Review by Frank Plowright
With the dust from assorted crossovers settled, Marvel once again relaunched The Avengers in two titles, with Brian Michael Bendis writing both. His New Avengers team was headed by Luke Cage, and consisted, for the most part, of the previous renegades he led.
There’s an immediate and almost fatal threat from a being powerful enough to take control of Doctor Strange, transform Cage into a rampaging giant and hold off the new master of the mystic arts Brother Voodoo. What they want is a mystical doohickey called the Eye of Agamotto, once owned by Strange. The Avengers are none the wiser as to who threatened them when a rift manifests in the sky, and vaporous monsters begin pouring out.
Relentless blood and thunder follows as the more physical Avengers tackle what’s unleashed on Earth as the mystically inclined attempt to settle the other-wordly threat. Stuart Immonen delivers his part with fittingly dynamic action-oriented artwork, but this isn’t Bendis’ best material. The weakness of magic based stories is that the curtain is drawn back to reveal the underpinning logic as “because it is”. Bendis throws in the novel idea of labelling the spells used, but it fails to restore the curtain. He’s also guilty of ending chapters on cliffhangers relatively easily explained, a sequence with Iron Fist being a particularly cheap use of this device, and characters serving scant purpose. Bendis co-opts the Thing into the team. He’s always a commanding visual presence, but he’s little more here or in later volumes.
The other major failing is that once the action starts contrast is minimal, with the majority of interesting character moments packed into the opening chapter. Victoria Hand, once henchwoman of Norman Osborn, and so despised by some of the team, is appointed as their administrator. There’s an interesting set-up, but then she too disappears into the morass.
This series improves with later volumes, but this is a weak start. Volume 5 runs a much better sequel to this story, and the content here is also found in the oversize hardback Avengers: The Heroic Age.