Warning – spoilers below!
My fellow reviewer Kelvin Green likes to call this comic Not Avengers, but for the first time it’s literally true. Despite the nice cover illustration that shows Wolverine, Spider-Man, Captain America and the rest, only one Avenger actually appears in this story, and there only in two pages dressed in his human guise. This is the worst sort of bait-and-switch technique. I pity the young fan looking for his Wolverine fix and finding not a single panel of the Adamantium Avenger. This issue presents a decent story, but this technique of lying to the readers is reprehensible.
That said, I gotta be honest here: I have not enjoyed most of the recent comics I’ve read that were written by Brian Bendis. His style has gotten tiresome for me over the last few months. It’s felt like his style has become a cliché. Bendis loves to have his characters banter, even when it doesn’t fit his characters, and then has long and quiet action scenes. He’s also great at setting the scene for a story and awful at tying the story together at the end.
There are actually no Avengers in this story. So the problem with banter doesn’t really apply here. And New Avengers #16 is the beginning of a new arc, so we don’t have to worry about the ending falling apart. This is actually a pretty intriguing first chapter. A immensely destructive force has crashed down to North Pole, Alaska, and is heading for America. That’s pretty much the plot for this issue, aside from some tiresome banter between Tony Stark and the new head of S.H.I.E.L.D., but the sparseness of the plot is actually okay for a story like this because the threat seems so huge and overwhelming. The first eight pages of the story present the threat crashing to Earth and slowly emerging from its destruction, and the scene gives the comic a kind of epic feel that readers don’t always feel when we’re reading Marvel books.
Because the threat builds up in a slow and intense way, the destruction he creates seems more real than it otherwise might have been. And when it wipes out the Canadian super-team Alpha Flight (are they really all dead? Just like that?), the threat just gets more real.
Steve McNiven and Dexter Vines’s art is decent enough. They’re good at drawing the epic scenes at the beginning of the book, but there’s something a bit stiff about their faces. Tony Stark almost looks like he’s made out of plastic in his scenes, and the reactions of the SHIELD officers seemed a bit stiff as well. Still, he draws a nice epic story, and seems a good fit for this book.
So this is good Bendis: no wasted banter, no weird verbal ticks, and the beginning of what could be an epic storyline. Just a solid, slightly above average Marvel book, rated down slightly due to the misleading cover.