Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Mike Deodato
Publisher: Marvel Comics
With New Avengers #20, Brian Michael Bendis ties up a few loose ends from both recent X-Men continuity and his own mess he created in House of M. The bad news is that the plot is uninteresting and doesn't make much sense; the good news is that Bendis rushes through it so quickly that it will be easily forgotten.
Part four of "The Collective" reveals the true nature of..., well..., the Collective. The "villain," who has absorbed the mutant energies of all those who lost their powers in the aftermath of House of M, encounters Magneto in Genosha. There, the New X-Men character whose short history has become an endless sequence of retcons completes his mission to restore both Magneto's mutant abilities and faith in his lifelong mission.
On one hand, I suppose Bendis deserves some credit for tackling the convoluted mess that the X-books have become in regards to the true relationship between Magneto and Xorn. It's just regrettable that he couldn't tie up those loose ends with a more exciting story. There's no emotional resonance to Magneto's inner struggle because the heroes have little history with him or Xorn. Bendis writes a very strong Magneto; I just wonder why Marvel was so quick to undo the effects of House of M. His status at the end of the issue is predictable and clichéd, but raises the question: Does Magneto have a significant role to play in Civil War?
New Avengers #20 succeeds with a few smaller moments unrelated to the main plot. S.H.E.I.L.D. Commander Maria Hill's character finally shows signs of possessing another dimension. Most importantly, perhaps, she and Iron Man begin to bond, and rifts form between Captain America and a few other Avengers just an issue before the Civil War tie-in arc. Coincidence? I think not.
Invariably, when three issues are devoted entirely to establishing what an incredible, unbeatable foe a certain villain is, the quick wrap-up is anticlimactic. Here, the deus ex machina is Daisy Johnson, the Angelina Jolie lookalike from Bendis's Secret War. After capturing the Collective/Xorn in an "energy field" (no further explanation needed, right?), the Sentry takes care of him the best way he knows how. The solution is boring, and helps further reinforce the uselessness of Spider-Man, Wolverine, and Spider-Woman on the team. The addition of zombie creatures on the ground serves no purpose to the story other than to allow Spidey to complete his wisecrack quota.
Mike Deodato had the unenviable position of following up the likes of Steve McNiven, David Finch, and Frank Cho on New Avengers. While his artwork is definitely the weakest of that bunch, that's hardly an insult. The art is a bit murky and hard to follow at times, but the barren landscape of Genosha makes for an interesting setting. The storytelling is generally strong, and Deodato's rendition of Magneto is one of the best I've ever seen.
The big reveal of New Avengers #20 is unexpected to be sure, but not in a particularly good way. No one who has never heard of Xorn will understand what happens here, and I find it highly unlikely that anyone who has heard of Xorn will understand what happens here. The mess needed to be cleaned up, and the issue certainly accomplished the two goals of restoring Magneto's status quo and obliterating Xorn for good; it's just too bad Bendis had to play janitor for the X-titles in this final story arc before the New Avengers get disassembled.
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