NEW AVENGERS 32
By Brian Michael Bendis & Leinil Yu
Colors by Dave McCaig, Letters by AS & Comicraft’s Albert Deschesne
Published by Marvel Comics, July 2007. $2.99
… and then there’s NEW AVENGERS. Now, on paper? Marvel Comics, Skrull invasion, Spider-Man crackin’ wise, jet planes crashing? Awesome. Well, not literally I guess, because here it IS on paper, and it’s kind of … less than awesome.
This is probably the third separate occasion I’ve picked up an issue of NEW AVENGERS, because I want to like it so much. And I wouldn’t have even bothered this time around, except I read a six-page preview on Newsarama featuring the team on a jet arguing about Skrulls, having the same kind of conversations internet fans were having about who could be a Skrull and why, and it was funny and clever, and I saw it on the shelf this week and said -- yes, okay. New Avengers.
The backstory is this -- the team fought Elektra in the last issue, Elektra died, and turned into a Skrull. The assumption is that this signifies a Skrull invasion of Earth, in which anyone we know could be a Skrull -- and who knows how long they’ve BEEN a Skrull. Which is a pretty neat idea -- not brand new, but a kind of retro-cool that I appreciate in my superhero comics.
The art by Leinil Yu is positively gorgeous -- lots of blacks, thick lines, but also great facial expressions, especially from Spider-Woman. But when paired with Brian Bendis’s wordy panels, and the entire New Avengers team riding on a jet, in a pretty complicated seating arrangement -- it’s often difficult to figure out who’s talking, and what’s happening. The characters don’t really have individual voices, so when it’s hard to tell who a word balloon is pointing to, the words therein don’t really clear it up either. The latter half of the issue involves a (Spoiler Alert!) plane crash, and there are some intricate goings-on within the plane that are hard to figure out here, too. It took me three reads to figure out what’s going on between Wolverine and Spider-Woman, for example. So while the art is gorgeous, it doesn’t always flow so well.
And while the words are clever, there are just flat out too many of them. I know it’s cliché to say that of a Brian Bendis-scripted comic, but the dude’s got a certain reputation for a reason. There’s one awkward paragraph in particular where Spider-Woman gives us 88 words (I counted!) about the history of aliens in America and Spider-Man’s reasons to distrust the media that a simple writing exercise could’ve helped -- “cut your word count here in half, and see how it reads.” Odds are, you’ll still get the info you want, and the restriction will make you the cleverer for it. Um, Mr. Bendis. Sir.
There are a lot of high points to his dialogue -- his Spider-Man is spot on, with lines like “Was that Skrully of me?” But whereas GREEN LANTERN 21 starts a superhero epic that conveys history, moves the plot forward, but doesn’t overwhelm -- NEW AVENGERS 32 is too much talky, too confusing to follow, and really only has one thing that happens plot-wise. The Skrull Invasion’s a neat idea, but I think I’ll hold off on my big Marvel crossovers until Mark Millar is writing them again.
Tell me more: Skrulls, Brian Michael Bendis.