Current Reviews


Mighty Avengers #2

Posted: Tuesday, April 24, 2007
By: Shawn Hill

Writer: Brian Bendis
Artist: Frank Cho

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Plot: The Avengers try to make sense of the shiny silver Godiva now confronting them, who takes out her aggressions on the Mole’s Men… but it seems like just first steps. Meanwhile, Wasp uses her noggin.

Comments: Could Brian Bendis actually be taking this assignment seriously? His remit with this book must have included some version of offering an alternative to the New New Avengers, his other book that, despite being a huge financial success, wasn’t really offering much that resembled the Avengers at all. Mighty is supposed to address that lack, and it looked from last issue like all that meant to Bendis was Giant Monster Mayhem.

The Ultron threat takes things to a different level, though, a psychological one that is more about emotional anguish than physical feats. This is a territory that suits Bendis much better than big battles with godlike powers bouncing around. After all, as Powers has shown us, he usually so disapproves of those.

It’s like he only just realized, after disassembling the Avengers and then laboriously putting them back together as a gang of street hoods, that even the beautiful rich ones have problems he and we could care about. There’s a good soap opera writer in Bendis somewhere, struggling to emerge. And fully half of the Avengers history has been interpersonal soap opera, with all kinds of love triangles and betrayals to mix in with the space invasions and God wars.

There are a lot of new things in this issue. Carol Danvers, with no Iron Man to defer to, is beginning to actually lead the team (and earn those hero’s stripes she’s been longing for). Ultron is beginning to realize who she’s dealing with, and how to react to the world with the new identity and body she’s created for herself. Janet is beginning to figure out why she looks so familiar. I mean, Wasp actually manages to discuss something other than fashion or costumes in a Bendis book!?

And that’s not the only baby step from last issue that he’s building on. He’s almost learned how to do the thought balloon thing without calling excessive attention to his reinvention of the wheel.

Thought balloons are a basic element of comicbook storytelling, one that was abandoned in recent years across the board for no reason other than fashion. Last issue Bendis gloried excessively in discovering that Scott McCloud may have been on to something. This issue they serve nicely as counterpoints to verbal dialogue, and even depict subtle differences in character between, for example, a cautious Carol and a bloodthirsty Ares. It’s almost as if, by taking on this challenge, Bendis may one day actually become a decent writer of these things we think of as funny books.

He at least finally has a new idea for Ultron that doesn’t involve explosions and disjointed rants. Godiva-tron seems to delight in hurting the Avengers, but she’s biding her time, not yet giving away (or perhaps not even fully aware of) her full agenda. Ultron has always been a mad Id out of control and railing against Hank Pym’s damaged ego; by exploring the psychosexual option of the Oedipal/Elektral triangle with Jan (the “mom” to Hank’s bad daddy creator), Bendis ups the stakes in a potentially intriguing new way. A way that rests on something other than technobabble about adamantium.

Speaking of psychosexual energy, Bendis has found another able collaborator in Frank Cho. Say what you will about his pneumatically-blessed women, his image of Black Widow “training” a group of agents by beating them to a pulp is damn hot, and it’s not like he shirks on depicting his male characters in all their physical glory, either. It’s not after all Ms. Marvel’s top that is knocked off in a crucial attack, it’s Ares’, leaving his broad chest bare and glistening in the rain for the rest of the issue.

The technique of interspersing the battle sequence with flashback vignettes is a bit schematic and could read as a delaying or decompression tactic, both sins Bendis has been guilty of in the past. But these read as mini-movie montages, mostly cluing us in to the current back stories for our cast, whom Carol has just assembled. Forgivable in a second issue, especially one like this that improves upon the first.

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