Graphic Novel Quest is my attempt to read all of my graphic novel collection, hopefully within a year. I’m going to revisit some old favourites, question some of my previous purchasing decisions and talk about some of my findings here on Faked Tales.
I’m a massive mark for Brian Michael Bendis and have been since the era of Powers and his Ultimate Spider-Man run. I’ve never really been an Avengers fan, so when he took over the title, I decided to finally dive in.
When I first read Marvel Comics it was through the UK reprints of Secret Wars and even as a little kid, I hated the way that Captain America and the others shunned the X-Men as they were siding with Magneto. He was good, but no one believed the X-Men, so they went their own way for most of the comic. They were always ‘The Man’ in X-Men comics, whether they were the well-meaning liberals tutting when a group of mutants were murdered but not really doing anything about it, or intentionally working with anti-mutant forces as they were cloaked in officialdom and legitimacy.
So I wasn’t going in expecting to like the characters, just to like the writer. This became the main title I was collecting during some rough X-years, combining the soap operatic nature of the X-Men with some massive scale events you’d see in more of a JLA style book.
The Avengers were coming out of their own dark age, as Chuck the Truck was finishing up his run (I don’t like Austen’s comic work, but it’s interesting even if it’s bad, and he’s been doing some good work in cartoons now, so good for him). Bendis was brought on board with the idea that he would make New Avengers the number one Marvel book. The essential comic you’d get if you wanted to follow the main story of what Marvel was doing. For a few years, you could say that he succeeded in his mission.
On the shelves, these are all a bit tricky to cover as they involved some diving back and forth between the New Avengers Complete Collections and the collections of the big Marvel events, which felt like they really ramped up at this time.
By Brian Michael Bendis and Gabriele Dell’Otto
The unofficial start to this era. Secret War feels like Bendis is feeling out the characters who will become pivotal later and sets some of the stage for the wider New Avengers world.
Luke Cage is attacked and put in the hospital, despite his bulletproof skin. It becomes clear that a number of heroes have no memory of something bad they did for Nick Fury, and now they’re being targeted for it. Captain America, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Luke Cage, Black Widow and a new character called Quake all were enlisted in an attack on Latveria which was not authorised, but part of an operation Fury did, then wiped their minds.
The motivator’s kind of a fun idea; all the low-level supervillains in New York who have million-dollar jet packs, scorpion outfits and flamethrowers just to knock over banks, were actually given their suits by Lucia von Bardas, the prime minister of Latveria.
America doing black ops to destabilise other nations isn’t really much of a reach, but Fury using the Avengers and doing this without going through the proper channels sees him burned and having to go to ground. The Avengers are suspicious of SHIELD and Quake is now an operative on the board who’s loyal to Fury and mysterious. She also looks incredibly similar to a Hackers-era Angelina Jolie.
New Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis, Complete Collection Volume One
By Brian Michael Bendis and a ton of artists.
Bendis took over the old Avengers title in issue 500 and managed to dismantle the group in four issues. I remember this pissing a LOT of people off at the time. He was killing Avengers, removing a bunch of members from the team and then he was planning on making an Avengers team with Wolverine, Luke Cage, Spider-Man and Daredevil in it. None of them had been Avengers to a level where it made sense, but in retrospect, it was really needed. That, and even the people who complained weren’t buying Avengers at the time. Almost no one was.
‘Avengers Disassembled’ is the final story in the Avengers comic when Bendis took over. The team start out chilling in their mansion, only to have the recently dead Jack of Hearts reappear as a kind of bomb-laden zombie. He kills Ant-Man (the Scott Lang Ant-Man Paul Rudd plays in the movies). Vision flies a jet into the mansion, vomits Ultrons to fight the team and then gets ripped in two by a berserk She-Hulk. Tony Stark is inexplicably (even to him) drunk at the UN and manages to get the Avengers’ status as an official body revoked. Kree attackers appear out of nowhere and Hawkeye sacrifices himself by leaping into a ship with an exploding jet pack. It’s quick, brutal, confusing and disorientating. But it’s that way for a reason.
We find out that Wasp accidentally let slip to Scarlet Witch that she had children who were later found out to be imaginary because of Scarlet Witch’s whole deal. She has a breakdown and did all this. Eventually she’s stopped and taken away by Magneto and Professor X to figure out what to do. It’s too late for the Avengers though, as so many are hurt, dead or demoralised. The Avengers end after some fond memories, and the knowledge that they’re not going to end forever.
New Avengers kicks things off for the main event. There’s a breakout at The Raft, a supervillain prison in the sea just out from New York. Captain America, Iron Man, Daredevil, Spider-Woman, Luke Cage and Spider-Man are all on the scene and manage to keep just over half of the villains from getting out. They also find The Sentry, from a Paul Jenkins miniseries. He’s a Superman-level hero who has a lot of problems and apparently was a part of Marvel history before the world was made to forget he existed.
With a load of villains loose and a new sense of purpose, Cap and Iron Man bring together a team of ‘New Avengers’ who work out of Stark Tower.
The second storyline follows the gang all the way to the Savage Land where we get a couple of recurring bits, including the inevitable destruction of any plane which flies to the Savage Land.
SHIELD appear to be up to shenanigans in the Savage Land, although it’s unclear what, apart from that the New Avengers can’t trust SHIELD while trying to track down the Raft escapees and why the breakout happened. Wolverine joins at this point and Daredevil turns down membership.
The last story of this volume covers some of the Sentry’s nonsense as Emma Frost is brought in to help Sentry figure out who he is, and the rest of the team fight The Wrecker. There’s a whole thing with this era and its art which feels a bit like the Image reverse-exodus from people like David Finch, and how their art looks. It’s all very actiony and stylised. It’s incredibly horny, too. Both Finch and McNiven who draw the majority of this volume draw very cheesecakey art. It’s not the worst offender, but a reminder that the 00’s were about as bad as the 90’s, just with slightly fancier special effects. Speaking of which, there’s a kind of odd shine to everyone where their skin seems as shiny as the costumes and the metal of Tony’s armour. My memory of it was worse than it actually turned out upon revisiting the stories. It’s still a little odd compared to modern and classic colouring alike.
To be continued…