REVIEW: New Avengers #16

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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?