It’s not until you dig into a nearly 500 page Marvel collection that you realize Marvel often has things planned years in advance; this collection begins just after “House of M” and leads the reader right up to “Civil War” though details are dropped from some of the other events. Though some may be fatigued by the nearly two (or more!) events coming out from the House of Ideas each year, you have to marvel (heh) at the amount of planning and cohesiveness these events have.
The New Avengers Complete Collection 2 (Marvel Comics)
So what’s it about? The summary reads:
As Brian Michael Bendis’ New Avengers roster is completed, who is the masked Ronin – and why has Captain America recruited this mysterious figure? In the wake of the tumultuous events of House of M, a new threat emerges that may be impossible to stop. Canada’s premier super team find that out the hard way – will the Avengers fare any better? And when Civil War breaks out across the Marvel Universe, Iron Man and Captain America will find themselves on opposite sides – and their team will be torn in two!
Why does this book matter?
Every story in this book is written by Brian Michael Bendis and that means you’re going to get a lot of dialogue, personality, and different ways of pushing the envelope — not just with the plotting, but with how comic books are written. The guy has a way of playing with the format that should make any self respecting fan at least take notice. It also collects a hell of a lot of books! New Avengers #11-#25, Giant-Size Spider-Woman #1, New Avengers Guest Starring the Fantastic Four, New Avengers Annual #1, New Avengers: Illuminati One Shot, and Civil War: Confession.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
The heroes do some globe trotting in this one.
As I read this book I kept thinking, “Whoever created this knew what they were doing.” I’m going to guess it’s Jennifer Grunwald who was the collection editor. I say this because the stories chosen flow together rather nicely, especially given the number of characters involved and the probably-too many-to-count-comics they could have inserted in this volume. It opens with the Avengers opening an ancient capsule–a two issue quick read–then dives into a Silver Samurai story involving Ronin and the reveal of who they are which dovetails into a story about how Spider-Woman is a double agent; the book focuses on her pretty much from beginning, middle, and end, giving this collection a nice three act structure. The New Avengers then deal with a threat that’s a direct result of “House of M” which further plays into the who-do-you-trust theme Spider-Woman has brought in. The last third of the book focuses on the Illuminati forming, Sentry’s relationship with the Inhumans, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones getting married, and finally the beginnings of “Civil War”. There’s somewhat of a smorgasbord going on in this last third, though the idea of distrust reigns through them all.
So how are the stories? The opening two pages are a great bit of fun as Bendis relays a sense of mystery. The Avengers encounter an ancient spaceship so old they have no idea what could be inside. This leads to a fun battle–with plenty of banter from Spider-Man–and a sense that Earth is very small and imperfect. It sends a shock to the system for the heroes and sets up a book that’s really all about fear of failure. Spider-Woman is a conduit for this feeling as she’s frustrated with and upset by the fact that she doesn’t know if she’s being used by Nick Fury, Hydra, or both. By the end of the book there’s a resolution to this frustration that pays off all the build up throughout the book.
Spider-Man dons his red and gold suit in about half of this book.
The enemy they face in the second bigger story in this volume–an energy blasting humanoid looking character who doesn’t speak–may seem somewhat random, but it directly sets up the issue of trust and failure later in the issue. You get a good sense of why Tony decides to set up the Illuminati and further down the road signs onto the Superhero Registration Act. Maria Hill shows up quite a bit in this volume, in part to show how government is influencing the Avengers, but also to showcase how badass she can be. Her inclusion helps create an atmosphere of distrust between heroes and country, which directly connects to the “Civil War” storyline. Essentially this book showcases a darker time in the Marvel universe when heroes began to distrust each other.
That doesn’t mean it’s not without fun dialogue! Spider-Man has some great quips in this book, and Bendis is quite good at having these heroes rub off on each other. It’s one of the reasons Bendis writing team books works.
The art throughout this volume is excellent and why shouldn’t it be with big names like Frank Cho, David Finch, Steve McNiven, Mike Deodato Jr., Leinil Francis Yu, Olivier Coipel, Jim Cheung, Alex Maleev, Dan Jurgens, Pasqual Ferry, and Howard Chaykin drawing it! It’s funny to think when this volume was being created some of these names weren’t that big, but most of them have gone on to draw primo titles at both Marvel and DC.
It can’t be perfect can it?
Portions of the book involve Sentry, but without reading more of the character I could see many being lost as to his purpose. It’s probably impossible to showcase Bendis’ work here without including him, but without a more robust showing from him it makes his inclusion feel spotty and forced into the narrative. Really the last third of this book feels that way as it skips across events. You get a general feel for what Bendis was going for–and really how could this book even be thorough without adding another 500 pages–but it feels schizophrenic as it jumps around.
Being a Bendis written book the dialogue gets quite heavy at times to the point where on reflecting what you just read you realize much of it isn’t really necessary. There’s nuance of character writing via dialogue, but in a conversation between Daredevil and Captain America in one section for example, I felt like I wanted to skip over whole conversations to get to the point. It didn’t bother me too much while reading this volume, but it definitely irked me here and there.
If you’re looking for extras this book is light on that. The back of the book has 5 black and white covers and pinups from the book to showcase the artists’ talents.
I love Captain America’s expression. Art by Mike Deodato Jr.
Is It Good?
The New Avengers Complete Collection 2 is a good volume that helps to remind us why heroes fight heroes in a realistic way. Brian Michael Bendis had a strong run here in part due to the foresight and planning which makes this world feel alive and more realistic; the volume certainly feels complete and robust as it captures a period at Marvel where distrust ran rampant and the heroes attempted to make sense of a senseless world.