Unilaterally Sarcastic, Dangerously Cheesy

Revisiting The Avengers pt. III

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. III

I officially dropped this book at the end of volume two. I just needed to trim the fat and what followed the end of the last volume was a smattering of crossover issues with Marvel’s Fear Itself event. I still have yet to read those issues, as both the Avengers and New Avengers storylines were condensed into a single hardcover and it didn’t look interesting enough at a glance to pick up for the purpose of this retrospective. Instead I moved on to the recently released third hardcover collecting the storyline immediately afterFear Itself and would attempt to go from there.

The story picks up with Thor and Bucky dead and Steve Rogers once again in the uniform of Captain America. In the aftermath of what has been dubbed “Blitzkrieg USA,” Steve had decided to restructure the Avengers and the age-old trope of the team selection and press conference gets trotted out. I have to admit that I have nothing against the team selection and presentation idea. It works remarkably well when done right. See Busiek’s run for a good example. Here however I have to say that it feels like nothing at all has truly happened since the team formed. I know that technically a major crossover event happened, but its times like these that the complaints of decompression really come back to bite Bendis on the butt. Having read the series from the start, it feels as if there is no real weight or passage of time to necessitate this restructuring. The weight of losing Bucky and Thor isn’t properly conveyed on page in a way that makes the severity of the situation apparent.

As soon as the team is cemented, we get the return of Norman Osborn and what amounts to the spiritual sequel to Siege, which launched this title in the first place. Perhaps that is why the restructuring bothered me so much. This arc seems like events have come full circle and yet in between there has been only what seems like two days worth of adventure. It doesn’t help that after the quest for the Infinity Gems, this story seems somewhat small and misguided by comparison. Osborn’s plan is well developed, but it seems hard to swallow that the Avengers would have such trouble dealing with him following their bouts with gems that can alter the face of reality and an invasion by literal Gods of fear.

Had this story taken place two arcs later, it may not have felt so misplaced but that’s not how Bendis wanted to play it and that is my issue with this particular title. Unlike something like the first volume of New Avengers or his work on Powers, Bendis seems unwilling to play the long game here. He’s rushing from place to place trying to do everything that he feels he needs to do when writing an Avengers title and as a result it feels hollow. Compared to his original New Avengers run or something like Busiek and Perez’ years on Avengers, it just doesn’t have much in the way of true substance and that’s disheartening to say the least.

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