I am the official Bizarro-fan of the core Avengers title. For the majority of the Bendis/Romita Jr. run on the book, I have disliked what most people praised and liked what most people loathed. I’m a fan of Bendis because I always find his writing provides at least one spectacular moment in every issue. That is, when I read something like Avengers, New Avengers or Ultimate Spider-Man I know there will be a set of panels, group of word balloons or character moment that will be stroke my inner fanboy. Sadly, Bendis does not bat 1.000 (and some would argue he’s below the Mendoza Line), so his genius comes in flashes, if not flickers.
This edition of Avengers harks to that with a brilliant battle between Red Hulk and Inverted Color Thing, mixed with the retrospective commentary by the rest of the Avengers on how savage it was. The whole Visual-Oral History of the Avengers thing that premiered in last issue does nothing but slow down and meander in small bits of almost insignificant dialogue. It’s a little jarring as a reader to invest in a story that the main characters all seem to survive. Yeah, Ms. Marvel isn’t probably getting her head cracked in by a hammer*, but it’s the thought that she might that contributes to my reading experience.
*Don’t misunderstand, I love Carol, and I’m sure her skull can withstand a hammer strike, unlike weak-ass Bucky.
Romita Jr.’s effort improves from the conclusion of the Infinity arc. While the panels are pretty similar — Red Hulk chasing and punching the villain — they look a lot cleaner this time. I’m a huge fan of his version of the hammer-wielding Ben Grimm, and overall faces and anatomy are cleaner. Most importantly, the city crushing fight scene that is the sole event of the book is expertly planned and executed and finally justifies the huge panels the creative teams enjoys to use.
Bendis has some sort of affection for the Ruby Avenger formally known as General Ross. I theorize it’s because the Red Hulk’s introduction to comics was so ridiculous and abhorred that the writer wants to prove something by giving him a thematic redemption. He’s kind of halfway there. Rulk has been a bit of a joy to follow in Avengers and Jeff Parker’s Hulk. I agree that it’s a bit weird to read such a longtime and unwavering antagonist as a hero, but lines like “Drop the hammer and lay on the ground” help ground the character in the decades of history he derives from.
This issue has fantastic, over-the-top fisticuffs and some misguided attempts at emotion. That’s it. The title is a carousel of the major Marvel players, but each story is a grab-bag of characters with the rest serving as cameos. In a way, Avengers has become the place where everyone’s at but nothing happens.