Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Billy Tan, Alex Maleeve and a truckload of guests on issue #50
Collects: Secret Invasion: Dark Reign, New Avengers #48-50
After a two volume interruption for some Secret Invasion tie-ins, New Avengers is back to it's regular programming. Whatever that is. I don't read the book aside from occasional, random times like this. I like team books, but I've got a good idea of what I want and expect out of a book starring the triple A team of a comic universe. The Avengers very rarely hit that ideal.
First up is the Secret Invasion: Dark Reign special that bridges one even to the next overarching theme, included here because where the hell else were they going to put it? It's basically Norman Osborn - now the head of national security because 90% of the regular humans of the Marvel Universe are borderline retarded - telling other top shelf villains how it's gonna be. Cute, but too long. It's a lot of talking stretched to full comic size and as such it gets old quick. It's the kind of thing that, these days, would be relegated to a free twelve page digital exclusive to be collected later.
Instead, it's a full issue. Of talking ad nausem about things we could either already figure out or did not need so many pages. Yeah.
Next are the three issues of New Avengers they decided to collect with this volume. Two deal with a plot point that was set up at the end of Secret Invasion, with Luke Cages daughter swiped by the Jarvis Skrull as a hostage. Surprisingly, Bendis doesn't drag the kidnapping plot out for months, instead wrapping it within two issues, a much appreciated move on his part.
It feels a bit transitionary; I got the feeling just reading this volume that the Skrulls weren't going to be around for a while as they give way to the new Dark Reign plot. Bendis toys a bit with the remnants of the Skrulls - even the ones who just want to exist amongst humans with no problems - being essentially walking targets; much like how the Japanese were mistreated during and after World War II, it looks like, if found out, they'll receive little mercy*. Bendis doesn't exactly go anywhere with it though.
The last issue of the three is issue fifty; as you can probably guess, it's oversized. In it, the New Avengers become acutely aware of the fact that a dude who's crazy about goblins now controls SHIELDS and Avengers assets, not to mention has assembled his own team using their names. Understandably, they're kind of annoyed by this, so they decide it would be a pretty good idea to lure him into a trap before he's got his crap together. It's probably not much of a spoiler to say this doesn't exactly go as planned. Afterwards, Clint Barton proves he actually has a working brain by pulling a move the others should have thought of, but then considering what morons populate the Marvel Universe you can be sure he'll be brushed off.
It's all written okay, but I'm hard pressed to think of anything that really stood out here. It was nice to have the baby disappearance story play out as quick and neat as it did, but aside from that there's really nothing of note aside from the reactions to Osborns Avengers. The only thing it has going for it is the usual witty banter Bendis is known for, but that's not exactly enough to carry it.
The art's pretty mixed. Alex Maleev handles the Dark Reign special. I've enjoyed his work in the past, but I did not care for it one bit here. It's common to see characters not looking remotely like themselves. See Norman Osborn or even Namor, who looks like an unshaven hobo fresh off an alcoholic blackout. He draws a nice Emma Frost and his Dr. Doom is suitably menacing, but the others just look outright bad. Even female Loki has some unflattering panels.
Billy Tan handles the bulk of the rest. He's not too bad. Still, there are some "what the hell" moments. One full page splash shows a Norman Osborn at his desk who must have recently taken up weightlifting, judging by the sudden bulk he has. Other odd moments crop up, but not on the level of the SI:DR special.
As for the rest, issue fifty has a truckload of guest artists that literally draw a page a piece of the fight. I didn't understand the purpose of it at all. I get the whole issue fifty thing and that it's something of a milestone. No, the problem is that it's not exactly what I'd call a suitable conflict for such a showing of artists. It's basically a brawl with a super-powered gang. Sure, maybe it was too early into the new status quo for it, but the teased fight with the Dark Avengers may have served it far better.
The Score: 6 out of 10
It wasn't all that great, but it wasn't aggressively terrible either. It's not exactly something I imagine making someone desperate for more of the book. Not much really happens and not much is collected in this thin volume. Can't recommend it, unless you're a completist or you have more of an attachment to the series than I do.
*By little mercy I mean shot in the side of the head, which is pretty much the heroes fault for happening. They walked into a bar filled with stressed, now unemployed SHIELD agents who just got done fighting for the planet and pointed out a skrull amongst them with the intent of interrogating her. What in the blue hell did they think was going to happen? A pat on her shoulder and "no hard feelings about that whole invasion thing"? I realize there was the pressing matter of finding Cages kid but goddamn. Good going heroes.