Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Catching Up: New Avengers

Have you ever had White Castle? When I lived in Chicago, I loved 'em. Ate 'em by the sackful. But I always thought it strange to call it a "hamburger". It patently is not a "hamburger". It's American tapas, a snack. It bears all the relation to a hamburger that a Chicken McNugget does to a chicken. White Castle's a great thing, but if you walk in there expecting a hamburger, you're going to walk away sorely disappointed.

And if you walk into Brian Bendis' New Avengers expecting, well ... The Avengers? Yeah ... you're going to be disappointed. Or at least I am. I've just "Caught Up" through issue #6, and can't shake the feeling that I'd enjoy the book more if it wasn't named New Avengers. If it was called something else, perhaps I'd enjoy the title better, but the name "Avengers" carries with it certain expectations.

At least part of the idea for the New Avengers is to give the team more of a JLA-style big-hitters lineup. All your favorite characters in one book .... two problems here are:

  • If that's the idea, what is up with Luke Cage and Spider-Woman? There are obviously Bendis' pet characters, but they don't belong in a "all the great characters" lineup.
  • With Spider-Man and Wolverine in the lineup, I can't help but be reminded of an old Fantastic Four, where the team became Ghost Rider, Wolverine, Spider-Man and The Hulk. Though at least that was poking fun at crass commercialism, where New Avengers seems to take it seriously. (Cover scan from The Grand Comics Database.)

But past the lineup, this book just doesn't feel like the Avengers. It feels too conspiracy-ridden. Too street-level. Too grim-n-gritty. There are plenty of titles in the Marvel Universe for prison breaks and S.H.I.E.L.D. skullduggery and traitors. The Avengers is the big adventures title: Kang, Ultron, and the Kree/Skrull War. It's giant stuff that pushes the collected might of Marvel's greatest heroes to it's limit. And New Avengers isn't providing it.

The next story arc featuring the Sentry seems interesting, and I'll give New Avengers at least through that. I'm not familiar with the character, but the premise sounds interesting. Perhaps now that the team's set up and the groundwork is in place, we can see some real Avengers stories out of this book.

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