Unilaterally Sarcastic, Dangerously Cheesy

Revisiting The Avengers pt. I

I’ve been reading The Avengers on a monthly basis since a little before Bendis pulled the whole Disassembled thing. Looking back on it, that’s a lot of time to invest into a title. Couple that with the fact that I stuck with Bendis’ handling of the team through both the New and Mighty Avengers titles and then the “Heroic Age” relaunch and that’s a lot of time spent reading his take on the franchise. I’ll admit that for me, Bendis is the name I will probably always associate with Avengers. I’ve gone back and read most of the pivotal runs and I think only Kurt Busiek’s run matches it in density and enjoyability. Though there are some classic Silver Age moments that I quite enjoy.

I had to drop both of the Avengers titles shortly after the relaunch because of monetary issues. A lot of really good books got chopped, actually. But with the movie recently in theaters I thought it would be a good idea to re-examine some prominent Avengers stories once again and so here we are.

AVENGERS v. I
Written by Brian Michael Bendis with artwork by John Romita Jr.

The 2010 volume of Avengers begins in the wake of Marvel’s “Siege” storyline where Norman Osborn’s reign as the leader of SHIELD/HAMMER comes to a close and the status quo reverts to something more akin to what longtime readers were familiar with, this time with Steve Rogers in the role previously filled by Nick Fury and assembling two separate Avengers teams. This volume deals with the more “traditional” Avengers featuring Iron Man, Hawkeye, Thor, etc. with holdovers from the previous volume of New Avengers in Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, and Wolverine.

The book still maintains much of what made Bendis’ run on the first volume of New Avenger such a success, ie. his dialog. He’s especially gifted at writing witty banter and makes good use of characters like Hawkeye, Spider-man, and the more garrulous members of the team. This time around however, there is less focus on grounded street level action and the plot is driven by BIG ideas that the Avengers series seem to thrive on. In this particular volume, we get a broken timestream and alternate realities. We get classic Avengers villains like Ultron and Kang. It’s everything longtime fans of the book should love.

The principle complaint against the book is that Bendis cannot write with his trademark style and manage that sort of plotting. I would argue that this isn’t true. Working with John Romita Jr, the layouts and flow seem to work as well as they ever have with a story of this type. While the artwork does seem more sketchy and rough around the edges than I would really like out of Romita, he does a serviceable job making sure that Bendis’ story comes to life on the page.

My major issue with these six issues is that the book does seem to have too much going on for its own good. The chaos in one timestream seems to suck the energy from the parallel plot and as such the story reads somewhat uneven. It’s not a bad story, it just isn’t very even. In regards to assembling a new team, the book sets up the new status quo quite well. We get a very good idea of what the book is going to do very quickly. You just have to decide for yourself whether it is up your alley.

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