“Lacking on Every Level”

Avengers #500
Marvel Comics – Brian Michael Bendis (w); David Finch (p); Danny Miki (i)I almost didn’t review this, for a couple of reasons. Here’s the score:

No matter what I say, for good or ill, this book is going to sell really well. Because it has Bendis’ name on it; because it’s a landmark number (#500 will always sell better than, say, #499 or #501, simply because the number somehow seems important); and because Marvel and Wizard have both spent quite a bit of time hyping it up. It’s just going to do gangbusters numbers and nothing anyone (especially me) says in an online review is going to change that. So why bother?

Honestly, I seriously considered letting this one slide for this simple reason: I don’t know if I have to chops to put into writing how abysmal this book is.

But it sucks so hard that I’m going to give it a shot anyway.

The Avengers, whilst sitting around the Mansion and throwing about some “snappy” banter, get a proximity alert from their security system. What’s peculiar, however, is that the alarm has been tripped by the arrival of Jack-of-Hearts, an Avenger that the team recently saw die. As Ant-Man (Scott Lang, not Hank Pym) races out to greet his friend and teammate (and get some answers about why he’s not pushing up daisies), the garishly clad Avenger explodes, taking Ant-Man with him. Racing onto the front lawn and already in completely disarray, the other Avengers are just in time to watch one of their Quinjets fall from the sky and an ominously silent Vision stride forward from out of the flaming wreckage. Speaking in vagary, the Vision promptly begins spitting out metallic spheres that unroll themselves to transform into no less than five Ultron robots.

And the fight is on. Meanwhile, someone has found a way to get Tony Stark drunk without him ever having taken a drink.

Here’s where I start complaining.

First of all, when did the Wasp become so unbelievably useless? She literally does nothing during the entire fight except fly in circles, shriek incoherently and moan clichéd damsel-in-distress dialogue like “Why is this happening?” and “This is a nightmare!” Falcon’s no better, as his only contribution is to yell, “I don’t even know what’s happening!” It’s laughable, really, since they both have a birds-eye view of the fight (no pun intended) and they can’t seem to figure out what to do with themselves. Meanwhile, all the walking heroes seem to have snap into action relatively quickly.

Even dumber is the idea that the Avengers would be thrown for a loop by this turn of events. First of all, all they do is fight super-villains and they’re not exactly a proactive team, so getting ambushed by the bad guys is sort of their standard operating procedure. I criticize the aforementioned duo for being slow to act, but it’s not as if the rest of the team doesn’t stand around slack-jawed for an inordinately long time either. And to make matters worse, this is exact scenario has already happened before: Ultron shows up on the doorstep of the Avengers Mansion and the building gets destroyed in the ensuing scuffle. What is there for Wasp and Falcon not to understand? I’m reasonably certain that at least one of them was on the team the last time this happened.

Which brings up another point: what exactly is the big deal with this storyline? It looks to me, at least thus far, to be a straight rehash of the last “Ultron Destroys the Mansion” storyline. The only difference seems to be the fact that the Avengers themselves have gotten inexplicably dumber in the interim.

As for all the hoopla about the death of several Avengers, so far it’s pretty underwhelming. Bendis has killed Ant-Man, which is worthless since a good sized portion of the Avengers fans never took to him anyway, and Vision, which is even worse since HE’S A ROBOT. I find it hard to imagine the Marvel Universe being shaken to its foundation over the “death” of an android. I mean, at some point, it’s going to occur to Hank Pym that all he needs to do is make a quick run down to Radio Shack and he can have Vision back on his feet. It’s like killing Phoenix, y’know? The death is pretty meaningless, since the resurrection practically writes itself.

Now, to be fair, David Finch is a talented guy and there are some damned fine looking visuals in the book (particularly the panel where Vision walks through the fire of his plane crash). But at the same time, a lot of the panels illustrating the fight are unnecessarily hard to follow, heavily inked extreme close-ups captured in strangely narrow panels. And since fighting comprises, y’know, like half of the book, that makes the art a decidedly mixed bag.

In the end, I’m simply embarrassed for Brian Bendis. I’m by no means his biggest fan (I think he’s good enough, but drastically overrated), but even I know he’s better than this book. The most bizarre part though lies in the fact that my complaint with Bendis is rarely his plotting; I simply think his execution leaves a lot to be desired (that is, his faux-Whedon dialogue grates on my nerves and I think his stories are needlessly padded). Avengers #500, however, is lacking on every level. The execution is irrelevant, really, since the plot is so damned bad to begin with that it’s hard to believe that anyone could save it.


Snarky Comments:

Re: Amazing Spider-Man #510

  • Did no one at Marvel stop and think that if Gwen had a kid when she was in college and those kids show up now, looking like they’re at least 18, that means that Peter is now officially around 40 years old? “40 year old Spider-Man” is a phrase that should never be seriously spoken, much less implemented in a story.

Re: Astonishing X-Men #3

  • Pretty much any time you have the characters in your book making fun of the plot, and the story is intended to be taken seriously, that’s a sign that the book is poorly written. Like, for example, when the kids at the Mansion are pointing out that the teachers are trying to kill each other… AGAIN. It’s like Whedon knows how bad an idea it is but he’s gonna go ahead and do it anyway, and I think that actually makes it worse.
  • It’s so nice to see that it’s only taken Marvel six months or so to completely undo every single meaningful change that Grant Morrison’s run brought about. The costumes came right back once he left, Chris Claremont unceremoniously (and inexplicably) resurrected Magneto (adding insult to injury by dismissing the Planet X Magneto as “an impostor” and leaving it at that) and now it looks like Whedon is working on reversing the Beast’s secondary mutation and dragging Jean out of the grave. It’s not that I really expected to still be feeling the effects of New X-Men ten years down the road, but you’d think the fact that Morrison’s run was widely well-received would add a little weight at Marvel. But I guess you’d be wrong if you thought that.
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