Friday, 18 June 2010

New Beginnings - New Avengers #1

Continuing the theme of books without a clear reason to exist: New New Avengers! Because the Heroic Age marking the return to a traditional Avengers title doesn’t make New Avengers redundant. Apparently.

New Avengers was an experimental period that sought to update and redefine the Avengers concept, with mixed results. I didn’t like it much, but many did and it sold well. Trouble is, last month’s Avengers #1, also by Bendis, blended the lessons from New Avengers with more traditional Avengers sensibilities, with mixed results.

New² Avengers is just a trimmings and left-overs from the other title.

If you’re going to have more than one Avengers team, they should have different purposes. Secret Avengers distinguishes itself by being a pro-active black-ops team. New² Avengers distinguishes itself from Avengers by… being based in Avengers Mansion? Ok, if you’re not going to give them a different remit, at least a different cast will help to give a reason for existence. Oh hang on…

The New² Avengers is essentially “Luke Cage and Friends”, featuring Luke, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Thing, Hawkeye, Mockingbird and Ms Marvel. Three of whom are on the other Avengers team. Wolverine’s in half a dozen other books already and Luke is working with the Thunderbolts. Given the similarities of the two teams’ purposes, sharing characters makes them seem even more repetitive.

Bendis feels the need to legitimise most of these characters as Avengers, which is fair enough, but having them set up a separate team isn’t the way to do it. Actually having them work with the Big Three traditional Avengers on the other team would. This just makes Luke Cage seem like an arbitrarily anti-authoritarian angry black man stereotype, refusing the offer to be a proper Avenger for no good reason. Having Wolverine, Hawkeye and Spider-Man on both teams just highlights the redundancy of the split.

The ultimate ‘what the hell’ factor is that this New² Avengers team (and Luke actually calls them the “New Avengers” for no discernable diegetic reason) is based in Avengers Mansion. If we’re really going to go back to the Mansion after all these years, surely it makes sense for the main Avengers team to go back there? You know, the one with actual history and connections to the building. Shoving Luke’s team in there isn’t going to further legitimise them. It just makes them seem like wannabes not allowed in the Tower.

The book just feels utterly pointless. “Luke Cage & Friends” works as a premise, but faced with logic and an actual Avengers book, it doesn’t qualify as Avengers.
This is to say nothing of the plot of this issue, which goes back to the upheaval of magic storyline Bendis was exploring before Siege. Which is relevant to none of the characters.

New² Avengers is a messy goulash of left-overs from Avengers, a Luke Cage book that never-was and an entirely unrelated magic story. And while it looks nice (thanks to Immonen), it’s certainly not tasty.

Martin S Smith is an author and blogger. He’s just released his first book, The Redundancy of Flightless Birds, and reviews stuff every week over at The Taste of Rising Bile.

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