The Revolution has continually been unimpressed with Bendis’ New Avengers. And the past year New Avengers has become practically unreadable with the Secret Invasion related stories. I hope that Dark Reign presents a fresh start for New Avengers. Bendis impressed me with his work on Dark Avengers #1 and hopefully he can import some of that energy and excitement over here on the lackluster New Avengers. The shocking direction of having Luke Cage join up with Norman Osborn was pure genius by Bendis and should provide the foundation for numerous interesting stories on New Avengers. Let’s go ahead and hit this review for New Avengers #49.
Writer: Brain Michael Bendis
Pencils: Billy Tan
Inks: Matt Banning
Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with Norman, Luke Cage, Venom and Bullseye arriving at the Raft where the government is holding 76 Skulls as prisoners of war. We cut to a cell where two Skrulls are strapped into chairs. The one Skrull tells the other not to answer any of the humans’ questions. Norman, Luke, Venom and Bullseye enter the cell.
Norman tells one of the Skrulls that they are looking for the Skrull who posed as Jarvis. Norman asks the Skrull if he knows who that is. The Skrull refuses to say anything. Norman looks at Venom. Venom then eats the upper half of the Skrull in a couple of bites.
Norman then asks the next Skrull if he knows anything about Skrully Jarvis. The Skrull stammers that they did not know Skrully Jarvis. Norman asks Venom if he is still hungry. Venoms answers “Always.” Norman tells the Skrull that there are 74 more Skrulls in the Raft that they can question. Norman tells the Skrull to tell them something of value or else they will move on to the next Skrull.
The Skrull then gives up the location of the meeting place where the Skrull sleeper agents used to meet. That this was the location where Skrulls could get on and off planet if they wanted to. Evidently, a Skrull needs a Skrull contact in order to activate the teleportation device. The Skrull says that maybe Skrully Jarvis keeps checking back at this safehouse in hopes of meeting up with another Skrull. Norman orders around the clock surveillance of the Skrull safehouse.
We cut to Skrully Jarvis holding Luke’s baby and entering the Skrull safehouse. Inside the safehouse we see Luke sitting there. Luke tells Skrully Jarvis to give him his baby. Skrully Jarvis replies that Luke will kill him. Luke answers that if Skrully Jarvis gives him his baby then Luke will not kill him. However, if Skrully Jarvis refuses to give him his baby then Luke will definitely kill him.
Luke says that there is no one else here. Skrully Jarvis says that if Norman releases all the Skrull prisoners then he will give Luke his baby back. Luke replies that this is not a swap meet. Skrully Jarvis yells that his people have been destroyed. Luke answers that he does not care about that. That it has nothing to do with him and his baby.
Skrully Jarvis hands Luke his baby. Luke looks at his child and smiles and says “She’s okay.” Skrully Jarvis replies “I’m not a monster. I did what any- -” Suddenly, a bullet comes through the window and kills Skrully Jarvis. Luke looks out the window and sees Bullseye with a sniper’s rifle.
We cut to Avengers Tower the next morning. Luke and Jessica are thrilled about having their baby back. Norman tells them that HAMMER’s doctors have looked over the child and that she is completely healthy. Norman says that Jessica and Luke are not prisoners. Norman adds that they are still free to stay here in their apartment in Avengers Tower. Jessica responds that she does not want to be a super hero. That she just wants to raise her child. Norman replies that his deal was just with Luke and not Jessica.
Luke and Jessica go to their apartment in Avengers Tower and pack up their clothes. Jessica asks Luke if he is sure that he wants to go down this road. Luke replies that they have to do what is right for their baby. That from now on out it is all about their baby. Luke tells Jessica to make the call and that Luke is going to go make his intentions clear.
We cut to Norman’s office where evidently Bullseye is eating a bowl of cereal. Venom is also there. Luke walks in with the Wrecker’s crowbar. Luke attacks Bullseye. Luke bashes Bullseye and Venom with the crowbar. Luke points the crowbar at Norman.
Norman is totally unimpressed (as am I) and says “So you’re a liar.” Luke yells that Norman is a murderer and that there is no reason that Luke would ever join Norman’s Avengers. But, that Norman saved Luke’s kid so that is why Luke is not going to take Norman’s head off. Norman replies “So when your kid grows up and discovers you’re a man of dishonor- -” Luke screams and throws the crowbar at the window.
Luke then jumps out of the window and lands on the sidewalk and walks away. Norman then tells Ms. Hand “Guess who just made the list.”
We cut to Captain America’s warehouse condo. We see Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel, Spider-Woman, Wolverine, Clint, Mockingbird, Captain America, Luke, Jessica and the baby hanging out. Suddenly, the news report with the grand unveiling of the Norman’s Avengers comes across the sweet flat screen TV in the room. Clint gets all pissy. (Which is about all that Bendis ever does with Clint.)
The Secret Avengers get all mad. Clint rants on and on about what a travesty this is. That Norman is making a mockery of the Avengers by having those villains dressed in their costumes. Clint says that they have to go there and stop it before everything goes to hell again. Clint rants that they have to take back to the Avengers from the Green Goblin.
Clint yells “We’re the Avengers. We take it back.” (Wait what about the Mighty Avengers? They don’t get a claim on the Avengers name?) End of issue.
The Good: New Avengers #49 was rather disappointing. However, I can still satisfy The Revolution’s Rule of Positivity. I loved how Bendis wrote Norman Osborn in this issue. Bendis impressed me with his handling of Norman’s character in Dark Avengers #1 and that continues with New Avengers #49. Hopefully, Bendis can stay focused and continue to deliver this unflappable and always in control Osborn with that hint of bubbling rage simmering just below the surface. Marvel has an excellent opportunity to make Norman into their own Lex Luthor but with the added dash of the Joker. It seems that Bendis understands this unique dynamic that Norman presents and will continue to make Norman the most intriguing character on a team book full of rather bland and colorless characters in the New Avengers.
Tan and Banning combine to give us some solid artwork. New Avengers has never been a particularly vibrant or exciting looking title. But, the muted looking art fits the fact that New Avengers is more like the Defenders full of street level heroes that work mostly in the grit and grime of the Marvel Universe. My only minor quibble with the artwork is that Banning’s inks simply do not do Tan’s pencils justice.
The Bad: Bendis coughed up a real clunker with New Avengers #49. Bendis had a golden opportunity to follow up the stunning ending of New Avengers #48 by delivering a riveting and original read with this issue. I was excited about the possibilities of this title with the amazing ending of the last issue with Luke signing the Registration Act and getting on board with Norman Osborn. Unfortunately, Bendis fumbled the ball on the one yard line and gave the reader an unoriginal and dull issue that read just like all the other issues that we have gotten on this title for the past two years.
New Avengers #49 was a slow and dull read. I was largely bored for the majority of this issue. The pacing on this title has been a reoccurring problem for years and it appears to a problem that Bendis is uninterested in addressing. The story plods along like a tired old mule. And that only serves to make the reader get the feeling that Bendis himself has no idea where he wants to go with this title.
The plotting also continues to be a serious problem on New Avengers. There is a complete lack of plotlines in this title. We have two small personal plotlines. One involving Luke and his baby which is now resolved. The other involving Clint and Bobbi and how and if they will be able to rebuild their marriage. That is about it. New Avengers lacks any team plotlines. There really appears to be no purpose to this title at all. And the result we get issues that offer shallow stories that lack any substance that stimulate the reader’s imagination. New Avengers is probably the most anemic team title that either Marvel or DC is currently publishing.
New Avengers #49 is really just a spotlight issue that focuses on Luke Cage. Again. This is another reoccurring weakness with the New Avengers over the course of the past year. Instead of actually getting a team story we have been getting nothing but a series of spotlight issues focusing in on one character. And more often than not that one character has been Luke Cage. Sometimes I forget that there are other characters on the New Avengers outside of Luke Cage and Spider-Woman.
The New Avengers roster is another weakness. Spider-Man and Wolverine are genuine A-listers. But, honestly, Spider-Man has never historically been a team character. And Wolverine is way too overexposed and brings nothing of value to the New Avengers. While Captain America is an A-list character, Bucky as Captain America is more of a B-list character. Ms. Marvel, Ronin, Luke Cage, Spider-Woman, Mockingbird and Iron Fist are all B-list and C-list characters. And there is a lack of diversity in terms of types of characters on this team as we get a team that is comprised mostly of street based urban styled characters.
Spider-Man and Spider-Woman are duplicative. And Captain America, Ronin, Mockingbird and Iron Fist all have power sets that are too similar. And even Wolverine and Luke Cage despite their powers are just hand-to-hand fighters like most of the other team members. This team lacks diverse power sets like flying, energy projection, telepathy, etc. Ms. Marvel is the only exception and is the one character that stands out from the rest of the team in terms of style, personality and powers.
New Avengers #49 gives the reader a heavy dose of some rather rambling dialogue. Bendis always suffers from the inability to cull the extraneous dialogue in his issues. Bendis is one of those writers who likes to talk the reader to death. The “dramatic” dialogue heavy scenes were not that compelling. Instead, they read like Bendis was just trying to fluff up the shallow story in order to take up panel space. The fact that there was very little in the way of action only served to make this issue that much more of a monotonous and plodding read.
Once again, the character work is practically non-existent in this issue. Of course, in order for Bendis to perform any character work on any of the members of the New Avengers it would require that someone other than Luke Cage actually get some panel time. And speaking of Luke Cage, the plotline involving his baby was incredibly anti-climactic. This was a very short plotline that lead to absolutely nothing at all. There was no purpose to this plotline.
What, now Norman really hates Luke and the New Avengers because of what happened at the end of this issue? No, that was totally unnecessary. The Secret Avengers have been fighting against the Initiative from the start. The fact that the Secret Avengers are heroes who dislike the Registration Act and will fight against HAMMER is enough to have Norman place the New Avengers on his list. There were already plenty of reasons for Norman to hate the New Avengers and the baby plotline was unnecessary.
The biggest flaw of New Avengers #49 was the utter waste of a potentially gripping plotline with Luke turning heel. Imagine the incredibly tense, dramatic and intriguing stories that would have come out of that plot twist. Bendis could have played with Luke having to deal with the other members of the Dark Avengers. Bendis could have had fun with Luke having to battle his old allies in the New Avengers. And Bendis could have performed some real character work on Luke by having him deal with his feelings of being a sell-out and a hypocrite. This would have helped to give some more depth to Luke who is, for the most part, just a walking stereotype.
For a pet character, Bendis manages to make Luke virtually impossible to like. Bendis had already made me view Luke as a person with a low intelligence considering how horribly he led the New Avengers during the build up to Secret Invasion. Bendis also made Luke an abusive husband toward Jessica. Bendis also has made Luke into one of the world’s worst father with how he consistently endangered his child between Civil War and Secret Invasion.
Now, after reading New Avengers #49, I view Luke Cage as a character with absolutely no honor. If a man does not have his word then he has nothing. I came away from Luke’s supposedly “bad-assed” scene at the end where he attacks Bullseye and Venom and then tells Norman to shove it with the view that Luke was a man who lacked integrity and honor. Bendis would have made me more impressed with Luke’s character by having him honor his word despite his dislike for Norman Osborn. This would be more consistent with the “respect” theme that Bendis has consistently written into Luke’s personality.
Luke going against his word also lacked internal logic. In the scene preceding Luke attacking Bullseye and Venom, we see Luke rambling on and on about his big epiphany concerning his baby. That it is all about his child. That his baby is all that matters and that she must take the first priority in Luke’s life. And that all his decisions and actions must revolve around what is best for his baby.
Yet, then Luke goes ahead and pisses off Norman and goes back on his word. After this supposed “epiphany” Luke should have realized that as repugnant as Osborn and the Dark Avengers may be that at least if he stayed in his apartment in Avengers Tower and as a member of the Dark Avengers that his baby would be safe and sound for the first time in forever. Sure, it would suck working for Norman, but Luke gave Norman his word and Norman delivered by giving Luke his baby. And staying with the Dark Avengers is Luke’s only option to truly protect his baby and to make sure that she is safe.
Now that Luke is back with the New Avengers his baby will be exposed to the same level of danger as she was after Civil War and leading up to Secret Invasion. Luke makes his child a fugitive of the law and at risk of attack by not just super villains but also the federal government’s law enforcement. Again, this move by Bendis to have Luke go back on his word to Norman flies in the face of Luke’s “epiphany” just one scene earlier.
New Avengers #49 ends with a boring and unoriginal “hook” ending. Oh wait, yet another fight between two Avengers teams? Wow, like we have not seen that before in the past two years. The reader knows that Bendis is not ending Dark Reign just two months into this new direction for the 616 Universe. Therefore, we know that the “big showdown” in the next issue is going to result in a Dark Avengers victory or the dreaded draw that we have seen in the past since the end of Civil War.
Either way, New Avengers appears to lack a direction or purpose in the wake of Secret Invasion. Thunderbolts clearly is set up to be the black ops team that pulls off dirty missions of espionage for Norman that the high profile Dark Avengers cannot perform. The Dark Avengers serve two purposes. They are a propaganda machine to make Norman look like a great hero. And the Dark Avengers are also Norman’s hammer that he can use in high profile situations and against large overt threats to America.
The Mighty Avengers fills the role of being a true Avengers title. We will get Avengers stories like we have gotten during the Avengers’ entire history before Bendis took over this title. Avengers: The Initiative will deal with the registered heroes who will supplement the Dark Avengers. And then there is Nick Fury’s Secret Warriors who have the role of fighting against Norman’s machinations as the head of HAMMER.
And then we have the New Avengers. And they seem stuck in the eternal role of fighting the Registration Act. And that has quickly gotten stale. This title has to give us some other purpose outside of seeing the New Avengers constantly battling the Dark Avengers. That will get old very fast. At this point, the lack of plotlines and the general blah feeling that this title gives me makes me worry if Bendis can make New Avengers as good of a read as Dark Avengers.
Overall: New Avengers #49 was a pedestrian read that continues to give the reader a stale story. Bendis needs to give the New Avengers an appealing direction in the wake of Secret Invasion in order to set it apart from the rest of the great and interesting titles that Marvel has spinning out of Secret Invasion. Dark Avengers, Mighty Avengers and Thunderbolts are all interesting titles that get the reader excited about the possibilities of Dark Reign. And Agents of Atlas and Secret Warriors both look like neat titles with plenty of potential.
On the other hand, New Avengers continues to be a dud. Out of all the Avenger related titles, New Avengers is the weak link. I would only recommend getting New Avengers if you are a huge Bendis fan or a big fan of Luke Cage. Otherwise, New Avengers is absolutely not even remotely worth the new cover price of $3.99.