Thursday, May 25, 2006

When are MY Avengers Gonna Assemble?

Two years ago, I never saw this post coming. Two years ago, I got the news that Brian Bendis, my favorite funnybook writer[1] was going to take over my all-time favorite funnybook, The Avengers. Mr. Bendis was going to bring his awe-inspiring (yet strangely welcoming) talkiness to spruce up Earth's Mightiest Heroes and make them, well, More Mightily Heroic. While the opening, 'out with the old' Disassembled arc polarized many in the fan community, I thought it was skillfully done and accomplished what he set out to do: he blew up just enough of the status quo (and the inertia of 500+ issues) to force the characters to do the same thing a different way. I was giddy with thoughts of My Favorite Book becoming the Comic World's Favorite Book.

And with his first arc on New Avengers, Bendis took full advantage of his now-cleaner slate to somehow inject Spider-Man and Wolverine (not to mention Luke Cage, Power Man) into the dynamic without seeming forced, through a plot packed full with intense phsyical action (not typically Bendisian) and meaningful personal interaction. For the first time in a long time, I couldn't wait 30 days until my next fix of this comic.

Fast forward to yesterday (?) and I'm now just going through the motions with my partner of 30-plus years. What in the name of Irving Forbush is going on? Where have the Avengers gone?

Bendis somehow found a way to lose all of his momentum, and I suspect this is partly due to what makes him such a smart, creative force in the business: his brain just won't stop working. He's so immersed himself in the characters and their world that he can't help but think of a different, arguably better story to tell than the one he's already gotten to the middle of. Two prime examples: elements of his Disassembled arc led directly to the proposal and creation of the House of M miniseries, which then caused him to delay and otherwise make changes in Avengers mid-stream; the book has suffered since. And when his work on Avengers led directly to a "re-think" on the direction of his Secret War miniseries, that book suffered too.[2]

This isn't to say that the title's no good; it's certainly better than most of the X-Men I've read lately, and favorably comparable to a lot of the capes books on the shelves. I love Bendis' dialogue and the team he's been, uh, assembling, and the situations he sets up are good. But somehow, these pluses just never combine to tell a compelling story.

For me, I need an arc or two to go down in Avengers history, all of Avengers history including this new phase, to ajudge a creator's run positively. (Like Bendis, I've been at this starry-eyed Avengers-fandom-thing since Nixon was President; I think I've earned a little snobbishness in this arena.) So far, while the very first arc of New Avengers was phenomenal, it left too many things dangling that have either been unresolved or resolved unsatisfyingly. He's taken great pains to establish and flesh out the whys and wherefores of Spider-Woman's backstory and dynamic with the team, but he's failed miserably at integrating the Ronin/Echo character (who appeared on covers dating back to issue #1 and didn't show up in an issue for the first whole year), and has struggled to decide how/when to use The Sentry (but at least he's tried to include him and expand on his membership since issue 1). That's tainting my opinion of the first arc now.

Earlier, I mentioned that I was going through the motions with something that's been an enjoyable part of my life for quite a while. I wonder if Bendis is now going through the same thing with New Avengers.
[1] Bendis was certainly my favorite comic writer at the time--I'm leaning more towards Warren Ellis, Geoff Johns, Ed Brubaker, and Mark Millar as my faves these days, along with part-timer Joss Whedon)

[2]Though, to be fair, the glacierly pace of SW artist Gabrielle Del'Otto left plenty of time for Bendis to do his sixteenth version of the last half of the series.


At 3:12 PM , Blogger MDBuck said...

I've got to agree with you here, Tim, though I admit the slowness isn't as much an issue for me as it is for you -- since I only get to read the books in big gulps every few months, I don't notice. This series, like pretty much everything Bendis writes, will read better in trade paperback form.

And I'll tell you something else: I think New Avengers is one of the books suffering the most from Marvel's preference for generic pin-ups as covers over the last few years. If the covers had in any way been tied to the stories, rather than kewl shots the various artists had drawn just based on the team roster, your problems in regards to Ronin and the Sentry would be non-problems.


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