New Avengers #54 Review

I have not reviewed an issue of New Avengers in a while. This title continues to be a disappointment as Bendis just does not seem to have a master plan in mind for this title. Maybe Bendis will be able to use Dark Reign to get this title on track and make it a more exciting read. Let’s go ahead and hit this review for New Avengers #54.

Creative Team
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Billy Tan
Inks: Billy Tan and Batt

Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 5.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin ten minutes ago with Brother Voodoo sitting on the edge of his bed while his lady friend is sleeping. The spirit of Daniel, Brother Voodoo’s brother, is standing next to him. Daniel is giving Brother Voodoo a hard time for shagging random women and for not using his powers to go and save people. Suddenly, the Eye of Agamotto appears in front of Brother Voodoo. The Eye of Agamotto recounts Dr. Strange’s past. The Eye of Agamotto reveals that it has now chosen Brother Voodoo to be the new Sorcerer Supreme. (Sarcastic Yay!)

After some more yammering dialogue, Brother Voodoo accepts the Eye of Agamotto’s offer to be the new Sorcerer Supreme. Suddenly, Brother Voodoo hears an explosion. We see Luke Cage battling outside of the apartment building where Brother Voodoo is staying. Daniel tells Brother Voodoo that Luke needs his help. Daniel tells Brother Voodoo to put on the Eye of Agamotto.

We shift to “Now” as the Secret Avengers are battling the Dormammu possessed Hood. Brother Voodoo appears on the scene and attacks Dormammu. Dr. Strange casts a defense spell in order for Hellstrom to crank up an attack. The other Avengers team up and all take their turns at hitting Dormammu in standard choreographed one-at-a-time comic book fashion.

Dr. Strange then casts a spell on Dormammu. Hellstrom then casts a binding spell that traps Dormammu in a circle with a pentagram in it. Hellstrom then says “Suck it, chump!” (Wow. How current. How fresh. How late 1990’s of Bendis with that D-X inspired dialogue.) Brother Voodoo says that he can perform an exorcism on the Hood in order to cast out Dormammu. The spell works and we see a passed out Hood lying on the ground as Dormammu has been banished back to his realm.

Dr. Strange is glad that Brother Voodoo was selected to be the next Sorcerer Supreme. Strange says that he will now spend his time training Brother Voodoo for his new role as Sorcerer Supreme. Hellstrom then says that this is the end of days. That all the madness that the Avengers have been involved in has been weakening the barrier between this dimension and the one where demons like Dormammu live.

Hellstrom continues that there is a reckoning coming and Dr. Strange was the only thing holding it back. Hellstrom says that Brother Voodoo better get ready fast because Brother Voodoo will be leading the charge against the demonic horde that will be coming to invade Earth.

By now, the police and the firemen have appeared on the scene. The media is also on the scene. Clint tells one of the reporters to come over and have their camera man record him. Clint takes off his mask and gives another rambling speech about how this is what the Avengers do. That the Avengers save people and help people in need. Clint says that the bad guys are going to jail and the good guys are going home.

Clint says “See that guy there. That’s Jericho Drumm. Looks like he is the new Sorcerer Supreme. Doctor Voodoo. Pretty cool business. All said and done.” (What is not “pretty cool” is totally random and goofy dialogue like this.)

Clint tells the reporter to spread the news that they are the Avengers and that they are here to help everyone.

We cut to twenty-four hours later. We see the Hood lying in a hospital bed. He has lost his powers. Loki appears next to the Hood’s bed. Loki says that she was counting on the Hood for the time of Norman Osborn’s fall. But, now the Hood is of no use to Loki. Loki asks the Hood if he would like a second chance. The Hood starts crying and says “Please.”

We then shift to Brooklyn at midnight. We see Clint and Mockingbird watching the nightly news. They watch the television interview of Norman Osborn from Dark Avengers #5. Clint is angry. Clint stammers that he thought his televised statement would rattle Norman. That the media would go after Norman. But, they did not. Clint then says “We’re going to have to kill him.” End of issue.

Commentary
The Good: New Avengers #54 did little for me. However, there were some positive aspects to this issue. Bendis certainly delivered plenty of action in this issue. This is not like most issues of New Avengers that consist of the members standing around doing next to nothing while engaging in mindless banter. Instead, Bendis treats the reader to a large fight scene that dominates the middle of this issue.

Bendis also actually performed some plot progression in this issue. New Avengers #54 puts a bow on the dull “Who Will Replace Dr. Strange” plotline. Bendis does a nice job giving the reader a taste of Brother Voodoo’s character and personality.

Bendis also succeeds in clearly stating Brother Voodoo’s mission statement as the new Sorcerer Supreme. Brother Voodoo will train with Dr. Strange in an attempt to prepare himself for the coming flood of demons due to the weakening of the barrier between Earth and the demonic plane. Bendis should be applauded for being able to perform all of this set-up for the new Sorcerer Supreme and his role in the 616 universe in a concise and clear fashion.

The Bad: Even though New Avengers #54 boasts a large action scene; this issue was still slow and rambling at several points. Bendis wastes six pages in the beginning of this issue on the scene where the Eye chooses Brother Voodoo and Brother Voodoo accepting the role as the new Sorcerer Supreme. The scene was largely dull and boring.

This issue would have been much better served if Bendis had edited that scene down to a more proper length of three pages. This would have made it more effective and feel less like Bendis was stalling for time in an effort to stretch out what was a thin story across the entire issue.

Bendis presents the reader with dialogue that is generic at certain points and simply poorly crafted at other moments. There are moments when some of the characters talk like extras from the movie “Valley Girls.” Clint’s dialogue was just moronic sounding during his televised address. It was so cheesy. Bendis really has a problem writing Clint’s character properly. Hellstrom’s dialogue was also poorly done. I found it so bad that it was practically cringe inducing.

The character work continues to be absent on this title. Bendis gives nothing more than the most basic and generic personalities to each member of the Avengers. The result is a continued lack of chemistry between the various characters.

Even though Bendis did finally treat the reader to an action packed issue, the fact remains that the action was a bit boring. Bendis delivers an uncreative and rather standard issue comic book brawl. We basically have each hero standing in line as if waiting at the deli counter and proceeding to take turns hitting the villain with their weapon or special attack. It was an unimaginative fight scene that failed to capture my interest.

The sole purpose of New Avengers #54 was to further the plotline involving the new Sorcerer Supreme. Unfortunately, I have failed to find anything even remotely interesting about that plotline. I would greatly prefer to read stories in New Avengers that center on the members of the team. I could care less about Brother Voodoo or his journey to become the new Sorcerer Supreme. What I do care about is seeing the Avengers engaging in adventures that are worthy of a team of their stature.

Bendis continues to show an inability to properly balance all the members of the Avengers. Instead, Bendis constantly focuses solely on one character at a time. This is a terrible defect for a team title. Bendis is doing the exact on this title as what DnA are masterfully doing over on Guardians of the Galaxy. Bendis largely ignores various members of the Avengers for multiple issues. On the other hand, DnA do their best to make sure the members of the Guardians always get panel time in each issue.

New Avengers #54 was a shallow issue. Bendis has failed to cultivate more than one or two plotlines at the absolute most at any one time on this title. All that Bendis has had cooking on this title was the search for the new Sorcerer Supreme and the long simmering feud between Norman and Clint. That is it. That is completely unacceptable for a team title. Look at DnA’s Guardian of the Galaxy and take notice at how many short range, medium range and long range plotlines they are able to juggle. That is how the plotting for a team title should be handled.

Clint’s rambling and pointless one page address to the media at the end of this issue was dumb. This was a poorly written scene that made Clint come across as a total moron. And the part where Clint rambles on about Brother Voodoo being the new Sorcerer Supreme made no sense. There was no reason at all within the context of the story for Clint to mention that to the media. The entire scene seemed forced and relatively pointless.

It was unfortunate that Bendis did not just go ahead and kill off the Hood or leave him depowered. Thank goodness that Loki is going to re-power the Hood so we can get so many more wildly entertaining stories involving his character. Seriously, the Hood is a story-killer and is not worthy of being an Avengers villain.

The ending to New Avengers #54 was unimpressive. Bendis’ move to re-hash the interview of Norman from Dark Avengers #5 was boring. And Clint’s response was just so ham fisted and over the top. I could hear the “ba-ba-ba-bummmmm!” music from cheesy movies when something “shocking” happens. So Clint wants to “kill” Norman. Yawn. We know that it never going to happen so that robbed this ending of any possible interest I might have had in it.

Billy Tan’s artwork was average. Some panels looked nice while other panels were stiff and poorly executed.

Overall: New Avengers #54 was an average at best issue. At $4.00 a pop, New Avengers remains a poor value. The reader gets a shallow story that is not worth the cover price. I would only recommend New Avengers #54 to die-hard Bendis fans and to Brother Voodoo fans.
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Rokk

3 Comments

  1. Amen to everything you said. If you had told me when I was a kid that one day there'd be an Avengers book with Wolverine, Spider-Man, and Captain America in it, I would have pitched a tent outside the comics shop to wait for it to come out. This is simply an embarassment to Marvel. Either Bendis should be taken off this title or Marvel should just do away with it entirely. It's pathetic. Not only is it a bad book, it's making every hero involved with it look like an idiot. I would hate to think someone got their introduction to Luke Cage or Clint Barton through this mess. And why did they even bring Bucky on the team? He has yet to do anything of any substance. I could go on and on. I simply don't have enough bad things to say about how Bendis has written this book.

  2. The two biggest problems with the storyline/issue:

    1) The Ancient One wouldn't have had anything to do with transferring the title of "Sorcerer Supreme" and, even if he had, wouldn't have used the Eye of Agamotto to do it.

    2) Dormmammu isn't a demon, even if Bendis chose to write him as one for the purposes of the storyline. There is no "weakening" of the barrier between the realms of demons and Earth because of that.

    There were other problems, such as there being no such thing as a "defense spell," and the Loki-Hood sequence copying the A.I.M.-Belova sequence from NA #6, but I suggest people read Neilalien's take on the storyline at http://www.neilalien.com/doc/archive/2009/06/index.html#a090630

    SRS

  3. Rokk, you wrote the best review of New Avengers #54 i read, so i have a few things to say.

    i know Bendis' issue-to-issue plotting has problems from time to time, but it is a little unusual for him to handle characterization poorly when (i feel) he already nailed down Clint Barton well (i.e., NA #26, The Pulse #10); death, the Scarlet Witch and the House of M were the best things to ever happen to him, though poor Clint may do better as the strong, silent type.

    it seems to me that Bendis and Marvel's editorial direction have purposely shifted the paradigm of what used to be considered an Avenger to be.

    Steve Rogers used to be the Avenger to emulate and look up to, but it seems like The Avengers got worn down and twisted up pretty bad over the past few years that they sank to klutzy, outlaw-hero mode… which would be different versions of Spider-Man.

    and it is very discouraging (for many of us who've been around to enjoy these characters at their best) to watch Dr. Strange reduced to the level of nice-guy, ladies-man mystic, Wolverine to a pointy-haired, sharp-clawed Jughead (as in Archie Comics) and Hawkeye to a bad soap actor.

    as far as destroying The Hood / Norman Osborn, i figured Wolverine already would have done that; Elektra may yet do that after she regains her bearings, but perhaps Marvel is waiting to bring Steve Rogers properly back into the Marvel Universe so these reduced heroes get their balls back.

    all in all, though, i think NA #54 is still a fun read.

    astronomius

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