Or- “Don’t Listen To The Devil In The White Night Gown!”

Many complain of Brian Bendis’ stewardship of the Avengers franchise, notably that he shovels all his favorite Marvel characters into the group, regardless of logic, and creates additional teams as necessary when there are too many favorites for one team.

The solicits (“Daredevil finally joins The Avengers!”) made me want to HATE this issue on general principle, but upon reading I had an even stronger reaction that I had ever expected…

NEW AVENGERS #16
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Mike Deodato
Cover Artists: Mike Deodato & Rain Beredo/John Romita Jr. & Klaus Janson
Colorist: Rain Beredo
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously, on New Avengers:  The Mighty Avengers started out as a coalition of heroes banding together to stop Loki, but have become something more: The largest and greatest association of heroes in the Marvel Universe, with multiple branches for multiple issues.  Damn near everyone has been an Avenger in their career, from Charlie-27 to the Two-Gun Kid, and the current team lineup is a literaly who’s who (no, wait, that’s the other  guys) of the Marvel Comics power elite.  With Luke Cage’s team occupied with the apocalypse, little Danielle Rand and her nanny Squirrel Girl have found themselves locked down in a mansion under siege.  With all the heroes busy, who will save the day?

HERE COMES DAREDEVIL, THE MAN WITHOUT FEAR!

You can say what you will about Brian Bendis, but the man can write some dialogue.  This issue opens with a pretty cool narrative, as Hawkeye talks about what it’s like to be an Avenger, and how “according to the internet” NOBODY is worthy to be an Avenger.  There’s a really cool spiraling narration as Hawkeye gives way to other heroes, in Breakfast Club fashion, each one describing the next (“A public menace.  An alien from outer space.  A wizard.  A convicted criminal”) and then we cut to the meat of the issue as Hawkeye talks (in the past tense) about the events that led to Daredevil joining the New Avengers.  Luke Cage takes over, giving a big smarmy speech about everything that Daredevil is, what he’s lost, what he’s done, what he’s become.  It’s kind of flowery, but I find myself liking it, agreeing with it, as Daredevil is shown fighting off a herd of Red Skull’s robot mechas.  During the battle, DD hears them discussing (in German) their plan to raze Avengers Mansion, at which point we see the realization come over his face:  The Avengers are fighting a war.  The mansion is deserted, except for the infant daughter of Power Man and Knightress.

THE BREAKFAST CLUB AS A NARRATIVE DEVICE…

The rest of the issue moves very quickly, as Daredevil watches in horror as Avengers Tower falls, then sets off for the Mansion.  Last issue ended with Squirrel Girl and baby Danielle under attack, but before the Nazi hordes can overrun them, Daredevil destroys them all with his commandeered mecha, blasts his way into the mansion, and leads them to the secret underground bunker.  Page 17 is particularly beautiful, as Daredevil steps into the mansion, shadowed except for his chest symbol, evoking the old Frank Miller image of Daredevil superimposed on the flames.  Some time later, we find Matt Murdock at work, when he hears a familiar heartbeat.  Heading to the roof, he finds Luke and Jessica, and the creative team makes the ONE flaw that keeps this issue from 5 stars.  Asked about how Fear Itself ended (this portion of story takes place in our future), Luke responds, “we ain’t goose-steppin’, so I guess it works out.”  WHAT?  Seriously?  After eight months of fighty-fighty, teeth-gnashing and sturm and drang, we get, “it all worked out in the end”?  We deserve better than just a Vince McMahon blow-off and build-up for next year’s Wrestlemania.

THE VERDICT: SURPRISING AND EFFECTIVE.

The issue ends with a very welcome reprise of the Avengers cascade, as the heroes redefine one another again (“A misunderstood hero who never gives up.  A cunning military mind from another culture.  A true master and protector of the mystic arts.  A basket case.  A jock.  And a criminal.”) ending with Daredevil describing himself as a “swashbuckling ninja who can’t say no to a friend.”  The warm fuzzies are just enough to get me back in the mood and even think that, maybe, this whole ‘Daredevil is an Avenger” thing could work.  A dark and pessimistic part of my mind worries that we’re getting to the point where being an Avenger is the equivalent of wearing a title belt in the WWE, a temporary thing that won’t be referenced when you’re repackaged next spring, but for now, this issue has made me surprised, and even happy with the state of things.  Had they not pooh-poohed the entirety of ‘Fear Itself’ (which is, notably, the first crossover in several years that this issue’s writer wasn’t primary creator on), this could have been a damn-near-perfect reading experience.  Even with that in play, New Avengers #16 is an effective issue, showing me a hero that I might not be familiar with, showing him being awesome, and being extremely well-drawn in so doing, earning 4 out of 5 stars overall.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  What possible excuse could they have for no-selling the climax of their big event the way this issue does?

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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12 Comments

  1. SenorEjaz
    September 19, 2011 at 6:45 pm — Reply

    These last few ‘talking heads’ issues of the Avengers that Bendis has been doing have been driving me up the wall with their awfulness. I’ve never read so much dialogue that has told me nothing about the characters or the plot, just melodramatic babbling – talk about wasting space. The fact that they’ve all been narrating in the past tense just makes it worse.

  2. Ian
    September 19, 2011 at 9:14 pm — Reply

    How does a blind man pilot a commandeered mecha?

    • September 19, 2011 at 9:35 pm — Reply

      How does a blind man pilot a commandeered mecha?

      Radar sense, I presume…

      • ikdks
        September 20, 2011 at 10:16 am — Reply

        I think he got you there, Matt. Unless it was a ragtop mech.

        • September 20, 2011 at 7:07 pm — Reply

          I think he got you there, Matt. Unless it was a ragtop mech.

          He mighta got Bendis, but he ain’t got me. I just reads ’em, I don’t explains ’em.

  3. johnny
    September 19, 2011 at 11:25 pm — Reply

    I liked this issue a lot. For the past several years (since “Disassembled” and “Identity Crisis”) the big two companies have just been beating their characters down, draining a lot of the heroism from the heroes. After what the horrendous “Shadowland” did to DD, this story finally builds a hero up, makes him seem heroic for once. As opposed to Spiderman selling out his responsibilities for the umpteenth time for Aunt May. We know Daredevil doesn’t have the power to duke it out with, say, a hammer-enhanced Hulk, but this gives him a role to play.

  4. September 19, 2011 at 11:49 pm — Reply

    Haven’t all the Marvel events ended with a whimper? Your WWE analogy seems to fit really well for all the evets since Civil War.

    • TaZ
      September 20, 2011 at 6:54 am — Reply

      Substitute TNA for WWE and I agree.

  5. Ced
    September 20, 2011 at 7:42 am — Reply

    I wish what Bendis have to say with the talking head could be demonstrated in panels through the story instead of being exposed in monologues.

    • Pantsthemonkey
      September 20, 2011 at 10:45 am — Reply

      I agree. These days some of the most popular artists in comics are on Avengers books, and their wasted on drawing several pages of head-shots.

      It was cute in Powers because you never knew who was gonna pop up, but here it’s just a roll call that takes way too much space.

  6. The Bear Jew
    September 21, 2011 at 11:17 pm — Reply

    Go Daredevil!

  7. Oldcomicfan
    September 22, 2011 at 6:32 am — Reply

    I agree with Maximus Rift above. Even Marvel’s first big event series: Secret War fizzled out at the end. It was like “OMG: THE MOST INCREDIBLE EVENT EVER! THE MARVEL UNIVERSE WILL NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN!” And then the whole thing just sort of limped to an incomprehensible halt and everything was exactly the same as before except Spiderman had a black costume. And then they gave us Secret Wars II which was even more incomprehensible. Listen up, dear readers, until all you people STOP BUYING Marvel and DC’s EVENT BOOKS they will keep inflicting them upon us. Nuff Said.

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