Friday, February 10, 2012

GN Review -- The Avengers, v. 2 (2010) / Brian Michael Bendis, John Romita, Jr. & Bryan Hitch

When I reviewed volume one of The Avengers, I said I’d keep an eye out for further adventures of this team, so I could see how they shape up over time. When I got my hands on volume two, I took one look at the summary, and just about lost my faculties at the sense of giddiness that ensued.

You could say that it was the plot, in which the Hood, some presumably minor Marvel villain, goes looking for the Infinity Gems in a search for power that could conceivably topple the super-team, that excited me. Or perhaps it was the added element that the gems were each hidden by the Illuminati--a clandestine group of established superheroes assembled by Tony Stark before the Civil War--and that Steve Rogers, currently in charge of the Avengers, was about to discover all of this for the first time. Throw in a few elements like the appearance of the Red Hulk, the discovery of Attilan’s earthly remains, and Wolverine, Beast, and Professor X interacting tensely, and I was sold.

I really enjoyed the premise of this story, for multiple reasons. The madman on a power quest that could actually humble all of the Avengers is an entertaining one, particularly if it’s well plotted, which this is, and well paced, which it also is. The fact of Tony Stark’s idea of the Illuminati assembly of super heroes coming back to give him a well-deserved bite in the ass is also entertaining, particularly since it’s Steve Rogers--with whom he has the longest history of both friendship and enmity--to whom he has to defend himself. It makes for an engaging piece of internal drama within the Avengers, who are noticeably affected by the fact that these two guys--two of the quintessential Avengers--are arguing almost as viciously as they ever did during the Civil War.

I’d personally never heard of the Hood until this story, but he’s a good choice for the villain, as a man who happens to stumble upon a clue to what has to be one of biggest secrets in the Marvel Universe. His quest is motivated by pure selfishness and a desire to only live in the world if he can bend it to his own will, and in grabbing just one of the vaunted Infinity Gems, he takes a major step in securing that reality. The tension between the Avengers and the now-exposed Illuminati--arguably some of the most singularly powerful and well-intentioned heroes around--is also an interesting dynamic, as they fluctuate between resentment, humility and understanding between one another with the onset of this particularly dangerous puzzle.

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: I’m not John Romita, Jr.’s biggest fan when it comes to these kinds of wide-ranging, epics story arcs. Still, I actually felt his style worked in this particular arc, which revolved around several brightly colored gems and had to potential of affecting all of reality. He rises to the occasion during the times good visuals are called for on this story, and his rendering of facial expressions works especially well for the villain, Parker Robbins, who at the end of it all is a small man who only cares for the world as far as he can control it.

Overall, I was thoroughly entertained by this work, and highly recommend it to fans of superhero comics. It’s a good crisis aversion story, and the art and writing actually mesh very nicely to tell a tale that both entertains and moves quickly to a memorable denouement. Highly recommended.

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