April 5, 2009

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Mighty Avengers Volume 2

Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Illustrated by Mark Bagley, Danny Miki, Allen Martinez, Victor Olazaba, and Marko Djurdjevic
Marvel

This trade features the first splice between New and Mighty Avengers, a plan Bendis had that I don't think worked out quite as he'd hoped because of scheduling issues. Spider-Woman has just defected from the New Avengers as a result of some Skrully doings, coming on the heels of Tony turning into a female Ultron. Before you can blink, the Mighty Avengers are called upon to stop a nightmare from the 1990s---the Venom Bomb!

Yes, folks, the Avengers must stop a vision from the past, as Bendis gets to comment on the whole Venom Venom everywhere fad of Marvel's salad days. And he does so with great relish, having Iron Man complain about too many people with histories as symbiote hosts and Spider-Man discussing how he used to have nightmares about this sort of thing.

It's a clever idea, but where Bendis shines, I think, is in who drops the bomb--Dr. Doom! Think about this for a second--Doom has been sampling with a part of the symbiote and working on a way to release it on a hapless populace. How did he get it? How long has he had it? How did he get it to grow? How can he contain it when Richards could not? How does it live in space without a host?

Those are some pretty interesting questions that a future writer can work on, because where Bendis doesn't shine is in giving details. This arc is about keeping Tony Stark on his heels--he barely has time to recover from when he's fighting symbiotes and mad dictators, not to mention that little Skrull problem in his lab.

So before we know it, we're off to fight Doom, something that's usually the FF's job but, as they used to say in the old editor's notes that no one likes anymore, our Spectacular Sextet was hanging out in space at the time. Besides, as Ares says, this battle gives him something he can hit.

The battle rages, Bagley gets some nice splash pages to work with (more on Bags in a moment), and Iron Man once again faces off against Doom. Before, they were fairly evenly matched, science for science, battle suit for battle suit. (Bendis uses his wordly ways quite cleverly here, having both outfits constantly informing their owners about things like power supply, opponent's threat levels, and the like throughout the rest of the issues.) But this is the Doom enhanced by Mark Waid's run on the FF, and he uses his magics to start turning the tables.

But when you're in a mad scientist's lab and you're breaking shit, something's bound to get hurt, and the next thing you know, you're in 1980 or so and Bagley's drawing the Thing ala John Byrne. Rather cleverly, Bendis works in prior continuity to find a solution to the problem and we're back in the present for one more big fight and the wrap-up.

Problems solved...for now.

I liked this arc a lot better than the first trade, partly because, while there's still dissention ans internal monologes, the team itself functions more like I'd expect a group of Avengers who, for the most part, all know each other to act in battle. I also liked the Doom fight a lot, even though it, too, is something we've seen before. Bendis seems to be unable to think of a really unique thing for this group of Avengers to do.

But hey, that's some great bantering between Tony and Victor! Doom with an acid tongue! It's not typical, but it works.

The main reason I think I liked this trade better is the artwork. Frank Cho is a nice pin up artist, but as I complained in my review of volume one, he seems to be having everyone--especially the women--posing rather than acting. Bagley can still draw an attractive woman and his females have breasts as large as any mainstream artist, but it's less noticable beacuse he keeps them fluid and moving. The Wasp isn't sitting behind things, ass to the audience--she's out there zapping Doombots. In addition, he tends to draw people from the front, which also helps. Hard to do ass shots when there's no ass to shoot.

But the best part of a Bagley-drawn comic is the detail he puts into them, all while staying on a regular schedule. (The man is working on a 12-page weekly comic, for God's sake, and it's shipped on time every time.) Look at the eyes on Doctor Doom. They follow the action. So do everyone else's eyes who aren't wearing masks. Who does that anymore? One woman, turning into Venom, gets bloodshot eyes with every vein pulsing. In other shots, you can see the characters reacting to each other in a way that makes perfect sense in relation to their positions. Again, how often do we see that anymore?

It's little stuff like that which reminds you comics, even superhero ones, can show a quality on a level with any other art form.

While still not my favorite grouping of Avengers, I liked this trade a lot better. We'll see how I deal with the Secret Invasion stuff next.