Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Leinil Yu & Dave McCaig
Publisher: Marvel Comics
New Avengers #22 is by far the best issue of the series yet. For some readers, that’s high praise; for others it’s comparable to winning the blue ribbon for best steaming pile of crap at the county fair. But I dare anyone – Bendis fan or not – to find a reason to dislike New Avengers #22.
The book doesn’t contain funny Spider-Man one-liners or anyone unmasking in front of hundreds of news cameras. It’s the second part of the relatively quiet “New Avengers: Disassembled,” already far superior to its predecessor. Brian Michael Bendis and Leinil Yu tell the story of Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and baby-who-shall-not-be-named, a family that faces an impending war that comes right to their doorstep.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that Bendis’s greatest triumph comes in a personal, down-to-earth story focusing on a relatively small cast of characters, two of which he created. Reading about Jessica Jones in her minor role in New Avengers makes me further anticipate the day I cough up sixty bucks for the Alias Omnibus. Everything about her – her fears, her resolve, her love for her husband and child – is communicated through her dialogue and even her facial expressions. In 22 pages, Bendis and Yu made me care deeply for this character for the first time.
It was recently announced at Comic-Con International in San Diego that Yu will be the regular artist on New Avengers post-Civil War. I admit, I had my doubts about his abilities to fit the tone of the book, but if this issue is any indication of what’s to come I hope he has a nice, extended run on the book. Everything in the script is matched and strengthened by Yu’s abilities as a storyteller. Many of the panel layouts are brilliant, and Dave McCaig’s colors add an eerie, almost surreal quality to the late night proceedings that take place.
What makes New Avengers #22 one of the strongest Civil War tie-ins to date is the fact that it truly delves deep into the mindset of a superpowered being in the Marvel Universe in these tumultuous times. So far the main book and the countless ancillary series have only scraped the surface of the main characters’ motivations in the conflict. Here, Cage acts out of emotion and distrust for the government; his arguments are flawed, but that doesn’t make them any less sincere. Cage’s decision is all the more agonizing because he is forced to make the choice between ensuring his child’s safety and defending the principles he wants that child to grow up learning. By the time I reached the final page, I understood why someone would be so unwilling to simply sign a piece of paper, even though I may not agree with him.
A lot can be made about Yu’s “grim and gritty” style, and it definitely is suited for the street level action of the fight scenes. But most importantly, Yu captures the essence of the characters artistically. From the onset, even without dialogue it’s evident that Cage won’t be taking crap from anybody. Iron Man’s armor is surprisingly emotive, as the eye slits on his facemask form a piercing gaze. His and Ms. Marvel’s stances suggest annoyance and then exasperation as they find that Cage won’t be backing down under any circumstances. Interestingly, Yu draws Cap’s shield with scratches and chunks missing, suggesting that the star-spangled Avenger may be broken down and battered, but he’s far from out.
New Avengers #22 may lack the fanfare of other issues in the series, but it works beautifully as a single-issue story with a quiet, poignant ending. Strong efforts by both the writer and artist provide a personal glimpse into the bigger Civil War picture. Nothing groundbreaking or New York Times-worthy occurs within these pages, but that doesn’t make them any less important.
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