, while bringing Doctor Strange officially into the fold.  The team lineup is, to my mind, superior to the Avengers book, and the Bendis writing style works better for me on this more grounded group of characters.  I guess therein lies the main danger in having multiple titles to try and please everyone:  Something ends up suffering.  New Avengers #7 is a very pleasant diversion, well-written and meaningful, even as nothing much actually happens, earning a very respectable 4 out of 5 stars overall.  The only way this book would have been better would be more U.S.1, if you ask me…

Rating: ★★★★☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  Nighthawk has a point…  Why WOULD these characters, in-universe, go with the name New Avengers instead of Defenders?