New Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis (Graphic Novel Quest) – Part Two

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.

The Brian Michael Bendis Complete Collections of New Avengers cover a lot of stories and weave in with some Marvel Events, so I’ve had to split this out into a couple of different articles.

New Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis, Complete Collection Volume Two

By Brian Michael Bendis and a ton of artists.

This collection keeps getting interrupted.

This one’s the volume that interweaves the most other other books.

Previously, the New Avengers formed after a load of supervillains escaped from prison. Someone’s behind it, SHIELD are acting more suspicious than they normally are.

This volume starts with a trip to Japan and the Silver Samurai. The New Avengers fight a bunch of ninja and Madam Hydra. After kidnapping her, she gets Spider-Woman to release her on a plane, covering up her duplicity but not well enough to avoid notice from Captain America.

Spider-Woman juggling her many allegiances.

There’s a quick detour showing that Spider-Woman’s working for both Hydra and a still on the run Nick Fury. And SHIELD. She’s got a lot of allegiances and has to juggle them all. It’s a tricky situation and the Avengers understand, although even that seems to be possibly part of her many shifting and unclear allegiances.

Then we skip over to—

House of M

By Brian Michael Bendis and Olivier Coipel

An entertaining diversion.

The Avengers and X-Men meet up to figure out what they’ll do with Scarlet Witch. Killing her is floated by some of the X-Men, who have been through things like the Dark Phoenix Saga. He debate comes to an abrupt end when reality falls apart and changes into something new.

The new world… of M.

Wolverine wakes up in a new world which is totally different, with him as a SHIELD agent in a world where mutants are the dominant species. Humans are fine and tolerated, but generally treated as a second class citizen compared to mutants. Magneto and the ‘House of M’ rule everything. Spider-Man is a celebrity married to Gwen Stacy and with a kid. Carol Danvers is equally famous. Captain America’s just an old man sneered at by mutant kids. Luke Cage runs a human under group group including Hawkeye, who’s still dead in the main timeline.

The big shock for Wolverine is that he remembers everything. He’s been an amnesiac since the 70’s and now it’s all there, including his real name. The world is a compromised utopia for a specific reason. Scarlet Witch made it this way to try and please folks. Once memories start to get restored, the Avengers and X-Men fight for their reality, even if some of them aren’t sure whether they should.

In the end, the person behind all of this is a bit of a surprise, and Wanda gets fed up of everything, saying, “No More Mutants” and depowering all but 198 mutants. A species already hated, now they’re almost extinct and many die from this change.

Three words which would wreck the X-Men line for ages.

House of M is a tragedy, but it’s a beautifully drawn one. Even though most people forget it ever happened thanks to Scarlet Witch’s powers, it’s still something that resonates. It motivates Spider-Man’s actions in Civil War, Carol Danvers’ drive to becoming an A-lister among heroes, as well as all the horrors for the next seven years of X-Men comics.

Back to New Avengers Complete Collection Volume Two

House of M happened and while most people don’t remember it, SHIELD’s Maria Hill is aware something’s up and knows the Avengers have something to do with it. At the same time, all of the energy from the powers of the depowered mutants seem to have coalesced into a person whose mutant ability woke up with M-Day. He’s acting on instinct, lashing out, killing Alpha Flight and the New Avengers do their best to stop him. Spider-Man’s attempt at going into SHIELD to find information ends up with him interrogated by them in an effort to discover what House of M was.

Some of the depowered mutants, although not all of them will stay that way.

SHIELD don’t care for the heroes at this point and things are already hitting a tipping point between heroes and government officials just in time for—

Civil War

By Mark Millar and Steve McNiven

Not as bad as it could have been, but still not good.

Sigh… It’s time for some hopefully lukewarm takes by now. Civil War’s not all that good. It’s fine. It’s better than I feared it would be, but it suffers from a lot of problems like Mark Millar writing a lot of characters in ways which feel a bit out of character from how they usually are. The plot’s one which could have worked better in a one-off superhero universe and taken to a greater extent. Also, most importantly, it ruined the New Warriors, which is something I will never be able to forgive Mark Millar for.

Nitro kills a bunch of kids and the New Warriors.

It all starts spinning out of New Warriors Volume Three, where they’re fame-hungry reality TV stars. They chase some villains and mess up, leading to the explosive villain Nitro running into a school and exploding. The deaths are all the government need to push through a Registration Act they’ve been hinting at for a while. All superheroes are going to have to register with SHIELD and if they’re heroes, they’ll be on their payroll (yay!) but also beholden to whatever agenda SHIELD and the US Government want (boo!)

As the countdown to registration happens, the heroes are torn about their response to it.

Battle lines are drawn immediately with the already-out Captain America fighting his way out of SHIELD in an impressive sequence. Tony Stark, Hank Pym, Mr Fantastic and a number of heroes are already pro-registration while Captain America, Luke Cage and others are against it.

The conflict’s an interesting one and while the Civil War film does a lot of things better than the comic, this series benefits from having so many heroes where you can see their perspectives, you can have the consequences of the act for good and ill.

This had to be undone, but was a shocking moment when it happened.

In my opinion, the act was a bad idea, and the New Avengers heroes are mostly anti-registration which doesn’t help in trying to show this even-handedly. I know it was seen as more of a conflicted issue, but the amount of bad ideas from the pro-registration side mirror an amount of American atrocities like building an inter-dimensional Guantanamo Bay was bad at the time and has aged worse.

A few fun moments include Punisher being a massive Captain America fanboy, only to be beaten down by him for his terrible methods. Spider-Man’s reversal of decision after outing himself to the public. Emma Frost telling Tony Stark to fuck off is a particular gem. The mutants are decimated and being held in an enclosure by sentinels ‘for their own safety’ given how few of them there are now. Fuck you and your bad ideas, Tony.

Millar’s characterisations aren’t always great but here he gets Emma Frost.

Back to New Avengers Complete Collection Volume Two… Again

We get some individual stories set during Civil War, including Luke Cage’s resistance to the Registration Act, where Cap went after fleeing SHIELD and even a disgruntled Stark employee who takes down Tony briefly as he’s using designs the guy contributed to for a cause he’s against.

Finally, we get the revelation of the ‘Illuminati’, a kind of Marvel Smart Boy’s Club, formed after one event too many, keeping a line of communication between the teams and trying to work behind the scenes all through the last few decades comics, fracturing with the Civil War. Then there’s the only nod to the death of Captain America, which happened post-Civil War in his own comic. It’s a pair of vignettes, with Captain America (pre-death) and Tony Stark both providing their post-script to the whole even and whether it was worth it.

The cost of the civil war.

New Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis, Complete Collection Volume Three

By Brian Michael Bendis and a ton of artists.

Post Civil War, this lot are on the run.

This volume spends a lot of time with the New Avengers on the run from the new, official Avengers team run by Stark. Captain America’s dead and replaced with Bucky and Dr Strange is helping out as the team hide in his Sanctum Sanctorum, disguised as the site of a future Starbucks.

There’s some dirty pool (Bendis loves using that phrase in these volumes) from the Mighty Avengers as they lead the New Avengers into a trap briefly.

Hawkeye’s back from the dead and sleeps with what turns out to be a Doombot Wanda.

The gang end up heading back out to Japan to rescue Ronin aka Echo, who needs their help. She’s been killed by Elektra and brought back in an attempt to make her into a Hand Assassin. It’s a thing they do, mainly to Elektra.

When the New Avengers rescue her, Echo kills Elektra and reveals that she’s a Skrull.

Skrullektra

The Skrull revelation shocks the team and they immediately start picking at each other, especially Wolverine who Bendis writes incredibly antagonistically in all of this run. Spider-Woman ends up shocking the team and fleeing with the Skrull corpse to Tony’s side, figuring he’ll know what to do.

Mighty Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis, Complete Collection

By Brian Michael Bendis and a ton of artists.

Tony Stark gets turned into a naked Ultron who looks like Janet Van Dyne.

This single volume is the whole run of the Tony Stark created ‘official’ Avengers team. It starts with Frank Cho doing art duties and some attempts to distinguish a different tone between teams by giving this lot thought bubbles. Tony and Carol build a team and immediately have to deal with Ultron who merges with Tony Stark and appears as a mostly naked robot woman who’s styled after The Wasp (blame Hank Pym for that one).

The Janet Ultron’s plan.

There’s a crossover with the New Avengers volume, as a Latverian satellite meant to be a trap for some vague point in the future is accidentally set off, launching a ‘Venom Bomb’ at New York, turning citizens and Avengers alike into Venoms.

This story crosses over between both titles

As this series goes on, Ms Marvel seems more in charge of the team and I love how she does a good job of calling the team off from capturing the New Avengers multiple times when they show up to help. They may be on opposing sides of the Civil War, but there’s no reason to be a dick if they’re still being heroes.

It’s a bit of a mixed bag and short-lived, but still a fun view of the other side of the post-Registration Act Avengers.

Back to New Avengers Complete Collection Volume Three

By Brian Michael Bendis and others.

Finishing this piece on the New Avengers saga is a miniseries tacked into the back of this volume which I really enjoyed. We found out about the Illuminati, so now we get to see them react to different Marvel events.

A collection of Marvel’s least trustworthy geniuses.

First up is the Kree-Skrull War and the captivity of the members of the Illuminati. We also see that they have the components of the Infinity Gauntlet held between them. They confront The Beyonder, retconning his existence from Secret Wars II. There’s some talk of women problems as this is the most boy’s club out of all the boy’s clubs in the Marvel Universe. Finally, post Civil War, we get Tony Stark bringing the Illuminati the Skrull corpse of Elektra, only to find out the Illuminati have been infiltrated. Skrull are everywhere and could be any hero. The group split, even more shattered than before, and with no really place to go.

The Illuminati and the Avengers can’t trust their own teams, perfect timing for Secret Invasion.

To be concluded…

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