Brian Michael Bendis gets off to an underwhelming start. Love him or loathe him, he's still writing a bunch of Avengers titles, including this one. He's still flirting with that decompression style of writing. And he's still master of the funny dialogue. This series, the overhauled NEW AVENGERS, features Luke Cage as team leader. He gets to boss around the likes of Spidey, Wolverine, Ms. Marvel, Mockingbird and - in a surprising but very cool move - Aunt Petunia's ever-lovin' blue-eyed nephew, Benjamin J. Grimm. Of course, Luke's wife, Jessica Jones, gets to boss him around. This bunch of Avengers is based out of the sprawling Avengers mansion, a crib which Luke purchased from Tony Stark for one dollar (which he borrowed from his pal Iron Fist). To mix it up a bit, at Steve Rogers' behest, former aide to Norman Osborn, Victoria Hand, joins up to facilitate the team (whatever that means).
My take: Bendis should stay far, far away from magic-related stories. He just doesn't seem to have the knack for them. Just as Ben Grimm was getting his welcome aboard, Luke Cage's palm is suddenly filled with the All-Seeing Eye of Agamotto, or as he exclaims: "#$$! Is that Doctor Strange's Eye of Ago - Agowhatthehey?" A demonically possessed Dr. Strange and Daemon Hellstrom are soon sniffing around after the mystical amulet. It's a build-up to yet another sorcerous war on a mystical plane with all the marbles at stake. Back on Earth, there is a gaping crack in the sky releasing eldritch energy. Me, I be yawnin'.
Pet peeve time. Bendis feels he has to identify each spell being cast, except I find myself not caring too much that Dr. Strange has activated the Self-Healing Spell from the Scroll of Melsalam or that Brother Voodoo has channeled the Houdon-Lou Visualization Spell of the Real or that Daemon Hellstrom... well, I don't really know what Hellstrom does in this arc except make disparaging remarks and flaunt that scarry star on his chest. Bendis opts to create his own arsenal of ridiculous sounding names, instead of drawing from Stan Lee's familiar well of arcane figures like Cyttorak or Watoomb or the Hosts of Hoggoth. By virtue of having been around since the '60s, those names resonate more. It's actually a bit ironic that the Big Bad here is one of those figures Strange used to regularly invoke. Maybe in twenty more years, Bendis' fake-sounding mumbo-jumbo creations will sound more legit.
Meanwhile, the new Master of Mystic Arts, Brother Voodoo (or is it Doctor Brother Voodoo?), continues to be an uninteresting character. Many issues ago, when Voodoo popped up, I wondered whether Bendis was going to try to make him as relevant as Luke Cage. By the end of this arc, it's rendered moot.
In issue #4, Iron Fist has his costume's color scheme altered. It looks cool, not that there was anything wrong with how his old outfit looked. But I'm glad Danny Rand is still getting featured in a comic book. For a while, he had one of the best series going.
NEW AVENGERS Vol. 1 collects issues #1-6. At least Bendis' ear for funny dialogue is still intact. I'm wondering if Bendis felt he didn't have enough wiseacres on the team that he needed the Thing's smark-alecky remarks, too (not that I'm complaining). The character interactions are what keeps me turning these pages. Anyway, the thing with pitting the Avengers against a sorcerous foe is that our heroes are taken out of their element. There's something pretty unsatisfying about these New Avengers punching out magical entities. And again with the decompression. It took Bendis six issues of his cast pretty much just milling around to get to the money shot. Boiled down, what Bendis delivers is a hollow narrative marked with lackluster pacing and lame spell-casting. Harry Potter, somewhere, has got his smirk on.
Stuart Immonen, he just keeps turning in good work. I really like his artwork. Just not enough to rate NEW AVENGERS Vol. 1 more than 3 out of 5 stars.