With Secret Invasion finally over I am hoping that we will begin to get better reads on Mighty Avengers. Of course, we are not totally out of the woods yet as Bendis has in store for us a Secret Invasion wrap-up issue with Mighty Avengers #20. Evidently, we are going to take a look at how Janet’s death has impacted Henry Pym. I have always been one of the few Henry Pym fans so I hope that Bendis can do him justice in this issue. Let’s go ahead and hit this review for Mighty Avengers #20.
Writer: Brain Michael Bendis
Pencils: Lee Weeks, Jim Cheung & Carlo Pagulayan
Inks: Lee Weeks, Jim Cheung & Jeffrey Huet
Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with a flashback scene to when the Avengers discovered Captain America’s body in the frozen arctic water. We see Henry Pym trying to figure out how to properly resuscitate Captain America. Pym is on amazed that they found the original Captain America and is in awe at the prospect of Captain America joining the Avengers.
Janet is with Henry in the lab. Janet is excited about having found the original Captain America as well. Henry states that Cap has lost decades and wonders how strange it will be for Cap to wake up in this brave new world. Janet wonders if Cap had a wife or a girlfriend and if he did if that woman is now dead. Henry asks Janet if she could imagine waking up and finding the world totally different.
Janet then tells Hank “This life…all this. Thank you.” Hank responds “What did I do?” Janet replies “Hey, I’m saying…thank you.” Janet then gives Henry a kiss. Henry tells Janet that he loves her. Janet smiles and says that if Henry ever gets frozen in a block of ice that she will wait for him.
We cut to the present with Henry at the funeral home. Carol Danvers and Wonder Man are with Henry. Henry asks if he is supposed to speak at the funeral. Carol tells Henry that he does not have to say anything. Henry states that it seems odd that they are burying an empty casket. (Of course you are. This is the 616 universe, baby. Janet is not really dead. She will return at some point.)
Henry suddenly stands up and asks if he can leave. Henry says that he really has to get out of here. Wonder Man offers to fly Henry home. Henry declines the offer and says that he is not in the mood to fly. Instead, Henry and Carol walk toward the limo that is waiting outside of the funeral home.
On their way out to the limo, Henry is besieged by a huge crowd of media members and reporters. Carol and Henry climb into the limo and drive off. Henry asks why the media is acting like this with him. Carol states that the Skrull who impersonated Henry was one of the spokesmen for the Skrulls. That Henry’s face was all across television announcing the Skrulls’ plans. So now when people see Henry they see a Skrull.
Henry tells Carol to tell him everything that has happened since he was switched out. Carol proceeds to tell Henry about the House of M event, the Superhuman Registration Act, the Civil War event, the death of Steve Rogers, World War Hulk and then the events of Secret Invasion ending with Janet’s death.
Henry then flashes back to Janet telling him that if he was frozen in a block of ice that she would wait for him. Then he flashes to Janet yelling at him “You’re the one who wanted to move here!!” (Which I believe might have been his last memory of Janet before he got abducted by the Skrulls.)
Henry begins crying. Carol begins to cry. Carol then holds Henry and comforts him.
We cut to Janet’s funeral. There is a massive turnout with practically every hero in the 616 universe in attendance. The padre gives a nice eulogy and then asks if anyone wants to come up and share their words and feelings about Janet. Henry slowly stands up and makes his way to the podium.
Henry then looks at the massive crowd and says “I keep asking myself, what would Janet think of all this? I think she would ask…How could you do this? So I’ll ask for her…How could you do this?” Henry looks at Tony Stark. (Oh no. Bendis is not going to totally ruin an issue that I was about to give an 8 or 9 Night Girls rating for the writing.)
Henry yells “I’m asking you, Tony! How could you do this? How could you let this happen? How? Tell me! You killed Captain America! You killed Janet! But there you are! Who’s next, Tony? (BWA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!!! What is next? Blame Tony for global warming? Blame Tony for the extra ten pound of fat you gained from eating too much McDonalds? Stub your toe this morning? Blame Tony Stark! Get fired from your job? Blame Tony Stark! I’m sorry. Bendis’ bizarre and idiotic obsession with bashing Tony Stark has simply become a total and complete joke. There really is no other reaction to have to this scene other than to burst out laughing at the sheer over the top idiocy of it all.)
Thor then appears next to Henry and gives a short but sweet eulogy to Janet. Thor tells Henry to come with him so that they may mourn together in private. Thor then flies off with Henry. Tony just sits there like a total bitch, because that is how Bendis writes Tony’s character.
We cut to after the funeral with Clint pissed that Norman is also at the funeral. Clint goes up to Norman and asks Norman if he is the Green Goblin. Norman asks Clint who he is. Clint responds that he is the Avenger Hawkeye. Norman says that Clint and his friends are unregistered and that they have 24 hours to comply or they will have to deal with the consequences.
Clint is flustered and then Mockingbird hauls Clint off before he can get into more trouble. Norman then smirks at how the mighty have fallen. (Is that the Baroness now working as Norman’s personal assistant? Nice. Way to go, Norman.)
We cut to Avengers Tower with Norman standing in the Avengers meeting room near the picture of Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye and Quicksilver. Norman gets an evil smile on his face. End of issue.
The Good: Mighty Avengers #20 would have garnered an 8 or 9 Night Girls out of 10 rating for the writing. The first eighteen pages were absolutely fantastic. I was impressed with Bendis’ fantastic character work with Henry Pym. This was a wonderfully sympathetic and genuine Henry Pym. And that is a rarity since more often or not writers use Henry Pym as a whipping boy and make him look like a jerk or a total loser.
That is certainly not the case in Mighty Avengers #20. Bendis presents the reader with a likeable Henry Pym who is basically a good person. And the reader’s heart breaks with the genuine pain and sorrow that Pym goes through in this issue. I hope that Henry continues to be portrayed in a much more generous and kind light than he has in the past.
The opening scene was excellent. Bendis plays with the obvious parallels between Captain America when the Avengers revived him from his decades spent frozen in ice and Henry Pym in the present after having finally been woken up after being held captive by the Skrulls. Henry Pym’s musing of what it must be like to wake up to a world that is totally different is nice foreshadowing to what Pym is experiencing in the present during the wake of the Secret Invasion.
Janet eerily wondering if Captain America’s wife or girlfriend is still alive strikes a nerve with the reader. I particularly enjoyed the sweetness and innocence of Janet and Henry’s love in this opening scene. It has been long forgotten and overlooked that these two did genuinely love each other. Often, in the rush to show how sick and unhealthy Henry Pym is, writers lose track of the true love that Henry and Janet had for each.
The scene at the funeral home was subtle yet quite powerful. Bendis conveys to the reader the overwhelming sense of loss that is crashing over Henry as he fully realizes that he is burying his wife. The reader can feel the same stifling and crushing weight of loss and sorrow that is heavy on Henry’s chest.
I was particularly impressed with Bendis’ excellent job of quickly re-capping the events of House of M, the Registration Act, Civil War, the death of Steve Rogers, World War Hulk and Secret Invasion in just five pages. And with no dialogue or narration boxes at all. That was perfect.
Who would have thought that a writer as “talky” as Bendis would employ the less is more maxim in this situation. Bendis deserves much praise for how he delivered this part of the issue. Words were not necessary and by letting the artwork carry the story these flashback scenes were made that much more powerful.
Bendis dished out plenty of quality dialogue. The dialogue was surprisingly focused and tight. Bendis used an economy of carefully crafted words rather than rambling on pointlessly for pages and pages. The result was an issue that had a clear message and more impact on the reader.
The artwork by committee was not bad, but it was certainly nothing great. The artwork did its job and at least never got in the way of the story. The flashback scenes were the best part of the artwork in this issue.
The Bad: The final six pages of Mighty Avengers #20 were just awful. And that is the reason that this issue ended up with only 6 Night Girls out of 10 for the writing. The funeral scene was an absolute joke. I simply had to laugh. What else can you do when a writer goes so ridiculously over-board and heavy handed like Bendis did in this scene.
The funeral scene was simply poor writing. It read like fan-fiction where the writer completely ignores the core personalities and values of certain characters in order to get across the personal desires of the writer. This is a case of instead of bending the story to meet the characters; the writer bends the characters in order to conform to their story. All Bendis cares about his telling his story no matter how much of the core personality of a character he has to ignore in the process.
The funeral scene was extreme over-reaching by Bendis. Tony Stark gets blamed for absolutely everything. It takes a total and complete suspension of logic to buy into what Bendis is selling. I could buy into blaming Tony for the Registration Act and the Initiative since he worked with the government on those two items. However, I would not blame him for Civil War and Bill Foster’s death since the other side is to be equally blamed for willingly violating a law enacted by Congress at the urging of the people of the United States.
I would certainly not blame Tony for Captain America’s death. This one continues to mystify me. Have any of the writers like Bendis bothered to read Brubaker’s Captain America? The blame clearly lies on the Red Skull who was gunning for Steve from the start.
I also do not understand how Tony gets all the blame for World War Hulk while the rest of the Illuminati including Dr. Strange, Reed Richards, Professor X and Black Bolt all get complete and total passes and bear no liability or blame at all. Instead, Bendis and other writers just keep heaping it all on Tony.
And there is absolutely no rational reason at all to blame Tony for Secret Invasion or for Janet’s death. To do so calls for a complete and total suspension of logic. Bendis placing blame on Tony for all of these events since the Registration Act lacks any and all internal logic. And it is simply weak writing.
Bendis continues to pile on Tony in such an extreme and bizarre fashion that it has become clear that he clearly dislikes Tony’s character and is more interested with advancing his personal story than writing Tony consistent with his past and his core character values. It is surprising to see a professional writer the stature of Bendis delivering such an amateurish tactic.
Bendis has gone so ridiculously overboard that it robs his stories of any seriousness or impact. Instead, Bendis’ stories read more like parodies designed to make the reader laugh. Bendis’ handling of Tony’s character is beginning to remind me of the South Park song “Blame Canada” where the parents end up arbitrarily blaming Canada for all the faults and bad habits of their children rather than owning their own responsibilities and obligations. In a rush to make his story work, Bendis is willing to throw just about anything possible at Tony’s feet.
All the mutants disappearing from Earth because of House of M? Don’t blame Scarlet Witch. Blame Tony! He used his sexual prowess to get her to do it. Uncle Ben’s death? It was really engineered by Tony Stark. Bruce Banner getting hit by gamma rays? Well, what you don’t know is that it was Tony inside the facility and that he pushed the button. The Thing’s horrible condition? Well, truth be told, Tony rigged Reed’s spaceship so that it would let through the cosmic rays and mutate everyone inside. Oh, the possibilities are endless. I cannot wait to see what Bendis blames Tony for next.
Even though I enjoyed how Bendis wrote Henry Pym’s character in this issue, I would like to see a moratorium on kicking Henry Pym around for a while. This poor guy has nothing but terrible and negative things happen to him. Now he has to deal with Janet being dead and everyone on Earth viewing Henry as a spokesperson for the Skrulls. It would be nice for Henry to finally get a few positive breaks in his life.
The final three pages were a bit anti-climactic. The little exchange between Clint and Norman was pretty weak. Bendis has never impressed me with his ability to properly write Clint’s character. Bendis’ Clint is usually either bland or just a generic hothead. And in this final scene, Clint’s exchange with Norman sounded like something you would hear in high school.
Overall: Mighty Avengers #20 was a schizophrenic issue. Everything leading up to the funeral scene was such an enjoyable read. Then the wheels fell off the story and it the funeral scene was a complete mess. I am ready to put Bendis’ run on Mighty Avengers behind me and focus on the positive. And there is plenty of be positive about with Dan Slott coming aboard this title with the next issue. I have all the faith in the world that Slott will be able to revive this title and finally give the readers at least one excellently crafted and entertaining Avengers title.