Or – “I Think I’ve Read This Retcon Before?”

I think that the worst part about any shared universe is the tendency to tie TOO MANY things together, to wrap up loose ends that aren’t really loose in what seems to be the pursuit of a complete history.  The latest attempt at doing so was in the Ultimate Universe, where literally EVERYONE seems to be part of the Super Soldier Project, from Samuel L. Fury to Richard Parker all the way down to the guy who runs the Thing’s favorite delicatessen.  There comes a point where tie-ins actually collapse the ongoing story in an attempt to unify a “mythos.”  Why do I mention this here?  Read on, MacDuff…

NEW AVENGERS #9
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist(s): Mike Deodato & Howard Chaykin
Color Art: Rain Beredo & Edgar Delgado
Letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously, on New Avengers:  After the Siege of Asgard, outlaw Avengers commander Luke Cage was given carte blanche by Steve Rogers, a mansion by Tony Stark, and a mandate by Victoria Hand to form an official Avengers team.  He called in Spider-Man, Wolverine, his wife, his best friend, Doctor Strange, 1/4 of the Fantastic Four and a couple of blondes (including the worst character in the Marvel Universe) to round out his team, and their first meeting caused literal hell to break loose, costing Brother Voodoo his life.  On the plus side, though, Iron Fist got a spiffy new gold and ivory costume… 

How Do You Make Sure Your Stakeout Is A Failure?

Bring along seven friend, including THE THING, and lean on a sign in what must be plain view…  Before we get to that tactical failure by team leader Cage, we get to see a pretty visually impressive nine-page sequence by Howard Chaykin, featuring the post-war adventures of Nick Fury, Gabe Jones and Dum-Dum Dugan, hunting down escaped Nazis…  and executing them in the street.  I realize that Nick is a soldier, but for some reason I was bothered by this bit, especially given that it takes place in 1959, FIFTEEN YEARS after Dubya Dubya Two.  Shouldn’t they have brought this guy in for trial and such?  Isn’t there a matter of international law involved in the murder of someone who has yet to be actually TRIED for anything?  And moreover, is there anything more embarassing that Bendis’ tough-guy soldier dialogue?  (Actually, there is, his magical wizard dialogue, as seen in part two of the issue, featuring as it does Doctor Strange.)  Chaykin’s art is a tour-de-force of period design, authentic cars and clothing, and of course, heads shaped remarkably like glass milk jugs, making for a good looking but really morally troubling sequence of events.

Wait, Wut?.

The rest of the book follows the New A’s on a stakeout as they surveil former Captain America villain Superia (re-imagined here as a six-foot-evil-sex-goddess, which is an improvement over her “battle-vixen-as-nun” costume from back in the day.)  An argument breaks out among the team, with Jessica Jones reminding the assemblage that this woman hasn’t actually committed any crimes or done anything more than move into a new storefront, while The Thing recommends his usual strategy:  Show up.  See what happens.  Clobberin’ time.  Ben, Spider-Man, Wolverine and Doctor Strange bust heads while Cage, Jessica and Iron Fist steal three truckloads worth of Superia’s stuff, making it ironic that our protagonists have stolen private property and started needless fistfights, while the villainess did nothing but look fine in a leather micromini.  Given that the issue started with cold-blooded murder, though, it’s a lesser problem than you might think.  Bad things happen, and the comtemporary portion of the issue ends with an Avenger badly wounded in a (needless and hero-induced) crossfire.  Cutting back to 1959, we see Fury get pulled aside by a General and told of his new gig:  Head of The Avengers Initiative.

The Verdict: Meh And More Meh

There are some nice parts of this issue, mostly character bits, including a sequence where Luke fails to hotwire the truck he’s trying to steal and instead picks it up and walks away, but mostly I’m left cold.  Nick’s actions during wartime notwithstanding, the flashback portions of the issue bother me as an attempt to bring “realism” to a comic book hero’s story, and there’s never a clear explanation of what is going on with Superia or why our heroes engage in unprovoked vandalism, theft, battery and mayhem.  Moreover, as I mentioned at the very start, I’m bugged by the retconned insertion of this “Avengers Initiative,” not just for the knot of continuity snarls I know it will start, but because it smacks of centralized world-building in a Marvel Universe that has long been known for versimilitude and sprawling narrative.  If this is the story of how Nick created the Age of Marvels, it has the potential to shrink that narrative down to a common originating point, something that seems inherently less fun and has much less potential.  Worse than that, by today’s standards, the Avengers couldn’t have formed much earlier than the mid 1990’s, leaving a 30 to 40 year gap of something.  I kind of hope we’re going to see what happened in between the heydey of the war and the modern Marvel Age, but my instincts (and solicitations) aren’t leading me that way.  Either way, New Avengers #9 consists of two seemingly unrelated vignettes full of mixed messages and portentious happenings that doesn’t really stand up as a singular narrative, earning a troubled and disappointed 2 out of 5 stars overall.  I very much hope to be surprised where this arc ends up going…

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  Am I overthinking it?  Is it okay for Nick Fury to gun people down in the streets if he knows they did something wrong a lifetime before?

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. February 13, 2011 at 12:30 am — Reply

    You aren’t over-thinking it. Having read the book before I read this review… I reacted the same way to everything you’ve mentioned here. Everything.

  2. ryanchan
    February 13, 2011 at 3:53 am — Reply

    i completly agree from the start i thought the new avengers was better than the avengers i thought it was going great with rogers telling cage to pick hi own team the story was great and the diologe was great but i just dont no were issue 9 came out from there was cero team work i dont no how they tracked these people down and i dont no why, i thought it was just fighting and fighting and i felt i had missed the reason behind it or i was just misunderstanding something, i fell like there was an issue new avengers 8.5 and i didnt get it, i also hope spidey doesnt blame himself because he was talking to someone that got shot although i wouldnt be surprised if he did, next issue the new avengers get taking to court for assult and battery or atleast get rosted for attacking someone who they didnt take the time to find out if they had broke the law

  3. Rome
    February 13, 2011 at 10:34 am — Reply

    Killing Nazi’s… yeah yeah… bad guys… yeah I guess.

    It’s actually the unprovoked fighting and stealing of the New Avengers in the present that I find morally questionable. Even more so because they don’t just act, they actually discuss the moral implications that then go ahead anyway. The Avengers end up acting more like the typical villains in this story, with an unprovoked attack for no apparent reason and making off with the loot.

    I hope this is the point, and ends up biting them in the @$$.

  4. RedneckTaZ
    February 13, 2011 at 11:12 am — Reply

    Answer to your question: Hell, no you’re not over-thinking it and I’m wondering why more Marvel fans don’t think it. I can sum my opinion of this issue and the way it’s heading in a very simple, succinct way: This is absolute crap. Once again, Marvel Comics never fails to dissapoint me by dissapointing me.

  5. Petro
    February 13, 2011 at 3:15 pm — Reply

    A lifetime before? The Fury stuff occurs in 1959, how short are your lifetimes? Oh, and is there any punishment a Nazi doesn’t deserve? And, I don’t mean comic-book-bad-guys-that-you-cheer-for-Captain-America-to-punch-in-the-face Nazis, but real live hate mongering, genocidal Nazis. No, I think Fury was fully within his right as an agent of the America government to dole out justice.

    Back to the comic, I fully support clandestine groups engaging in a little preemptive butt-kicking. You do realize that if a guy is charged with murder and then escapes police custody, they don’t have to wait for the guy to commit ANOTHER murder in order to arrest him. I highly doubt Superia has served her time for her FREAKING SUPER-VILLAIN evilness, therefore, why wouldn’t the NA’s have the right to go in and arrest her (or the NA’s super-heroy equivalent thereof).

    If Dr. Doom moved into a deli down the street from the Baxter Building would you tell the Fantastic Four that they have to wait until Doom pays his sandwich makers under the table and withholds proper medical insurance from an on the job injury? HELL NO! So how is this any different?

    Known super-villains do not get the benefit of the doubt.

    And finally, how incredibly LAME is Bendis for trying to tie the film’s Avengers Initiative? It’s insane that this guy gets to do whatever he wants to Marvel continuity, but he’s Marvel’s golden boy so I guess people stopped telling him: “No! That’s a dumb idea!” a long time ago. A bigger deal should be made out of this by the ‘comic book press,’ but I suppose people are just tired of counting all the stunts writers use to try and drum up readership (I’m looking at you Spider-Man being on the New FF Jonathan Hickman).

    • February 13, 2011 at 4:49 pm — Reply

      A lifetime before? The Fury stuff occurs in 1959, how short are your lifetimes?

      Um… Well, most of the people in my family live about sixty years. That’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 years, give or take… :)

      Known super-villains do not get the benefit of the doubt.

      That thought process is what led to Iron Man taking over SHIELD and Norman Osborn’s reign of terror. Aren’t we in the kinder, gentler Heroic Age?

      Yeah, I didn’t think so, either.

      • RedneckTaZ
        February 13, 2011 at 5:19 pm — Reply

        Well put, Matthew.

        Trying to tie the current Marvel continuity into a film concept (argue if it came from “The Age of Marvels” if you’d like but I’d call BS on that) is insulting to long-time fans in my opinion.

        As for “lifetimes”, mine started in 1963 so, yeah, 1959 is even ahead of my time.

        Having Nick Fury and his Howler/Shield pals bumping off Nazis (while not in combat and while said Nazis are not wearing Hydra or Red Skull togs) about 14 years after the end of the war is totally against the past character of Nick Fury and Nick Fury and Captain American have been two of the primary lynchpins to Marvel continutity. Not only that, in 1959 it would be more likely that Nick Fury and Duggan would have been knocking off Communist agents as part of the Cold War instead of some left-over Nazis. Whether they deserve it or not this is Nick Fury aka Sergeant Nick Fury of WWII and Colonel Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD and not Frank Castle.

        The bottom line is that the “Heroic Age” apparently lasted (as the old folks around here would say) “a farting spell” and we’re back to grit, grime and everybody in the books arguing over ethics. I had an open mind on the Marvel titles after “Dark Reign” and “Siege”. Unfortunately, that mind just slammed shut. I’d rather take my chances on seeing how “Brightest Day” turns out (although I am still furious over how they’ve handled the Freddy Freeman/Shazam character with the latest issue of Titans) and following “Flashpoint” in comics and just enjoy the Captain America and Thor movies.

  6. Kreniigh
    February 16, 2011 at 2:33 pm — Reply

    I’m not really a fan of the preemptive approach (shouldn’t Bobbi have learned something incriminating? Isn’t she s super-spy?), but it’s understandable that on a team this mixed, some people would jump in like the Thing did.

    What I’m wondering about is Wolverine putting his claws through the dude’s head on page 20. That’s a lot of blood spraying for it to be a glancing blow.

  7. Damascus
    April 10, 2011 at 12:59 am — Reply

    My nice comment about the issue is that I really liked the full page picture of Spider-man holding a wounded Mockingbird. I thought that was really pretty. I agree with everyone else that it seemed odd for the good guys to bust into the place without any proof of wrongdoing. It isn’t even like they’ve said that they have proof that connects Superia to some crime and the evidence has pointed out this location and this date to delivery machinery for some nefarious plot. Nothing making it seem like they’d have probable cause to bust in and do some damage.

    I think what Petro was meaning when he called out the lifetime thing is that you asked whether it’s okay for Nick Fury to kill someone for bad deeds that a person had done a lifetime before, when Fury shot the man, it’d only been 15 years after that mans’ evil deeds. I typically don’t think of a teenagers’ lifetime when that phrase is used, but definitely if Nick Fury had doled out his Texas Justice this day and age over some Nazi activity back in ’45 then it would fit a little better. Either way, good review, I felt only “meh” about this issue too.

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