This is a continuation of New Avengers Annual #1, and takes place before Fear Itself, as Thor plays a prominent role. The Bendis Thor is not so bad. Not laughable. Suitably grand. It's nice to have him back, for a moment. I suppose the delay is attributable to the art, as the writing can't have taken that long. This is the ur-Bendis Avengers, where they are as morally compromised as they are effective, where they are simultaneously the privileged elite and the bullying thugs who enforce their agenda on others. They are the status quo, thus making Wonder Man the rebel irritant that calls them, insanely, on the carpet. I think we can all track the metaphor.
I imagine the art might have taken longer because Dell'Otto is still perfecting his new style. Rather than his previous murky, anatomically poor, hard-to-follow painted miasma, we have actual pencils and inks that have actually been colored (if that's the order they still do things), and it's the best he's ever looked. I had no idea he had decent storytelling abilities before this story, but the panels shine in this stripped down form, and the heroes look iconic. Some of the quasi-heroes on Simon's side are a little wonky in their character designs (Atlas and Captain Ultra have looked better), but he nails Century (of all the forgotten extraterrestrials, a Force Works wannabe), as well as a spooky Eddie Brock and a loopy D-Man. In fact their page of talking heads (once they've been caught) is one of the most entertaining parts of the book, not least of which comes from realizing how many of these would-be superstars have alliterative real names.
As to the meat of the story, all is revealed at the end when Simon Williams "explains" that he might not even be real, and thus can't really be held accountable for his actions. Why? Because he blew up in Galactic Storm and didn't return until (of course) Wanda wished him back. How did I not see that coming? It's always Wanda's fault, with Bendis.
Can anyone explain to me how she can be such a powerful mutant threat that she can create House of M at a whim, but simultaneously all of her powers are just unreal illusions? It's the same misunderstanding of Marvel magic that has led Bendis to so carefully delineate each of Doctor Strange's spells (with catalog entry number, no less!) while continuing to use them as deus ex machina story points. He knows it makes the character more believable, but he can't resist making fun of how seriously we take it all, too. He just sees Wanda as a really big liar, but can Bendis really have it both ways? Are we to take Simon's complaints (about how destructive the Avengers are despite their best wishes, and how they don't practice transparency ever) seriously while at the same time admitting that he's just a bitter shade conjured up by an hysteric? I for one am tired of that skipping record.
It does allow for a powerful final moment for Simon, even as the Avengers are yet again mired in all-too predictable public reprobation. Bendis creates another death knell for the illusory Heroic Age, but I'm choosing to see it as his swan song; he's really got nothing left to say about the Avengers, and can't be off the books soon enough for my taste. All of them.
Shawn Hill knows two things: comics and art history. Find his art at Cornekopia.net.