“The Collective: Part Three”
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Mike Deodato Jr. (p), Joe Pimentel (i), Dave Stewart (colors)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
If it wasn’t already clear many issues ago from the characters’ constant references to the story’s title, then it should be by now: “The Collective” is none other than a de facto sequel to last year’s House of M. Why it’s taken so long for Bendis to return to the dangling threads of a story that wrapped up so long ago is anyone’s guess, as it seems as though this story has been written as a direct continuation of the miniseries which was met with such a lukewarm reception, rather than as a belated return to a past glory. It’s not even as though the way it picks up on House of M’s unresolved conclusion is particularly interesting or original either, as Bendis has already written a far more effective and concise story which pitted his New Avengers against a villain with the power of multiple heroes in the New Avengers Annual which appeared mere weeks ago.
Still, it’s not as though this story has no redeeming features, as what the book lacks in its core premise it almost makes up for with some of the details. The characterisation of new S.H.I.E.L.D. director Hill continues to be a lot of fun, and she’s becoming a real love-to-hate character in the Marvel Universe. The handling of Spider-Man (and, to a lesser extent, the Vision) is a neat look into some of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s more morally reprehensible interrogation techniques as they attempt to work out what went on with the Scarlet Witch’s mutant depowering, and how it plays into the birth of the new villain that they’re facing now. And the clash between the Avengers and Hill as both sides try to get the job done is reminiscent of the kind of high-stakes political soap-opera that makes shows like Fox’s 24 so satisfying to watch.
However, I’m not really convinced that many people are going to be truly grabbed by the crux of the story. When the issue’s cliffhanger hints at a further exploration of the mutant depowering which began in House of M, it seems as though Bendis is struggling to find ideas as to where the story could go, and I’m sure a lot of New Avengers readers (like me) will find themselves pretty unconcerned by how the story of “Michael” plays out. If the lost mutant powers issue is to be addressed, I’d rather see it done in one of the X-books instead of an Avengers title, and if all of the lost mutant powers are going to end up embodied in one person, I’d rather it was a character that Bendis saw fit to flesh out a little more than the cipher we’ve been presented with here.
Ultimately, the story feels like less than the sum of its parts, and even penciller Mike Deodato can’t seem to summon the enthusiasm to provide any truly outstanding work. All the action with Iron Man and the Sentry out in space feels fairly flat and one-note, and except for the few interesting S.H.I.E.L.D. sequences in which the artist gets to play with atmosphere and body language a little more, there’s very little here that rises above the usual – and that goes for the book as a whole.
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