Sunday, March 27, 2011

Bendis Does What Kang, Ultron, and Zemo Could.

Well, I promised I'd read it as penance for bagging Bendis, but the thing is, I may need to read more Bendis after this review. Avengers Disassembled is one of those books where you can read it once through quickly and it's a good read. So you read it again (I've read it at least four times prior to this review reading) and that's the point start to jump out at you.

The book itself is issues 500 - 503 of Avengers and Avengers Finale, all written by Brian Michael Bendis. Art for #500-503 is by David Finch (with some assistance on 503). The Finale has Finch joined by the likes of George Perez, Steve Epting, Jimmy Cheung, Alex Maleev, Lee Weeks, Darrick Robertson, and Steve McNiven (there's a host of others that would fill a page to list). Amazon would love for you to purchase it from them for $17.16 USD for the hardcover, and funnily don't seem to want to sell you the paperback copy that I read (which was a couple dollars less less than that when it was first released). The hardcover they have is oversized (which is a plus) and is 184 pages. If it's anything like the paperback you get an interview with Bendis (more on that later) some script pages with commentary from Finch, a cover gallery from all the preceding Avengers issues, and a mini-comic detailing Avengers history from the point of view of The Hulk.

Now I implied that there were problems with this book, and there are, but to truly understand them you need to be an Avengers fan (and also possess reasoning and logic). The guts of the plot, though, are very good. The tale starts with Jack of Hearts, who had died not long before Disassembled takes place, coming back (seemingly undead) and blowing up The Avengers Mansion, killing Scott Lang. Meanwhile Iron Man/Tony Stark is addressing the UN in his dual role as an Avenger and US Secretary of Defense (this was when The Avengers were a UN peacekeeping force) and threatens to kill the Latverian delegate in what appears to be a drunken rage. When The Avengers' highest priority alert goes off to draw support for the events happening at the mansion, all hell breaks lose: Vision arrives and spews forth 5 Ultron style robots, She Hulk goes mad, Wasp is hospitalised, a Kree fleet attack, and finally the penny is dropped on all assembled by Dr Strange - the Scarlet Witch is behind it all. Our heroes confront Wanda and with her defeat we get the disassembling of The Avengers as a team.

This book was brought to
you by the colour red.
So what is it that's wrong with this book. The art is generally good. At least as far as the pencils and inks go. The colours quickly begin to drag as everything gets an orange or red hue. Issue 502 includes two one thing that seems to be a mistake (though Bendis established much later that it was an early clue to Secret Invasion), and supporting evidence for statements in the Finale about Quicksilver's whereabouts. But no, the art is not the problem, the story is. While I could easily detail each and every gripe that fans have had with this story there are three major problems that stick out like sore thumbs: the existence of Chaos Magic,  the essential premise that the Scarlet Witch has been insane since the 1980s, and that Magneto would be allowed to take away a daughter who is so obviously unstable, and so obviously able to destroy the planet.

All hail Mutant Supremacy!
The first of these is a problem because Dr Strange himself has used Chaos Magic for years. Now we're told it doesn't exist. It's such a bad idea that a What If story was based on this point alone. Next up, Wanda could have gone crazy bananas at any time in the nearly 20 years before this story and didn't? So divorce, the whole thing with blaming herself for Wonder Man's death and rebirth, and the loss at the hands of Kang weren't going to do it, but Wasp reminding her she once had kids will? Finally, we have to accept that Nick Fury (who is present) simply allows Magneto to take a threat that powerful away. Magneto. And that threat. What could possibly go wrong? (See the House of M crossover if you don't know.)

Then after all's said and done we get to the Bendis interview. There're some interesting quotes in there both in the context of this story, and in the context of what followed from it. None of them are relevant to anyone who hasn't been following anything set in the Marvel Universe for the last decade, but for those who have, you'll be bound to have a cynical remark or two to make.

Ah c'mon, he's just a synthetic human, right?!
Now it sounds like I dislike this book intensely, and on one level I do. But then again, I do seem to keep reading it over and over again, and that begs the question of what I actually think of this book, and who I'd recommend it to. I think that, on the surface, it's a fine book, and it set the wheels in motion for more or less a decade of Marvel continuity. So it is an influential book. It's also well drawn (I'd love to see a black and white pencils and inks only version). The dialog is, for Bendis, typically great.

After something that got me all riled up this week, next week I'll relax with, oh let's see... this.
WARNING: Do not even THINK about
letting the kids at this one!

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