Okay, so we did our customary Christmas Week awards ceremony in a week where there were new comics out, and have left ourselves now with a week where there aren’t. Well, we’ll be catching up with a few books from the last fortnight over the next couple of days, before resuming normal service on Thursday…
You know, New Avengers seems to have fallen off the radar of a lot of people – probably largely those affected by Crossover Fatigue. But I’ve always quite enjoyed it, if never quite regarding it as an essential purchase – some storylines have had a tendency to drag (particularly the Sorcerer Supreme stuff), but at the end of the day, it’s Bendis working with a good cast of characters that he’s carefully moulded and chipped away at over the course of a good few years, and it’s got the ever-dynamic-yet-pleasant Stuart Immonen drawing it. It’s probably the closest thing the 616-verse has got to Ultimate Spider-Man, in fact.
Plus, of course, it’s the book that most justifies the whole “Dark Reign” conceit, because it basically focuses on all the characters most affected by it – characters who thought it couldn’t get any worse than Civil War, but have had their very identities misappropriated and abused. I’m not saying I’m not sick of Osborn swanning around in charge by now, but I also don’t exactly blame New Avengers, which is quietly getting on with strong character material, for that fact. And this issue, finally wrapping up the Exciting Story of Luke Cage Lying In A Hospital Bed, is a good example all of that. It breezes along, with a good mixture of action and fun – primarily down to a properly gripping “race against time” sequence that culminates in an amusing twist and yet another example of Spider-Man getting a bit of personal revenge against Osborn. It struggles a little bit against the fact that there are simply so many characters kicking around at the moment – it’s almost as if there needs to be a New Avengers Reserve League, or something, with the likes of Daredevil, Hellcat and Valkyrie popping in to say hello – but despite shifting focus away from many of the book’s regulars (and really, how many more Wolverine appearances do we need at the moment anyway?), it never feels overcrowded, which is an impressive feat in itself.
What really sells it, though, is Immonen’s art – he’s been getting better as the last few years have gone on anyway, but here he’s combining his own recognisable style with the tone that Leinil Yu had firmly established for the book some time ago, and it works supremely well. The action is always well-choreographed, and for someone who never really does “big” panels (that is, you’ll never see him waste a full page, and rarely even a half, on a big splash), there are some strong and memorably dynamic images throughout (even making Iron Patriot look pretty cool) – and the splash that is employed is entirely justified. The look of fury on Osborn’s face at the denoument, meanwhile, is a joy – particularly when combined with a laughing BullsHawkeye in the background. Coupled with Bendis’ trademark knack for dialogue and easy way with these characters, it all adds up to an effortless comic – a slave to wider Marvel editorial mandate it may usually have to be, but the quality is undeniable, and I only hope that it’ll continue for a while in whatever “era” next awaits us.