Current Reviews


Sunday Slugfest - New Avengers #4

Posted: Saturday, March 26, 2005
By: Keith Dallas

“Breakout! Part Four”

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: David Finch (p), Danny Miki (i)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Average Rating:

Bob Agamemnon:
Michael Deeley:
Kelvin Green:
Shawn Hill:
Michael Lucinski:
Dominic Organ:
James Redington:
Adam Volk:
Dave Wallace:

Bob Agamemnon

Neurosis. Anxiety. Obsessive self-analysis. These are the central elements that distinguish Peter Parker from his leotard-clad peers in the superhero world. As the Woody Allen of the Marvel Universe, Spider-Man can come off as manic or maudlin, but in the hands of a sensitive writer, he is always funny. Spider-Man’s moments of comic relief have, in his own titles, been few and far between of late, with a kidnapped Aunt May in the Marvel Knights series and unsavory revelations about his first love in the flagship Amazing. The melodrama that plagues those books is given a dose of laughing gas in this week’s New Avengers #4.

In the last issue, these new Avengers formed in response to a prison break that, in a moment of serendipity, brought the now core members together. In #4, the group, now almost fully assembled (Daredevil has declined and the Sentry is in S.H.I.E.L.D. custody), heads out on its first mission. Throughout both a teleconference with a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and the process of tracking down the villain responsible for the mayem of issue #1, Spider-Man provides a running commentary (with Luke Cage playing straight man) to the otherwise super-cop procedural dialogue. The effect is a leavening of what could have been a dull and drawn-out plot. When Spider-Man realizes that one of his nemeses, Electro, is responsible for the breakout, his response simultaneously reveals his insecurities about being on the team and serves as a buoyant vehicle to get some rather banal exposition out of the way:

Spider-Man: That’s so embarrassing. It’s one of my bad guys. I knew somehow this would be my fault.

Luke Cage: Only in your warped brain.

Spider-Man: Well, yeah.

Luke Cage, Hero for Hire, is a welcome addition to the team. The splash page on which the Avengers confront Electro is saved from being a cliched superhero group pose by the presence of Cage, who sports a stocking cap, sunglasses (at night, naturally), and a leather jacket. His folded arms and bad-ass grimace more than balance the outlandish—and by comparison somewhat fey—spandex and high-tech body armor of his posse. But it is only a manner of minutes before Cage’s cool demeanor is cracked by one of Spider-Man’s ill-conceived plans. In order to pummel information out of Electro, Luke’s hands are webbed into mitts. But Spider-Man forgets to mention how long the impromptu boxing gloves will adhere to the interrogator’s hands. Scenes such as these reveal a New Avengers injected with a fresh supply of energy that spreads even to the veteran members of the team. Captain America’s seriousness is rescued from becoming too stiff, and Iron Man’s technophilia avoids seeming pedantic.

Unfortunately, this issue’s visual storytelling lags behind its strong writing. The contorted Spider-Woman adorning the cover looks more alien than human. Somehow, the composition seems to prioritize the cleft of her ass, which hovers over her head. At first glance, the viewer must carefully sort out her anatomy—is that a knee, a shoulder, or a huge, huge breast? Jessica Drew’s body bleeds out of focus as her leg recedes into the distance, an effect achieved by the coloring rather than the pencil work. Inside, David Finch underwhelms. While his work gets the narrative job done, it never surprises. The characters’ faces all seem to suffer from a sort of elephantitis, and only hair color and a Van Dyke distinguish Iron Man’s bloated face from Captain America’s. Likewise, the fact that Special Agent Hill and Jessica Drew look exactly the same is disguised only by differing lengths of hair. And, as in past issues, Finch’s unhealthy preoccupation with furrowed brows brands each figure.

After all the rending of garments and gnashing of teeth over the line-up of the New Avengers, issue #4 shows signs of a successful transition. Whatever long-time Avengers readers feelings are on how the series was wrapped up in Disassembled, a renewed energy and a sense of cool are evident in this reboot, and it is sure to attract new readers who come to the title unburdened by any emotional commitments to the classic membership. The book’s creative team should take care, however, to ensure a greater female presence in the group as, thus far, Jessica Drew is the only woman and, of her two major scenes in this issue, one revolves around the male Avengers admiring her body. The betrayal hinted at in the last issue makes the introduction of female superheroes all the more urgent. The Avengers has never been a boys’ club, and it need not be now.

The next issue of New Avengers promises the introduction of a character who appeared on issue #1’s cover, and who has created perhaps the most turmoil in the tumultuous discourse that has sprung up around this title. Here’s hoping he has more to offer than the same old baggage, as this comic is shaping up to be one of Marvel’s stronger offerings.

Michael Deeley

After reading “Avengers Disassembled,” I was worried Bendis couldn’t write a team book. Now I think differently. Bendis can write a good super-team story. Provided he picks all the characters.

Jessica Drew officially joins the New Avengers as they begin investigating the mass break-out at Stryker’s island. They identify Electro as the culprit and the prisoner he took: Karl Lykos, a.k.a. mutant villain Sauron. With a little deductive reasoning, Drew figures something’s going wrong inside S.H.I.E.L.D. Lykos’s S.H.I.E.L.D. file has been locked from within the organization, and the S.H.I.E.L.D. outpost in the Savage Land, Lykos’s home, has gone off-line. A trip to the Savage Land results in dinosaur attacks and Wolverine.

I want to anticipate Ray Tate here and say, yes, this story can be used as proof that Jessica Jones of the Bendis-created Alias was not a very good detective. Drew displays better skills here than Jones’s ever did. However, I think Bendis did that on purpose. That’s all I’m saying.

Now, there are a lot of funny moments in this book, and only half of them involve Spider-Man. Spidey’s clearly being used as the comic relief. It works for me; it’s a valuable component to any super team dynamic. But his constant remarks do get a little annoying. But I’m not a Spider-Man fan, so maybe I have less tolerance for his personality. My favorite moment occurs when Drew uses donuts to bribe prisoners. How bad does prison food have to be to get villains to snitch for donuts? Or are Entenmann’s donuts especially good? The “you always crash in the Savage Land” routine is also handled very well. Nice timing there.

This issue also sets up the roles for each character. Drew clearly plays the detective. Spidey’s the clown. Iron Man is the tech guy (who can apparently access any telephone and financial record in the country). Cap is the leader. And Luke Cage is, um, hang on, let me check. . .

Luke Cage asks a lot of questions and plays Chico to Spidey’s Groucho.

So Luke Cage is the token black guy. Again. He doesn’t even get to hit anybody. The guy’s got super-strength and unbreakable skin, and he doesn’t get a change to use it. Doesn’t even get shot at, so bullets can bounce of his chest. That’s his thing, man! That’s why you put you Luke Cage in a comic: To scare white punks with guns.

If you want to know if David Finch and Danny Miki do a good job on the art, look at the cover. It’s all that good. And none of that repeating/resizing panel crap either. They could have taken that short cut when Electro meets his girlfriend, but they didn’t. Not that I’m praising them for not doing something they shouldn’t do anyway; I’m just saying they’re not taking the shortcuts they used to.

So the team’s coming together, the story’s moving forward, and there might be a good reason for Wolverine coming onboard. Cool.

Kelvin Green

Marvel, please do something for me. And just me, because everyone else is going to whine anyway, the grumpy old sods. Do this book in black and white. Not because Frank D’Armata’s colours are wretched, as in fact they’re very well done and certainly do much to enliven the art. But because black and white might allow you to increase the length of the comic, so that Bendis can put some action in, because that’s all that’s missing from New Avengers right now.

Almost everything else is spot on. I love the character interactions and interplay; Spider-Man is great in his new role as an Avenger and every line of dialogue is a joy to read, with his nervousness at being in the premier league of superheroes coming through as a babbling that’s incessant even for him. He does sound a bit young however, and whether that’s because everyone else is taking things more seriously than he is, or perhaps even that Bendis is letting Ultimate Spider-Man leak through, it’s a bit odd.

I’m also really pleased with how Bendis has made Iron Man an interesting member of the Avengers for the first time in... well…, ever. In terms of power, he’s one of the strongest Avengers, but he’s also their tech guy, and it’s that aspect of the character that shines through here. I like how Bendis has him produce lots of little gadgets that improve things across the board, rather than the offscreen jerry-building we usually see. It’s a much better way of showing his essential geeky nature, and the obvious enthusiasm and pride he has in his inventions is another great touch.

The other characters do just as well under Bendis’s direction, and it really is fun to read about this new team. I could read pages and pages of these people interacting and never get bored, but at the end of the day, this is a comic about a team of superheroes, and the action does seem to be squeezed in at the last minute. I don’t want to lose any of the dialogue, but I’d like to see more of the team doing some actual superheroics. Even the money shot of the new team in action for the first time seems cramped, as they all huddle together on the pavement, rather than spreading out to surround their foe.

But maybe that’s Finch’s fault; again he does some generally good work here, but again there are a couple of embarrassments that make me think that he’s not really ready for this title. Aside from presenting the Avengers as a bunch of people suffering from extreme separation anxiety, we get a wonderful panel in which Cap looks like he’s having an aneurysm because he’s thinking too hard, and an interesting look at Spider-Woman’s new power of breast size fluctuation. And that cover is bloody awful, too. For once, I actually want a variant cover.

For me, the experiment has worked. Too long The Avengers has been locked into unchanging cycles, when it should be fresh and exciting every month. By tearing everything apart and putting it all back together again in a new (but, as Cap pointed out last issue, a familiar) way, Bendis has rejuvenated this book. It depresses me no end that Marvel is going to kill it by spinning a crossover out of it every other month in the coming year, but the core title is, for the time being, fantastic. Bendis has shown that he can write the characters well, without relying on yet another Vision and/or Scarlet Witch centred love triangle, or any other such rehashing of the past. All I need from him now is a sign that we’re going to have a bit more superheroic action from these superheroes. Nonetheless, this is the best that The Avengers has been for years.

(That said, that last page has me dreading the next issue, which I’m sure wasn’t Marvel’s intention when they decided on yet another tiresome guest appearance from this character…)

Shawn Hill

Plot: The newly formed team gets to know each other and doesn’t waste any
time following up on the immediate threat and making their presence known. They’re even smart about it.

What’s interesting: With nary a whiff of her covert plan, Jessica Drew gets
a beauty shot as she walks in on her new teammates. Where’s Jarvis to announce her at the top of the stairs? Some funny banter follows about all the usurpers to the Spider-Woman name, but I’m still stunned by what a knockout she is. You know why she’s still in her original costume? Because it’s by far the best one, and as Bendis has Peter point out, she may sound like a distaff version of a male hero, but she’s really not. Peter doesn’t own the term “spider,” and she’s got all kinds of occult mumbo jumbo and Wundagore and Hydra shenanigans providing her a totally separate background from his high school science class origins. Plus, no webbing.

Oh, the story? A believable one where this new team immediately sets about figuring out, with relevant clues, who staged the prison break and why (using all the toys Tony can suddenly afford to provide them, I guess from all the capital freed up by not rebuilding the mansion and firing Jarvis). The answer to that is certainly out of left field, so prepare for spoilers below. The team functions impressively to take out part one of their solution, with talkative Peter serving a great counterpoint of patter, surrounded by so many stoic types. Also, Finch’s art works as well in the chatty scenes as it does in the big action melees, and this is a mostly chatty issue.

Less interesting: Here come the spoilers. I knew this version of the Avengers wouldn’t be that different, despite all the pointless brouhaha. There’s no reason any of these players couldn’t have convened at the mansion, nifty new skyscraper or not. And the advent of a new-model yet old-school Quinjet underlines that. The Avengers weren’t rubes before, and so far this team is actually carrying on business as usual, despite endless protests in the chaotic ending of the last series to the contrary. But the real surprise, the subject of Electro’s prison breakout, the mysterious figure who motivated such violence and danger is …. Karl Lykos? Come again? An old and fairly ridiculous X-men villain, saved only by Neal Adams’s great powers of verisimilitude, borrowing most of his menace from mixing up Tarzan with Tolkien? And of course that revelation and the Quinjet are all we need to justify a trip…, get this…, to the Savage Land? The Savage Land? Didn’t Bendis spend a whole intro in an issue of Alias laughing Ka-Zar out of Jessica Jones’s office for nothing more than his pulpy, retro character concept? This is the exciting new direction this title is heading in? The only novelty is that it’s usually the X-men who are stranded there. Dinosaurs and people wearing animal skins? Not to mention mutates and ani-men? Is Lorelei going to show up next issue, or maybe a robot Magneto?

Also, I’ve got no clue how Finch gets both a breast shot and butt-shine out of Jessica’s solo cover, but the interior art mostly compensates for the cheesecake.

Michael Lucinski

The Plot: Meeting at their new, Tony Stark-supplied penthouse headquarters, these new Avengers argue with S.H.I.E.L.D. about the super villain breakout and the 42 remaining at-large fugitives. They catch up with Electro in Boston and learn who he busted out of The Raft – which takes them to the Savage Land. Quite expectedly, they come under attack by hostile native dinosaurs, forcing them to scatter. As Jessica Drew and Luke Cage rest for a moment, a very familiar arm attached to a very familiar character threatens them from the shadows.

Comments: Much of the rancor surrounding this latest incarnation of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes stems from the seeming incompatibility of the heroes chosen by Bendis to join the team, specifically Cage, Spider-Man and the X-Man Wolverine. It runs against type to have these characters as Avengers – they’re loners (Spider-Man), street-level heroes (Cage) or already on another team (Wolverine). These are all valid arguments, and were I a Marvel editor listening to Bendis’s pitch I’d raise the same points. However, I point to Cartoon Network’s Star Wars: Clone Wars as basis for a counter argument. Characters on that show are playing to type, but they are ridiculously overpowered. Just watch Yoda force capital ship after capital ship to crash into each other using his power during the defense of Coruscant. Or the tens of thousands of fighters present at each battle. All well beyond parameters established by the films. But you know what? It’s tremendous fun. That’s why Clone Wars is terrific, and that’s why New Avengers is shaping up strong as well.

And while it might run against type to have these disparate characters all on the same team, everybody in question is acting within their established personalities. Captain America is the fearless leader always with the answers. Cage is mellow with his “Too cool for school” attitude. And Spider-Man is Spider-Man. It seems like every third sentence is a joke, which is about right for Peter Parker. Not surprisingly, Spider-Man is rapidly becoming the star of the series. When Cap explains his “Champion” level clearance with S.H.I.E.L.D., Spidey isn’t impressed. “Yeah? I have clones,” he responds.

But Spider-Man – as well as Cage and Drew – serve a higher function than comic relief or easy S.H.I.E.L.D. access. They provide a “Gee, whiz” perspective the regular cast of Avengers don’t have. Cage is playing it cool, but he wouldn’t stick around if he didn’t think it was worth it. Even as a super government agent, Drew is still quietly impressed with the new Avengers headquarters.

The skullduggery within S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t particularly compelling, but it does add another layer of mystery to the tale. How it relates to Electro isn’t as interesting as the person Electro freed from prison. As far as I know, this character has never encountered the Avengers before. While it’s likely that he’s only a piece of a larger plot, it’ll be interesting to see the Avengers move against him, as they inevitably will.

Finch’s art is smooth and solid. Panel layout is logical and easy to follow, which is not always a given when Bendis writes an issue. This issue’s only weakness is a tendency for the characters to be too self-aware. “You don’t go to the Savage Land without crashing,” Spider-Man tells Iron Man. On rare occasions, the issue feels like the characters are providing DVD commentary.

The Final Word: Yes, this team (which is absent three members this issue, if the promotional images are any indicator) is not your traditional Avengers line up. Yes, the way in which they were formed was ham-fisted and awkward at best. And yes, this issue is another strong one in a run everyone should give a chance before casting a negative vote against it.

Dominic Organ

The New Avengers machine trundles forward again, though this one was two weeks late in getting back in motion. The team is quickly on the trail of the people responsible for the jail break, leading them to a surprise location. A minor power struggle takes place between S.H.I.E.L.D and the New Avengers over just who has the biggest pair, and Jessica Drew looks fabulous. Who does her hair?

One of the things I am beginning to enjoy more and more with Marvel’s direction at the moment is the veil of protection that the heroes all share. They all know each other personally by now, and I actually rather like that. When Aunt May went missing Peter had numerous heroes helping search for her. This is a good thing; it creates a feeling of family in a universe where Super- teams are less common than the DC universe. What I don’t like is the way BMB is handling that familiarity. It is too contradictory for my liking. While sitting in Starks Tower, Jessica Drew comes down in full costume and asks Pete how his arm is. I am left wondering why he is bothering to wear his mask at all. Some might say it is so Jarvis won’t recognise him, but I don’t buy that. Jarvis has been too good at protecting identities in the past, and if you are going to insist on calling someone by his real name then why bother with the mask? Tony happily wandered around without his mask on and there is still some question with the Marvel public as to whether he is Iron man. Come on fellas, let’s be consistent!

Character wise I was fairly happy with what went on here. The semi-affectionate relationship between the Spiders-deux worked well for me, and I hope to see more of this in the future. However, Spiderman seems to be falling into the “Xander from Buffy” role, which I don’t like. His sense of humour is doing a great job of keeping things light but making him more serious couldn’t hurt. At the risk of sounding dangerously unhip I have my concerns about Luke Cage. On the one hand I actually like the way he acts. He adds something to the group, and I like it. On the other hand, it does look like a thinly veiled ploy to connect with a distanced youth and Luke Cage can probably do that better than Hank, for example.

The art was another solid example of what we have seen thus far with the New Avengers. Sometimes lacking in a bit of colour and still plagued with scope problems as I keep hoping for panels to contain more than they do.

Overall this was a solid issue, with plenty to keep the reader interested and lots to look forward to. The final panel leaves me looking forward to the next issue, though when that will come out is anyone’s guess, given the scheduling shambles with this issue. BMB hasn’t completely sold this new series to me, but I am surreptitiously checking that I have my wallet should he push me over the edge.

James Redington

Well written, good characters, great art and no real plot development… that just about sums up this issue of The NEW Avengers.

I got to admit I was pretty bored throughout this issue. I don’t think that was due to anything more than this first arc seems to have been dragged out in order to fill a trade collection.

What (again) can I say about Bendis that I haven’t already said? The guy is a fantastic writer. There are great moments of dialogue between Spider-Man and the rest of the NEW Avengers. One such moment occurs between Spidey and Luke Cage. Another happens when Spider-Woman enters the room in costume, with great reactions all round from the men on the team.

All this character stuff is great. It’s well written, funny and dramatic… it just seemed so forced. Maybe in the trade or reading all 6 issues together it will work better, but having to wait each month for it is just a little dull.

Finch is amazing. This series presents some of his strongest work to date. I was a little disappointed by his front cover this time around. That is one huge butt on Spider-Woman!

All in all a solid issue. I may be moaning for the sake of it or venting my frustration on this issue instead of Billie Piper’s acting in the new Doctor Who.

By the way at the end of the issue the team go to the Savage Land, and some mutant, small, hairy with metal claws turns up on the last page… not sure who he is, so could be interesting next time.

Adam Volk:

Plot: When the super-villain known as Electro frees the inmates of the notorious “Raft” maximum security prison, a handful of New York’s spandex-clad heroes are forced to band together to stop the onslaught. In the devastating aftermath, “disassembled” Avengers, Captain America and Iron Man, propose creating a new incarnation of the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes; one which is free from the political and financial constraints of the old organization. The recreated team—with the additions of Spider-Man, Luke Cage, and former S.H.I.E.L.D operative Spider-Woman—soon finds itself on a harrowing mission to track down the master-mind behind the prison break. Their search will take them to the very heart of the Savage Land itself, where they will come face to face with one of the deadliest men on the planet…

Comments: Ask any comic book reader around why they love their funny-books, and they’ll inevitably bring up their childhood. Whether it be hunkered under the covers long after bedtime pouring over old issues of The Fantastic Four with a flashlight, or sneaking a peek at an older brothers prized Batman issues, the collective unconscious of comic book fandom is replete with tales of childhood comic book love. They are the kind of memories that conjure up larger than life characters, diabolical villains, and galaxy spanning sagas that seemed to leap from the page. And yet, all good things must come to an end, and inevitably those fond childhood remembrances give way to the adult reality of bills, mortgages and screaming kids. Fortunately, there are comics like Brian Michael Bendis’s The New Avengers, to whisk us back to those care-free days, and bring a pang of nostalgia to the heart of even the most embittered comic book geek.

Indeed, The New Avengers brings to life an age of superheroes that many fans had thought long forgotten; when heroes banded together for freedom and justice, instead of wallowing in convoluted story-arcs and melodramatic inner-monologues. It is a story boiled down to the basic elements of the genre, reinvented and re-imagined and blending over the top superhero action, character development, and a sense of history in the making that has been sorely lacking in the Marvel universe as of late. In short: The New Avengers is why comic books were created in the first place.

In terms of the story itself, The New Avengers #4 continues with the newly reformed team meeting in their headquarters in the sprawling Stark Tower. But no sooner has the team gathered, than an irate S.H.I.E.L.D becomes involved, hoping to bog down “the New Avengers” under a slew of bureaucratic red-tape. Fortunately, Captain America pulls rank and the team declares that they will go ahead even without government approval. The team, however, has even more problems on their hands when Iron Man manages to track down the location of Electro (after learning that he is directly responsible for the prison-break on the Raft). After a brief confrontation in Boston, Spider-Woman then conducts her own “interrogation” of some of the super-powered prisoners that were recaptured after their breakout, and learns that the supposed master-mind who initially hired Electro is none other than Karl Lykos, who is perhaps better known as the infamous reptilian villain: Sauron. With a brand spanking new prototype Quinjet—designed by Tony Stark prior to the disbanding of the original Avengers—the team makes it way to the Savage Land, where Sauron is supposedly in hiding and where a S.H.I.E.L.D outpost has suddenly gone off-line. The issue concludes with an appearance by Wolverine, setting the stage for the next chapter in the evolution of the team.

Throughout the issue, it is clear that Bendis is doing what he does best and The New Avengers #4 is replete with his usual flare for dialogue and careful balance between humor and action. He also does an incredible job of developing the characters and building tensions, particularly in this early stage where members are uncertain as to how they will fit in with their teammates. The tempo may not be the rapid-fire action pace fans have come to expect from Bendis, but nor should it be. Bendis is clearly taking his time here, and it is refreshing to see that he is building a structure that will support the plot as well the complexity and history of the characters themselves. In fact, history seems to be a major theme of The New Avengers. There is the history of the former Avengers and the weight of their disbanding, and the sense that history is being made now, both in terms of the Avengers and indeed in terms of the comic book genre itself.

There are of course a few minor quibbles with the issue. For example, the team claiming they are going to start fresh without any government interference and external meddling isn’t exactly a novel concept (and will in all likelihood last about five seconds). Then there is the last minute appearance of Wolverine (which is hardly a surprise for anyone who doesn’t have their head crammed up their ass when it comes to comic book news). Wolverine in particular may be a bit of a double-edged sword for the series. On the one hand, he is probably one of the Marvel Universes’ most beloved superheroes, but on the other hand, he’s one of the Marvel Universes’ most beloved superheroes and is about as overused as possible, with a constant tirade of one-shot issues, team-ups and the slightly-annoying habit of appearing on the cover of almost every monthly issue Marvel releases.

In any event, the quibbles don’t detract overly much from the issue, and Bendis demonstrates his usual brilliance when it comes to understanding the superhero genre. The banter between Spider-Man and Spider-Woman considering copy right infringement over the use of the “Spider-Man” name is classic Bendis, and demonstrates his ability to balance humor (which is essentially poking fun at the concept of superheroes) while still working within the establishments of the genre and Marvel continuity. Of course Bendis’s work is once again complimented by the stunning pencils of David Finch. Finch’s artwork is also absolutely amazing, and although the panel lay-out can be a bit distracting at times, it is a refreshing style of artwork that works well here.

Ultimately (no pun intended) The New Avengers is easily one of the finest titles being produced by Marvel, in addition to being some of the most engaging writing to come out of the already impressive head-space of Brian Michael Bendis. Avengers fans may still be reeling from the disbanding of their beloved team, but this is clearly a new chapter in Marvel history, and a time that comic book fans will inevitably look back on with great fondness. The New Avengers truly is history in the making.

Dave Wallace

This issue kicks off with a neat little scene of the New Avengers beginning to assemble in earnest for the first time which encapsulates everything Bendis seems to want to say about his team: It’s a different animal to the Avengers of old; it features a bunch of mismatched personalities who all bring something to the party but aren’t necessarily as fully-functional together yet as the old Avengers were; that the group operates outside of any formal hierarchy, and doesn’t need to seek S.H.I.E.L.D. permission to do what it’s going to do; and, above all, it’s going to deliver some fun, modern super-hero action on a larger scale than we’re used to in the characters’ individual titles. If Bendis can live up to the promise of this issue, I’ll be happy, because it’s providing some of the most classically Marvel moments I’ve seen in a long time, in a climate where a lot of that fun and magic seems to have been forgotten.

Every character plays his or her part in Bendis’s Avengers, and in thinning down the group to a few well-known personalities, he’s renewing the appeal of the team book for me. It’s lots of fun to watch the worlds of (say) Luke Cage and Spider-Man collide, with Spidey out of his depth with Luke’s tough-talking overly masculine bravado, but having the last laugh when Power Man asks for his fists to be webbed up. Indeed, despite the group dynamic, this issue is Spider-Man’s to steal: his banter with Spider Woman over copyright protection and royalties is a hoot, his half-serious feeling of guilt of having one of “his” bad guys responsible for the breakout is perfectly in-character, and even if it falls to Iron Man or Captain America to really drive and focus the team, it looks like Peter could be the comedic star of the show. Bendis writes him so well that it doesn’t come off as cheap gimmickry, but instead as loyalty to the character and adding a fine sense of balance to the team. I can’t wait to see what he comes out with when the Sentry shows up. Further lightness can be found with Spider-Woman’s donut scene (that’s not as rude as it sounds), but Bendis can also be trusted to play it straight when he has to – and the close of the issue reinstates the tense mood that characterised the first couple of issues of the title.

I continue to be impressed with David Finch’s work: his male characters are starting to look a little more distinct from one another, and he draws a great slinky Spider-Woman in character this time round – and he pulls off action sequences with aplomb too, whether it’s the Avengers’ arrival on the streets of Boston or the kinetic Quinjet sequence which brings the issue to a close. My only quibbles with the issue would be the slow pacing or the so-far inexplicable introduction of Wolverine at the issue’s end: but it’s worth giving Bendis the benefit of the doubt here to see how these elements play out.

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