New Avengers Annual #3
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist/Cover artist: Mike Mayhew
Colors: Andy Troy
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $4.99 US
In this comic book, a group of super-heroes teams up to free a fellow Avenger from the clutches of Norman Osborn and his Dark Avengers… again. This annual, meant as a lead-in to Siege apparently, disappoints in a number of ways, and its repetition of a similar plot that was just explored in the main series is just one of them. Not only is this story redundant, it’s completely inconsistent. It also misleads its audience into thinking that the spotlight is on one character when it’s really on another, and it serves to spotlight the lateness of another seemingly unrelated Marvel title. The failure here not only falls on the writer (who also penned the “Cage caged” story in New Avengers) but on the editing, or lack thereof. One of the appeals of shared-continuity super-hero stories is the continuity, the myth-building, but the people in charge of maintaining that continuity don’t seem to be all that interested in details.
Clint Barton, the super-hero formerly known as Hawkeye and more recently calling himself Ronin, has been taken captive by Norman Osborn, his secretly malevolent Avengers and H.A.M.M.E.R. after the hero attempted in vain to assassinate Osborn before he could completely screw up the planet. Ronin’s ex-wife and current lover Mockingbird sets out to rescue him despite the fact that the odds against her are overwhelming, but she’s joined by three friends and Avengers: Ms. Marvel, Spider-Woman and Jessica Jones, who’s opted to don her Jewel costume for the first time in years. Their efforts better not be in vain, as Osborn has hired someone to plumbs the depths of Barton’s mind, looking not only for the whereabouts of the so-called “renegade” Avengers but their secret identities as well.
Mike Mayhew’s art is attractive, but it really doesn’t serve this action-oriented story all that well. Given the pseudo-painted look of his artwork, the figures are quite stiff, and the more explosive, dynamic elements of conflict don’t come off as exciting as they could be. It seems clear that with this effort, Mayhew is trying to emulate the style of Alex Ross; there are closeup panels in which the similarities really stand out. Now, since the rescue tam in this story is made up solely of super-heroines, there’s always a risk that the cheesecake factor is going to be amped up. At first, that seems to be the case, as we’re met with two and a half pages of Mockingbird in her underwear. However, Mayhew resists the urge to make her or any of the female players in the story all that buxom. He doesn’t focus our attention on the women’s tits or asses, and that’s refreshing.
This comic offers up 32 pages of story and art (not counting the Siege preview, which we’ve already seen in other comics), and for that amount of content, I had expected to pay $3.99 US, which is pretty standard for a Marvel comic of this size these days. I don’t know why the price was hiked by a buck, because there’s nothing in this publication to merit the higher price. Also frustrating is the fact that the reason I bought it turned out to be something of an unfulfilled promise. Given the cover art and the prominence of Jewel in the image, I had expected this story would focus on the Jessica Jones character to a certain extent. I loved what Bendis did with the character in Alias (and, to a lesser extent, in The Pulse), so revisiting the character and her awkward super-hero phase interested me. Unfortunately, she’s far from a central player here. The emphasis the cover suggests is a fleeting one.
OK, so Luke Cage is taken prisoner by the bad guys, and not only do the renegade Avengers set out to rescue him against all odds, but just about every other super-hero in New York pitches in as well (but his wife sits out). When Ronin is locked up by the same group of antagonists, half of the Avengers are unreachable, leaving a tiny contingent (which includes Cage’s wife this time, for some reason) to save the day. We also see the villains work to pry the location of the renegade heroes’ hideout from Ronin’s mind here, but in the Cage story arc, we’ve already seen that Osborn planted a device (conceivably one he could track) inside the injured Avenger. Why is Bendis telling the same story twice? And why do different standards apply when different heroes are captured?
Finally, the last page of this story — like several pages of the most recent issue of Invincible Iron Man — spoils, in part, the ending of Marvel’s best-selling title at the moment. Reborn is running late, yes, and the ending is, given the title of the Captain America limited series, a foregone conclusion. Still, it muddies the waters in the shared-continuity context (just as is the case over at DC Comics, which has several stories on the go featuring the Barry Allen Flash despite the fact that the story returning him to action and prominence, Flash: Rebirth, has yet to be completed). The different creators involved really aren’t to blame; instead, editorial management of larger publishing plans clearly has fallen short. 3/10
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