REVIEW: New Avengers Annual #1

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Or – “A Bunch Of Guys Versus…  Another Bunch Of Guys.”

One of the charges I often hear leveled against Brian Bendis is that tendency to take a random group of characters and throw them together regardless of logic or established characterization.  Heck, the New Avengers themselves fit this trope, and now Simon “Wonder Man” Williams has returned with a grudge and an eclectic team of “Revengers” to bring down his former pals…

NEW AVENGERS ANNUAL #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Gabriele Dell’Otto
Cover Artist(s): Gabriele Dell’Otto/Mark Bagley/Andy Lanning/Frank Martin
Colorist: Ive Svorcina
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $4.99

Previously, on New Avengers:  After the events of the superhuman Civil War, Commander Steve Rogers has authorized Luke Cage (the artist formerly known as Power Man) to run his underground team of Avengers in an official capacity.  Recruiting his wife, Jessica Jones, his best friend Iron Fist, old associates Spider-Man, Wolverine, Ms. Marvel, Doctor Strange and The Thing, as well as Mockingbird for some reason, the New Avengers have taken residence in New York City in the former Avengers Mansion, and have already faced a number of menaces and had fourteen page halting conversations galore.  Now, they’re about to face the worst threat in their career, even worse than Tony Stark’s ego!

The Madness Of Simon Williams…

This issue opens with Wonder Man seemingly speaking directly to us, the readers, explaining his new anti-Avengers stance.  “Here are the top five worst things that ever happened to the world…  and ALL of them are because of the Avengers.”  He then launches into a recitation of the horrors of Ultron, the madness of the Sentry and the Scarlet Witch, the rampages of the Hulk and the superhero Civil War.  I’m troubled by this because of how on-the-nose the dialogue is, pointing out how pointless the crossovers seem, and even explicitly stating that Civil War has had NO consequences that have lasted.  The first TWELVE pages of the book are this monologue, set to big two-page fully-painted Dell’Otto splash pages, one of which reveals the membership of Simon’s Revengers: Anti-Venom, Atlas, Captain Ultra, Century, D-Man, Devil-Slayer, Ethan Edwards (aka The Moral Man), and the new Goliath.  Some have clear reason to be here (Goliath and D-Man, possibly Century) and some are nonsensical (Captain Ultra and Devil-Slayer) but all look positively ridiculous in their redesigned uniforms.  Fully one-third of the book passes before anything happens…

That Feeling, You Can Only Say What It Is In French…

…but when it does, there’s a serious sense of Deja Vu.  Simon and his men wait for Squirrel Girl to take little Danielle Cage for a walk in the park, and they attack with all their (not-inconsiderable) power.  Give that this team includes no fewer than THREE Superman analogues, two giants, and a character whose very existence messes with Spider-Man’s powers, you might imagine how it goes.  I’m a little troubled by the fact that we get both bathroom humor and a couple of immature sex jokes, but even more bothered by the fact that, once again, we are witness to the destruction of Avengers Mansion.  There is something odd going on with The Revengers, making me wonder if they’re somehow being manipulated, as their dialogue is stilted, and one of them keeps repeated the same line of dialogue over and over.  Dell’Otto does a much better job of conveying motion than in Secret War, but even so, the images are remarkably static from page to page.  One interesting moment gets completely avoided, as Atlas (the former Power Man) confronts Luke Cage (who stole his name).  It’s two characters with an old grudge, who have clashed more than once over bad blood, and… neither of the even reference it, as their battle is a one-panel slap by Atlas sending Luke into orbit.  The New Avengers are taken down with ease, and as the issue ends, Wonder Man turns his men towards the city and points to their next target: Avengers Tower.

The Verdict: Interesting, But Stiff.

I have a number of questions about this issue, to wit:  Wasn’t Avengers Tower recently destroyed in Fear Itself?  When does this story take place with respect to that continuity?  Knowing that D-Man, Devil-Slayer and Anti-Venom all have histories of instability, are we to believe that they’re losing their minds?  For me, though, the biggest question is going to be, “Why would you undermine your own stories by pointing out the flaws in them, even after the fact?”  Civil War wasn’t Shakespearian, by any means, but it’s particularly galling to have Marvel’s own creative teams telling us that it signified nothing, especially for those of us who spent 30 or 40 bucks on the series.  As much as I want to enjoy this issue, I don’t believe Wonder Man’s change of heart, and no one else gets much in the way of characterization, and the issue ends with a cliffhanger that promises to continue in the Avengers Annual which has yet to even be solicited.  It’s a disappointing issue all around, from the elevated cover price (32 pages of actual story for 5 bucks?) to the “One From Column A” school of team-building, leading New Avengers Annual #1 to earn 2 out of 5 stars overall.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  Should it bother me that many of these second bananas don’t seem to make sense in this context?