Someone should talk to Bendis about how he approaches New Avengers. As fellow-reviewer Seb recently said to me, they should really just re-title this series “New Luke Cage” and have done with it. Cage is, and always has been, the most well-developed character in the book, and whenever Bendis gets a chance to really dig into him, the series noticeably improves as a result.
The apparent resolution of the “Aliens took my Baby” story was remarkably quick to arrive, given the usual length of time this sort of sub-plot could be spun out from. Apparently, its main purpose was to give the New Avengers and the Dark Avengers something to fight over next issue (aside from the question of who gets to be the real Avengers, presumably.) Cage immediate reneges on his deal with Osborn is an odd turn, as his decision to appeal for Osborn’s help seemed to be a laboured-over decision – one which turned out to be well justified. I can’t help but think Cage’s situation would’ve made for better dramatic tension if he had remained in Osborn’s debt – after all, Cage is a man of principles (well, usually) and it doesn’t seem to fit with his usual characterisation for him to go back on his word.
We are left, then, with the lingering question of just what the point of this Baby Cage-Jones subplot was. There were strong hints early on that she was a Skrull, or connected to the Skrulls, and when JarviSkrull kidnapped her, it seemed to all but confirm it… and yet, what we find it that the kid was actually nothing more than a bargaining chip for his protection? Something doesn’t quite ring true – a large amount of pagetime went to the child over the course of Secret Invasion, and this quick ending feels like evidence of an aborted storyline. If not, it’s simply a flat-out poor attempt at misdirection on Bendis’ part, because if the plot really has culminated with this 2-issue story designed purely to lead into the big issue #50 fight then it doesn’t remotely justify the build-up.
Criticisms of the plot mechanics aside, the issue really is well up there in terms of how enjoyable it is. Whether it increased sales or not, New Avengers’ extended visit to crossoversville did not see it maintaining the high quality of the title’s earlier material, and the phrase “return to form” would certainly not be unfair to deploy at this point. Traditionally, the series only lasts less than a year before the crossovers start taking over again, but perhaps if we’re lucky, Dark Avengers will take some of the flak this time?