Illustrated by Mike Deodato
Norman Osbourne is the leader of the superheroes of the free world--and is about to learn just how hard that job is, when the only people who will work with you are murderous criminals!
Unlike the other Avengers books written around this time, which frankly aren't Bendis' best work, this idea of an evil man trying to do the right thing AND screw over those he hates while keeping from going insane again is quite good. I like the idea of Norman trying to do the right thing--sort of--but getting entangled in his desire to also allow the criminals to have free reign. It's an impossible situation to maintain, and even in these first issues, we start to see the cracks.
When Bendis is on, he's perfect. Osbourne's talk on television is amazing. He actually had me--for just a moment--wishing for the Green Goblin to succeed. That's great writing. I also love the way he shows that this team of Avengers is never going to jell the way that it needs to, with so many petty jealousies and rivalries in its way. It's the opposite of the self-serving work that the real Avengers have done for almost fifty years. The mirror images are striking, to say nothing of putting criminals in the role of traditional heroes.
I read this in the same day I read a comic illustrated by Whilce Portacio, and I think that made me appreciate the great work by Deodato all the more. He's no stranger to exaggeration (just look at Venom here), but he can also do fine detail work and shows a careful consideration of anatomy. He also does an amazing job giving facial features that match what Bendis is having the characters say. Little touches like Ares being a lecher are indicated by his eyes, not a stream of vile words. He's at his best here, and actually makes for a good partner for Bendis.
By the end of this arc, it's clear that this is not going to work. The fun will be in seeing how it falls apart. I actually liked this enough to make plans to find out. If you are a Marvel fan and skipped this because you have Bendis fatigue, it might be worth a second look.