ďThe Collective: Part FourĒ
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Mike Deodato Jr. (p), Joe Pimentel (i), Dave Stewart & Richard Isanove (colours)
I donít know why Iím still buying this book. Every story arc since "Avengers: Disassembled" has fizzled out after a promising first couple of issues; every tantalising plot thread that has been left dangling has remained unresolved; and somehow, every time I decide Iím dropping the title for good, a flicker of interest in the next arc convinces me to the give the book one last chance.
This issue sees the New Avengers follow the mystery being "Michael" to Genosha, where he confronts the recently de-powered Magneto (who, bizarrely for such a grandiose, driven and intelligent character, has apparently been spending all his free time since House of M sitting around in his pyjamas and writing his memoirs) and spontaneously discharges all of the absorbed mutant powers that heís been carrying around into the body of the iconic villain. You see, it turns out that Michael was merely a host for a gestalt entity with no corporeal presence of its own; and the name of that being was Xorn. If that name means anything to you, then you might glean some entertainment (or at least mild diversion) from the pages of this issue. If youíre sitting in front of your screen with a ďwhuh?Ē face, then donít worry, youíre not the only one. As someone who never followed the X-books in any great detail, the backstory of the character is a complete mystery to me, and Bendisís meagre attempts to clue in new readers via some asides from Spider-Man and Wolverine do little to shed any light on the matter. However, as events proceed, it makes little difference, as the threat is quickly dealt with through a combination of a few of the Avengersí powers and the guest-appearance of Bendis darling Daisy Johnson from his Secret War miniseries. For such an apparently unstoppable threat to be dealt with in such a simple, pat way seems like the sort of anticlimax which is soon going to become synonymous with the last issue of any New Avengers arc (although I do wonder if scheduling issues with the upcoming Civil War forced Bendis to cut his story short, as Iím sure it was originally solicited to be longer). Whatís more, insult is added to injury with the denouement of Magnetoís own story, as his apparently unconscious body is taken away in a helicopter which promptly blows up for no apparent reason. If thatís the kind of ending which passes for a satisfying conclusion in the pages of New Avengers, then Iím going to be very surprised if it remains such a top-selling title for much longer. I know the appeal of Bendis himself and the many top-tier characters which comprise the new team is strong, but if any of the bookís readers can honestly call this a fitting, enjoyable conclusion to the story of the last five issues, then Iíd be very interested to hear from them.
Sadly, the lacklustre artwork doesnít feel any better. I find it hard to believe that this is the same Mike Deodato Jr. that brought us such detailed, polished, photo-realistic visuals in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man so recently, as all of the linework here seems so unfinished. Of course, it could be a problem with Joe Pimentelís inks rather than Deodatoís pencils, but either way, many pages look as if nothing more than detailed breakdowns have been used as the basis for the final image. And even Dave Stewart and Richard Isanoveís colours canít add any depth or excitement to the flat-feeling renderings of Earthís Mightiest Heroes.
I have to give some credit to Brian Bendis for taking what I understand to be another personís continuity mess in the shape of Xorn and attempting to clear it up himself, and for this Iím sure some X-fans will be grateful. Bendis also manages to shoehorn some neat character work in, and Iím still interested to see how S.H.I.E.L.D. director Hillís relationship with the Avengers plays out in future. Iím also a fan of Mike Deodatoís cover, which is well-defined, attention grabbing and packed with emotion in a way that the interior art isnít. Sadly, I canít think of much more reason to recommend this issue.
If this had been an X-Men book, I could just about have handled the direction the storyline has taken. If this had been billed as a true sequel to House of M, I would have been more prepared for its inconclusive nature and meandering plot. If Spider-Woman, the Vision, Wolverine and Luke Cage had actually done anything of any consequence for the entirety of the storyline, I might have understood why this story was even being printed in New Avengers. Sadly, this issue just lets the reader down on so many levels that itís difficult to see how the book is going to recover. But wait: the next four issues of the title will apparently deal with the ramifications of Marvelís Civil War event on the New Avengers, effectively disassembling the team after only twenty issues! Maybe the book will be transformed afterwards too, but on the strength of this mess, I donít imagine Iíll be around to find out.
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