Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: David Finch (p), Danny Miki (i)
As the Avengers find themselves under attack by a squadron of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents we see the team is able to send this group running off into the jungle. The team than comes to discover what dirty little secret these agents were working to protect, but the Avengers find all proof that would link S.H.I.E.L.D. to this criminal activity is wiped away when a Helicarrier arrives and quickly destroys any incriminating evidence that may have existed in this Savage Land operation.
I have to say I enjoyed the basic idea behind this issue's big discovery, as the Avengers make an unsettling discovery during their visit to the Savage Land that is clear off the table in a manner that can't help but leave one extremely concerned. On one hand one can choose to believe the explanation that is offered up that S.H.I.E.L.D. was sending a strong message that they will not stand for any illegal action, but it's a little hard to ignore to idea that their scorched earth policy also serves to destroy any incriminating evidence that would link them to this morally reprehensible activity. In fact if I had to make one complaint about this issue it's that Captain America and Spider-Man, two of Marvel's more virtuous heroes didn't raise stronger objections, as the explanation that the S.H.I.E.L.D. operative offers up for the wholesale slaughter of everyone inside the facility wasn't strong enough to silence all objection. Still, I guess one could claim that these two quickly realized that there was far more to this situation and as such making a big fuss would only serve to put them on the outside and it's far easier to gather information when the people you're investigating don't know that you're bearing a serious grudge against them.
Still the Spider-Man fan in me wanted the character to get a little more upset when he saw what S.H.I.E.L.D. had done, as his non-reaction felt completely out of character. The scene where Iron Man and Captain America discuss bringing Wolverine into the team was a solid character moment for these two though, as their discussion perfectly reflects their respective personalities, and it nicely explains why Captain America would be willing to look the other way when it comes to Logan's less than heroic attributes. This issue also give Iron Man the opportunity to show what he brings to the table, as in addition to this final conversation, the issue offers up a couple moments where the character gets to show off his powers. Speaking of powers I do have to say I didn't know Sauron could shoot fire, but than my knowledge of the character's abilities isn't all that extensive.
David Finch knows how to deliver the big impact moments which is an all important quality considering this book is supposed to be Marvel's team supreme, and as such it stands to reason that the New Avengers are going to be facing the biggest, baddest threats that the Marvel Universe can throw at them. In fact if nothing else this issue art deserves the lion's share of the credit for the impact of the big reveal, as the scene where the team discovers what's been going on in the Savage Land is extremely well done. However, the real impact moment of this issue would have to be the scene that follows as we see the team is on hand when this place is reduced to a smoking ruin, and the reveal shot where we discover who launched this big attack was a lovely visual moment. The final page where Yelena is made an offer by a unseen party is also a well done sequence, as the art moves in closer on her and we see her considering the offer that is being made. The cover is also a nice looking piece, even though Sentry's presence with the others is a bit premature.
A covert S.H.I.E.L.D. team led by Yelena Belova, ďThe Other Black WidowĒ, has arrived to kill the Avengers. The heroes survive, of course. Theyíre shocked to learn a rogue division of S.H.I.E.L.D. has enslaved the people of the Savage Land to mine Vibranium. Vibranium is used primarily in illegal superweapons. Whatís worse, Tony Stark discovers someone at S.H.I.E.L.D. is also gathering super criminals. The Avengers have their first enemy, and they donít know who it is.
Here are the things that bug me. Sentry isnít a member yet, but heís on the cover. This happens too much in comics, and that kind of crap needs to stop. Second, Wolverine. Iím not up on my X-verse, so maybe Wolverine already knows about the new Weapon X Project up and running. Donít know why heís not trying to shut it down, but it looks like he will in the upcoming ĎWeapon Xí mini-series.
But what really puts a bur in my saddle is Stark comparing Wolverine to Captain America. Stark says Cap was the last ingredient the original Avengers needed, and Wolverine is the ingredient they need now. How? They need someone willing to kill. The original Avengers needed Captain America to hold them together. They needed someone to lead them and teach them to work as a team. Comparing Cap to Wolverine in that context is an insult. If they need someone to do the killing, they can ask Luke Cage. I mean, itís not like he does anything else! Seriously, he contributes nothing to the team! Aside from making fun of Spider-Man, he doesnít do jack! Give him the dirty work.
The comic as a whole isnít bad. Weíve got a conspiracy growing at S.H.I.E.L.D., the Avengers find their purpose in this new world, and great art from Finch and Miki. However, there isnít enough to keep me buying the series. As of this issue, Iím dropping it. I was going to stick around through the story about The Sentry, but Iíll just read that on the shelves. If thatís any good, Iíll buy the trade.
Finally, I donít think Bendis is really writing this as a team book. Itís just a collection of individuals hanging around. Maybe theyíre not supposed to gel yet, but the original Defenders were more of a team than these guys.
The Savage Land continues to be the dull backdrop for an altercation between S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers, who donít seem to be on the same side so much as compromised by hidden third parties.
Spinning out of the surprises of last issue, things grind to a halt despite lots of blowing things up. This issue is pretty much a series of expository conversations broken by moments of mega-violence. Now what story does that sound like?
Yelena Belova (apparently now defected from Russia, though we donít know how, why or when) is leading an unofficial wing of S.H.I.E.L.D. (arenít there a lot of those lately?), which has an agenda that conflicts with the Avengers unofficial and unauthorized agenda, which clashes with Agent Hillís agenda in running S.H.I.E.L.D. since Nick Furyís exile.
This series used to be about cosmic threats, mad magicians, angry gods and convoluted larger-than life soap operatic angst. Now itís a spy movie.
Nobody can be trusted (including Spider-Woman, weíre reminded in a slip by the clueless Yelena that is quickly dropped), and Captain Americaís complaints about this read as hollow jingoisms. You wonder how even his own teammates continue to take him seriously. There are a lot of guilty recriminations, but no understanding and little real communication. This is really frustrating in a concluding issue where some answers, maybe even just one, are to be expected.
What do we learn at the end of all the gunfire? Someone in S.H.I.E.L.D. is doing something they shouldnít. I think I could have told you that in issue one.
Bendis continues to invent new powers for his characters to satisfy plot needs. Iím not so troubled about Tonyís endless supply of force fields and magnets, as whatís Iron Manís point without amazing toys? But now Vertigo can induce sleep, and Sauron absorbs not just energy but their actual abilities from mutants (making him Rogue) and, oh yeah, he breathes fire?! Why bother with his actual ability to control minds and cast illusions, or the always-intriguing oddity of the monster speaking educated and evil English, when you can just treat him as an angry dragon? I mean, he looks like one, right?
Yelena's only claim to fame is being the arguably slightly hotter and more unscrupulous Black Widow, and Bendis takes half of that away. For those counting, this is the second Dr. Cyber Bendis has created this year. Remember her? You shouldnít, because she hasnít been used regularly since about 1970. A disfigured Asian woman whose principle beef with Wonder Woman was that Diana was still beautiful, most writers have deemed her a hopelessly dated stereotype.
Yet the vindictive villainess of Secret War is apparently angry over the monster sheís become (thanks to whatever we still donít know that Nick Fury did Last Year in Latveria), and now Yelena has the same motivation for revenge. While itís nice that Natasha has resumed her rightful place, this price is unfortunate. The character may never have been destined for greatness, but her other stories were better than this.
Thank goodness the Sentry story is finally about to start, because thereís far less damage this slipshod writer of continuity can do to someone who was only made up a few years ago rather than a few decades. Right? Wonder whoíll be sacrificed to justify the next plot? Though I have a guess.
What did you think of this book?
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