Tuesday, May 11, 2010

New Avengers #64

Seems like it's been quite a while since Luke Cage's New Avengers were proactive about something, doesn't it? Truth is, they've been in a purely reactive mindset since the end of the Civil War, due in no small part to their official label as an unlawful tribe of state enemies. The team's activities in Siege don't appear to buck that trend: they're getting tired of being pushed around, they've welcomed Steve Rogers back into the fold, but they're still just following the action instead of instigating it.

Let's be straight about this: Norman Osborn in power has never worked quite as well without Brian Michael Bendis there to put the words in his mouth. Bendis has a knack with this guy, the rare ability to deliver a truly convincing con artist. As a reader, you're never quite sure if you admire him or despise him, an uncertainty that's reflected on the faces and actions of those he meets on the page itself. Watching Norman wheel and deal effortlessly with some of the biggest badasses in the Marvel U during his stint in power has been a real pleasure, like seeing an artisan in his prime. And of course, it wouldn't be nearly as entertaining without the constant threat of his doublespeak finally coming around to bite him in the ass. It's taken for granted that eventually Osborn is going to talk himself into the hole that will ultimately unravel him, and that lingering chance that this con could be his last makes every conversation an interesting one. That is, with Bendis around to put the right words into his mouth.

If you've enjoyed that kind of material as much as I have, the first half of this issue will be cruising right up your alley. The back-end is geared more toward the fan of gluttonous slugfests and shiny public displays of nondescript super powers. As I'm sure you can tell from my tone, I found that material a bit less interesting. But hey, I guess that's a little taste of something for everybody... assuming they don't demand a lot of Avengers in their New Avengers. While I largely enjoyed the focus on Osborn and the Hood this month, it did feel a bit odd to see Cage, Ronin and the headlining team treated as little more than accessories to fill out the background in a few panels.

On the visual side, Mike McKone covers all the bases fairly well, although he lacks the punching power to take over an important splash page. He doesn't benefit from any comparisons to Stuart Immonen, the preceding regular penciler, but he's also far from the worst artist to offer a take on the series. McKone shows nice versatility this month, shifting from the subtleties of a lengthy, dramatic conversation between Osborn and The Hood to a busy, frenzied action scene in the space between two panels. His characters have depth and stand apart, often showing a strange blend of Tony Harris and Leinil Yu, and although his action scenes are sometimes too busy to comprehend, I think that's more an issue of Bendis forcing too much into a single panel than any fault of McKone's.

New Avengers #64 is primarily here to sweep up a few final lingering plot points from the primary Siege crossover, and on that front it's fairly successful. The next installment in the lead characters' lives, however, it is not. While I enjoyed a good part of this issue, I couldn't help but wonder if it was material better suited to a one-shot or mini-series because it's less an Avengers book and more an installment of The Hood Digest. Flip through it; if you're ready to leave Siege behind, you'll be better off waiting until next month. Otherwise, this should provide a tidy sense of closure.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 4.5

No comments: