Current Reviews


New Avengers #22

Posted: Thursday, July 27, 2006
By: Shawn Hill

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Leinil Yu

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Plot: The only hint of good news to result from Civil War in months offers a brief glint of daylight. Even in the dark of night.

Comments: There are a lot of things I'll never forgive Brian Bendis for. For what he did to Scarlet Witch. What he did to Yelena Belova. The way he totally prostituted The Pulse to all of his weak crossovers of that year, foolishly squandering the focus and energy that made Alias one of the best comics of the past decade. For making Daredevil a boring dirge, and punishing Matt tirelessly for being a hero, while returning the women in his life to cliched supporting roles they hadn't been relegated to since the 1960s. A lot of things.

But in a run that veers from the competent (some of the "Breakout" story) to the stupid (anything involving Black Widow II; most things involving Maria Hill) to the incomprehensible (everything having to do with the Sentry or Xorn) back to the enjoyable (Bendis gets Spider-Woman and Ms. Marvel, against all odds), he follows up last issue's guerilla Cap issue with the best Civil War issue I've yet read in any title, including Civil War itself.

I said Bendis gets Jessica and Carol. He does, inspiring or co-writing decent recent series with both women. He also gets the legacy of Alias, his best book: perhaps his finest creation, the family of Luke Cage + Jessica Jones + tyke. Cage sounds like himself when Bendis writes him, and also as wise as he ever has. Jessica always comes across honestly, one of his tarnished heroes who has been hurt too much to cause others pain on purpose. The tyke is a lucky kid with great parents who happen to be superstrong and invulnerable.

At least physically. Emotionally they suffer the same slings and arrows as the rest of us. And man does the angry couple make short work of a posturing Iron Man and a line-towing Ms. Marvel this issue. Tony moans and whines like a businessman caught in a scandal, and Carol appeals to human connection, unaware that her political stance has superseded her personal loyalties. She may even be unaware that she HAS a political stance, which strikes me as par for the course for Carol. Jessica and Luke have this appalling duo's fatuous number from page one, and they waste no time in eliminating the opposition on the wrong side of this Civil War, verbally.

Everything Luke says this has the ring of honest truth. The decisions the beleaguered couple make are right on, and their mutual love and respect is palpable. This issue (and I'm willing to fool myself into believing Bendis is sincere) is a huge "up yours" to the real enemies in this story line, and to the readers who are so ready to concede that Registration is a good idea. It's a terrible one, and Luke tells us why. Tony doesn't like it, but luckily Cap agrees with him in time to stage a dramatic rescue. I finally have hope that this storied crossover won't be a complete disaster.

Leinil Yu, he of myriad variable styles, turns in a dark and moody environment, which is appropriate as they come for Luke at midnight. It's not that murky kind of painted dark that even taints daylight scenes in other comics; it's purposeful pen and ink work, and Yu's emotionally expressive storytelling makes sure we don't lose track of the action.

It's a revelation to find that Luke still knows what heroes are. What they've always been. Vigilantes we love.

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