Monday, September 13, 2010

New Avengers #4 Review

It’s hard to argue against the strength of the Heroic Age relaunch of the Avengers franchise, at least in terms of creative pedigree, but I think while no one was looking, New Avengers managed to easily become the best title of the group. Even though it’s a continuation of the previous series, it’s pretty easy to jump along, and this first arc has been a whole lot of fun so far. Hit the jump for my review of this issue.

New Avengers #4

Story by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger, Laura Martin

For those of you just joining us, the New Avengers were having a quite day until all hell (literally) broke loose: members of the team were possessed, a portal opened across the city, some kind of demons started destroying the city, and Iron Fist was spirited away to who-knows-where. The titular team was way out of its league, until a team of three sorcerers, current Sorcerer Supreme Doctor Voodoo, former Sorcerer Supreme Dr. Strange, and Daimon Hellstrom,  the Son of Satan showed up, but even they didn’t know who or what caused all this. The last page of the previous issue revealed that it was The Ancient One, Strange’s tutor, who was orchestrating all this.

The issue starts with the team still fighting an uphill battle, doing little else besides surviving, as Spider-Man neatly puts it “This isn’t working!”. The sorcerers still don’t know what’s going on, eliminating all the usual suspects, and running fast out of options, not to mention patience. Where this comic shines is in the interaction between all these characters, and the ample cast provides plenty of opportunities, such as Luke Cage and The Thing, or Jessica Jones and Dr. Strange. These are not characters that we are used to seeing working together, and that’s what gives New Avengers such a fresh feeling. Whereas the main Avengers title prides itself in having characters that are normally associated with the franchise, I enjoy more looking into the lives of this oddball team.

Another thing I appreciate is that Bendis is using a naming technique with magic similar to what Fraction/Brubaker did in Immortal Iron Fist with martial art moves. Whenever a character performs an act of magic, it’s named in a caption and lists where it originated from (Scroll of This, or Book of That). It saves the character from explaining what they are doing, instead of narrating their actions, the reader just sees the name of the magic move, and we know what the characters are doing. I’m not keeping track of it at all, so I don’t know if the same technique has been used twice or any incongruities between the sources but it’s a neat trick to help with the narrative.

As sudden as all of the chaos started, it mysteriously stops when a figure falls from the portal that had opened above the city. The New Avengers investigate and they find a returned Iron Fist who also happened to get a make over. It’s a nice look for Danny Rand, and with a simple palette change, it makes the Iron Fist look incredibly more regal and majestic. It’s not explained why or how this change happened, but Iron Fist comes back with some new knowledge involving Doctor Strange, and he is not happy about it.

What is it? Well, you are going to have to read the issue to find out, but I am pretty sure it’s a retcon of already established events, and frankly, my dear readers, I don’t give a damn. I know much has been made of Brian Bendis' disregard of previous continuity, but this is such a fun comic that I forgive it. If this is the kind of thing that is a deal-breaker for you, New Avengers is probably not the title you should be reading.

It would be completely remiss if I didn’t mention the art side of things. My love for Stuart Immonen is known far and wide by now, and I shouldn’t have to tell you again how good he is. From beginning to end, this book looks amazing: Immonen, along with colorist Laura Martin and inker Wade Von Grawbadger make one of the best teams in comic. It’s a colorful, bright and shiny book, even when it could have easily become a dark and muddy affair (during the outside scenes, when the whole sky turned red). At the drop of a hat, this team can easily switch from big action pieces to quiet emotional scenes. I would love to have this art team on any (and every) book, but the subject matter lends itself quite well for it to showcase a wide array of scenes and locales. One of my favorite little touches is that whenever Son of Satan gets angry, his hair catches on fire.

This isn’t a completely perfect book. I wish the pace would pick up a little bit, as not much happened aside from the last few pages. It just happens that what goes on in the other pages is very entertaining for me, but if you have low tolerance for “Bendis speech” (which, to be honest, is almost non-existent in this issue) or if you care a whole lot about the retcon I mentioned earlier, then this book is not for you. I can’t say I cared much for the text back-up, and I wouldn’t mind getting a back-up comic instead of it, but I would still gladly pay 3.99 for this comic.

Verdict - Buy It. Right now, New Avengers is the strongest book of the franchise, even if this issue had some minor flaws. While all the other Avengers book are trying to play outside of their comfort zone, New Avengers, under the watchful eye of Bendis, Immonen, and company, proudly accepts what it is and plays to its strengths.

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Anonymous said...

I'm really enjoying new avengers so far although I'm only on issue 3 but I really think that avengers academy is the best title out of all of them it just feels different too me, great review though I've seen too many reviewers on the interent complain that not enough happens when this is just a fun issue which seems to be lackign too much in comics if you ask me

Matt Duarte said...

@Anon: Avengers Academy is a very good title, and I like quite a lot, but I think New Avengers is slightly better (though I'm heavily biased because of Stuart Immonen).

Anonymous said...

When "New Defe.. er Avengers" first appeared I liked it, especially Alpha Flight getting decimated (I actually like Alpha Flight). With this new series Bendis and Immonen step up the game a notch. This arc has the makings of classic like Korvac or the Kree/Skrull war. The only player missing for me is Hawkeye. I have to agree New Avengers is the stongest of the Avengers family. You know... I'm just glad there is an Avengers family.

-Retcon Joe

krakkaboom said...

New Avengers is my favorite Avengers book. I don't care for the Next Avengers in the adjectiveless book. Secret is alright. I'm not picking up Academy, but have heard good things. I love Gage, but I'm bored with the premise.

Immonen, Von Grawbadger, and Martin are excellent. The art is clean and it's easy to figure out what's going on.

I feel like Bendis is building the foundation of a mystical event in this first arc.

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