"The Collective" Part 3
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Mike Deodato
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The fallout from the critical mixed bag that was House of M continues to unfold in the pages of New Avengers with this week's issue #18. "The Collective" not only spins directly out of the final pages of last year's aforementioned summer blockbuster, but also marks the first time that the Avengers actually attempt to do what they assembled to: handle the threats too powerful for a single superhuman to withstand.
Unfortunately, that doesn't necessarily make it a great comic.
One of the title's main problems is intensified here. Certain characters still seem largely ineffectual. Spider-Woman, for one, has done nothing of significance other than provide a security liability for the team, and Ronin. Well, Ronin is nowhere to be found, as usual.
On the other hand, Spider-Man moves into a new role and begins to prove his usefulness by being the "brain" of the team. While that is a welcome concept in theory, he is simply portrayed as Iron Man's lapdog, and has very little to do in the course of the issue that requires his scientific expertise. Still, it's interesting to see Peter Parker shift to a more behind-the-scenes tactical role rather than his usual job of hopping around making corny jokes.
Most frustratingly of all, the Sentry and the villain engage in a very well rendered silent battle in space, pummeling each other into oblivion. Why is that frustrating? Well, to this point the Sentry has added nothing to the series other than his two major "save the day" appearances. What was supposed to be a "yahoo!" jump-out-of-your-chair-cheering sequence instead comes across as another lazy plot device that holds no significance. Has Bendis put the Sentry on the team for no other reason than to pull him out of his hat as a deus ex machina whenever it's convenient?
There are definite positives in New Avengers #18, though. It's not uncommon in superhero comics for the entire world to hang in the balance due to an extraterrestrial threat. However, it is uncommon for that threat to feel so severe that the outcome actually seems to be in doubt. Bendis has created a menace that is truly terrifying, and his expert use of scene shifts from the battleground in Cleveland to outer space to the chilling images on SHIELD's computer screens ratchet up the anxiety level to the nth degree. Additionally, Bendis takes full advantage of guest potential by including the likes of Carol Danvers, the Young Avengers, the Vision, and Angelina Jolie. Ironically, those guest stars play more prominent roles than most of the actual members of the team do.
Mike Deodato's art is a better match for this book's tone than I ever thought it would be. His moody, drowned-in-shadows artwork in Amazing Spider-Man gradually become more and more off-putting to me as time went on, but the inks and colors over his pencils are much more vibrant and suited to a superhero team book here in New Avengers. At the same time, though, little of his characteristic emotion or moodiness is lost in the process. His rendition of the Collective's stoic facial expression is chilling. The artwork doesn't have the superheroish gleam that McNiven's or Cho's does, but it's still very effective for what it needs to accomplish in this issue.
Anyone with a passing knowledge of what transpired in House of M and the definition of "collective" probably already suspected the nature of the antagonist's abilities, yet flipping the page to the big reveal still holds a pretty big impact. The double-page spread is awe-inspiring and not the least bit gratuitous.
At this point, every reader surely knows whether he falls into the "love it" or "hate it" category when it comes to New Avengers. Issue #18 has all the Bendis-isms that polarize the readership: strange dialogue tics that give every character the same voice, obvious plot developments, and entire issues that do little to advance the overall plot. These problems do not necessarily mean the book is unenjoyable; they simply make it less enjoyable than it should be.
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