Astonishing X-Men #6
Joss Whedon's impressive opening storyline comes to an end here, and it's just a little rushed. This issue isn't quite as good as what's come before -- too much clunky exposition, and a few hard-to-follow sequences as the X-Men regroup from their battle with the alien Ord and learn of a tangled conspiracy involving the American government and mutants. Still, the good moments -- the "fastball special," Cassaday's ongoing excellent art, and having Colossus back -- far outweigh the sluggish ones.
Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes #1 (of 8)
This is a fun series -- an "Avengers: Year One" type tale by Joe Casey and Scott Kolins that fills in the blanks of those classic 1960s Avengers issues and tells us the details of putting together a world-beating superhero team in their uncertain early days. I enjoyed this issue, the personality clashes with the volatile Hulk and the general fanboy pleasure of it all. Gorgeously detailed art by Kolins -- his feral, angry Hulk, massive Thor and retro Iron Man leap off the page. But, despite it all, I'm not getting #2 -- because this series is absurdly overpriced at $3.50 an issue, and the already-announced collected paperback next spring will sell for only $18 or so -- or about $10 less than buying the eight "floppies." The only thing that makes it a $3.50 comic over a $2.50 one is a thicker cover. So I wait for the trade rather than get ripped off. And Marvel wonders why sales go in the toilet. A- for the content, though. D- for the marketing.
...And then there's this. I was willing to give Bendis the benefit of this doubt, because I'm such a fan of most of his other work, but this four-part much-hyped "Avengers Disassembled" storyline... well, looking at the whole complete story now, it just stinks. This final part of four scurries along to fill in the gaps left by three issues of death and despair, and fails mightily. Rushed, nonsensical sloppy plotting and a total lack of authentic feeling. Tearing the Avengers apart in the face of menace is a good idea, and one that's been done to much better effect several times before. But this arc is all shock and no heart.
SPOILERS ahead -- the "villain" of the arc, the longtime heroine-gone-astray the Scarlet Witch, was telegraphed from the start, so there's no shock. I'd hoped it was a red herring instead of something so obvious, and Bendis builds his entire house of cards on a mediocre John Byrne story from 15 years ago, ignoring any character development since then. There's so little true movement in this story -- basically, Dr. Strange shows up to deliver exposition for 10 pages, the Avengers go look for the Scarlet Witch, Dr. Strange casts a spell on her, and that's it. Oh, and Magneto shows up for no particular reason. The Avengers come off as totally inept and passive throughout this entire storyline, from the absolutely banal death of Hawkeye in #502 to endless panels of Captain America with sad puppy-dog eyes. This team wouldn't have lasted for 40 years worth of comics if they'd always acted like this. It's like they're on valium. This story was hyped as featuring "every Avenger ever," but of a cast of dozens most of them simply stand around looking depressed. How many panels of Moon Knight hanging around in crowd scenes do we need? I fail to see how Scarlet Witch's treachery will lead to the "end" (for five minutes) of comics' greatest hero team. The Avengers have been through far worse over the years with less impact. Basically, this whole "Chaos" storyline feels like something cooked up in a boardroom to sell comics. Yeah, so are most big comic stunts, but this one reeks of a cynicism and desperation that's unique. There's no love here.
Gah. Enough ranting. Basically, this is a seriously flawed story. The Avengers, and Bendis, deserve better. Bendis is a great comics writer, but team books don't play to his strength. Because I don't learn, I'll still pick up the first few issues of Bendis' superstar "relaunch" New Avengers, but good lord, it'd better be better than this awful storyline or it's going to sink like a stone. Grade: D+ for the entire storyline.