It’s always fun to read thick collections like New Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis: The Complete Collection Vol. 5 because it shows an overall story arc was taking place the whole time. No matter how chaotic or surprising, there was an end game, which can make you like a series even more in hindsight.
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Stuart Immonen, Jim Cheung, Joe Quesada, Bryan Hitch, Marko Djurdjevic, Mike McKone, Mike Mayhew, and Christian Nauck
Publisher: Marvel Comics
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Norman Osborn’s Dark Reign goes from bad to worse when one of the Hood’s gang learns how to shut down the Avengers’ powers! Thor and the Dark Avengers lend a hand against the Frost Giant Ymir! Earth’s new Sorcerer Supreme has a lot to learn! Ronin takes drastic action in an assassination attempt on Osborn! And Steve Rogers makes his triumphant return – but when gods fall, is he too late to save the day? Asgard is under siege as the end of an era arrives! Plus, a secret New Avengers love story and the hidden history of Peter Parker and Jessica Jones!
Why does this book matter?
This book collects a hell of a lot of comics all of which focus on Red Hood coming back to power up his villainous goons while Harry Osborn clings to the last days of being the Iron Patriot. Collecting New Avengers #55 through #64, Dark Reign: The List – Avengers One-Shot, New Avengers Annual #3 and materials from Amazing Spider-Man and a few other titles, it’s a huge chunk of Brian Michael Bendis’ run on one of the longest running and consistently good titles.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
He looks more badass than he really is.
This collection bookends surprisingly well, opening with Thor getting taken down and ending with…Thor getting taken down. While Thor appearing in the opening doesn’t have anything to do with the ending necessarily, it does make for a story that comes full circle nicely. Along the way, Thor doesn’t actually pop up much–most likely he was off with his own adventures–but Loki plays a major part in the volume as a whole.
It’s interesting reading a book like this without reading the other titles Marvel was putting out at the time because out of context it’s an entirely different experience, especially because I’ve forgotten what was going on in most of these books. By the end it’s clear Asgard falling to Earth was a major plot point this work was leading towards, but you wouldn’t know it reading most of this volume. That’s because Bendis does a great job with character (always his focus) and you’ll be pulled into the dynamics between them all as you read. That includes Hawkeye’s love life with Mockingbird, Spider-Man flirting with Spider-Woman (of course), and the return of Captain America. Really the character who gets the smallest amount of character work is Bucky and maybe that’s because midway through this volume Steve Rogers mysteriously shows back up.
Fans of Luke Cage should definitely pick this book up for the turmoil he and his family go through. Jessica Jones ends up being a major character Bendis fleshes out–which makes this a good book to read if you’re currently a fan of Bendis’ Jessica Jones series–and that includes exploring the fact that she went to high school with Peter Parker. Cage ends up being a major plot point–early on he lets himself get captured so the bad Avengers will save his life–and drives much of the story forward.
You can’t leave him behind!
Another reason it’s so much fun reading thick collections like this is they remind you how awesome certain ideas were. Take for instance the evil Avengers concept which had Hawkeye, Venom, and Daken join the team. Bendis utilizes to the max, especially in the first half of this volume, and it’s fun to see how they have become accustomed to being on the “good guy” team. At one point Bullseye laments he’s sad Iron Patriot doesn’t say, “Avengers Assemble” to the surprise of his teammates. It’s also neat to see Bendis insert dialogue about characters and their TV show habits–Mockingbird comments she’d totally watch a TV show with Doctor Strange and the Night Nurse–and you have to wonder if Bendis was taking meetings with producers at the time.
The art team on this book is pretty spectacular, with Stuart Immonen, Jim Cheung, Joe Quesada, Bryan Hitch, Marko Djurdjevic, Mike McKone, Mike Mayhew, and Christian Nauck drawing select issues or story arcs throughout. There’s an epic double-page spread of Time Square Immonen draws with Mockingbird yelling from a jet for instance. Mike Mayhew’s work on the annual is also a standout with painted panels and pages that look jaw-droppingly real. The art is always epic and big in scope, which suits this team book well.
This book wraps up very well, especially if you’re familiar with the plethora of events over the years. Told via double page spreads, Bendis waxes poetic on what the heroes ultimately want after all this fighting has taken place. It pulls all the events together in a way and helps give them a cohesion told in a few pages. It’s a nice way to reminisce when it comes to those events too.
Nice team pose guys!
It can’t be perfect can it?
As is custom with collections like this there are chapters missing and you’ll be at a loss for what is happening. This is particularly obvious in the second half of the book where Asgard comes crashing down to Earth. Captain America also randomly shows up and you won’t really know where he was to begin with. Collections like this are numbered for a reason–you should probably read the first four before picking them up–but with Marvel’s tie-in strategy there’s always a chapter missing here and there that can make the reading experience less than cohesive.
Well that’s pretty.
While the villains are pretty badass and come off as rather cool throughout the book–Mandril is a highlight and I didn’t even know this baboon villain existed–Harry Osborn comes off more or less a buffoon. He’s always failing, or in over his head, or being made a fool. I’m all for the heroes showing the villain who’s the boss, but it’s hard to feel like the stakes matter when the leader of the enemy is making boneheaded mistakes. It reduces the effectiveness of the stakes, though it doesn’t ruin them.
Is It Good?
If you want to take a quick trip back to 2012 when Marvel comics’ biggest series was New Avengers, look no further. Brian Michael Bendis’ run on this series is like a sponge: You’ll squeeze the thing and always find a little bit more no matter how hard you keep looking. Overall this collection is strong–though it does have a few missing pieces which can be frustrating, it showcases a period where the Avengers were still a family and that’s something I think we all miss!