Or – “Don’t Let The Cover Fool You…”
During Secret Invasion, I complained voraciously that the titles related to the big storyline (basically all four of the then-extant Avengers books) were put on hold for the duration of the big crossover madness, running stories that deepened Secret Invasion, but weren’t truly stand-alone issues in their own right. New crossover time is upon us… Are we in the same boat?
Previously, on New Avengers: The appointment of Victoria Hand as liason to Luke Cage’s New Avengers has stuck in the craw of more than one of the team’s members, but none so much as Peter Parker, who sees her (and justifiably so) as a pawn of Norman Osborn, a man for whom Pete has no love lost. Worse still, Vicki’s old pals in H.A.M.M.E.R. have been trying to regroup under the control of Superia (an old minor Captain America foe) and a skirmish between the two teams led to the hospitalization of New Avenger Mockingbird with life-threatening injuries. Her life was only saved by the use of a variant of super-soldier serum, but there’s still a suspicion that Ms. Hand is up to no good. And then, the hammers fell from the sky…
“Hi, My Name Is Bobbi…”
It’s not looking good for actual content this month, as the first story page is ten talking-head shots of Mockingbird, expositioning about the “Oral History Of The Avengers” (used as backup material for the last year of this book and the other Avengers titles) and how she isn’t used to being talkative, blah blah blah. Dialogue heavy pages can be wonderful, and getting into a main character’s head can be important. Moreover, Bendis dialogue can be a real guilty pleasure, but the problem with this soliloquy is that SHE’S NOT TELLING ME ANYTHING I DON’T KNOW FROM READING THE ACTUAL ISSUES. On the one hand, I suppose it’s nice to be able to jump in as a new reader, but the issue actually began with a recap page that explained all of this once already! We then transition from a scene of talking to… a scene of more people talking, as Spider-Man tries to resign from the New Avengers, claiming that his Future Foundation duties are pulling him away. When Wolverine calls him on his hatred of Ms. Hand (her history teacher father is equally bogus, I hear), Spidey admits that he doesn’t trust her. To earn points and build rapport. Victoria replies by shrieking that Spider-Man has repeatedly been accused of murder and worse by the Daily Bugle. Nice people skills, Vic. The sniping is interrupted by the return of Bobbi Morse, who enters with a smile and a calm, “Hey, guys.”
“…And I’m Getting A Push This Month!”
While Mock gets a warm welcome, things get subtle, and you almost miss Wolverine pulling Spider-Man aside for a secret exchange (that we don’t hear) while Victoria scowls and pulls out her PDA (seemingly to contact the H.A.M.M.E.R. agents who tried to recruit her.) It’s a remarkably underplayed scene, and I actually liked it a lot, especially the amount of vitriol that artist Deodato gives to Victoria’s facial expressions. The talky-talky comes back, only interrupted by fighty-fighty, as we see what happens during the big battle that has now spread over Fear Itself issues 1 through 4, with Mockingbird enjoying her new vitality, and even stealing a Nazi war-machine to use against it’s fellows. It’s a fun but light-weight exchange, ending with Mockingbird’s shock as she watches Avengers Tower collapse in the distance. (Have we really come so far in just ten years? I remember when you couldn’t show ‘The Towering Inferno’ on TV, and now…) The issue ends with Mockingbird vowing to kill the daughter of the Red Skull for her crimes.
The Verdict: Back To The Summer Crossover Chain Gang
I am saddened to say that this issue is exactly what I thought it would be: An interstitial chapter of a story being told somewhere else. The actual New Avengers plots are touched on briefly, to remind us of what they are, but the story veers back and forth from talking head to action sequence, with neither portion holding their own as a story, and certainly NOT as a story worth the four dollar price point. Deodato and Bendis hit their usual riffs, but this issue is pretty much only the DVD extras for the story that Marvel wants us to buy. Even more of a revoltin’ development, as Uncle Benjy might have it, is the almost complete lack of the Thing (and an absolute lack of the mutated ‘Breaker of Souls’ Thing as shown on the cover), leaving my ‘Bait-And-Switch’ sense tingling. The bottom line? While the art is nicely handled, there just isn’t enough story to go around, making New Avengers #14 essentially a clip-show, and an overpriced one at that, earning 1.5 out of 5 stars overall.
Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day: Dialogue in this issue hangs a lantern on the Mockingbird character as being “boring.” Do you think this will help make her a better hero, or have they just sounded Bobbi’s relevance death-knell?