Review by Karl Verhoven
Brian Michael Bendis and David Finch introduced the new team of Avengers in Breakout, but Finch is absent, with Steve McNiven taking over the pencilling. It established the template. Bendis would be an era-defining presence, writing thirteen volumes in this run of Avengers alone, but unlike the great runs of the past there would be no single pencil artist associated. Finch would, however, return for the the following Secrets and Lies.
Not that there are any complaints about McNiven. In fact, for many older Avengers fans he was preferable, with more traditional layouts and a cleaner style, but without sacrificing dynamism.
In the opening pages Bendis introduces an interesting concept: that the world’s most powerful superheroes have their own cabal who meet secretly to determine arrangements, and have done so for some considerable while. This would have a bearing on later plots, but is a fine way to introduce the mystery of the Sentry. That comes later, though, as first there’s some escaped super-villains to track down.
The Wrecker puts up a hell of fight, and highlights a strength Bendis brings to the series. “You guys know I beat the hell out of Thor? You know that?”, snarls the Wrecker, “And yet I can’t stop staring at that stupid hat”, responds Luke Cage. The banter enlivens the book, and the way the Wrecker is defeated is a good use of a long-forgotten ability.
The Sentry had been rather a peripheral and uncertain presence when the new team of Avengers gathered, but seeing as the book is named after him, he becomes the focus. As introduced by Paul Jenkins several years previously, he’d been a clever concept: a continuity implant of immense power who was literally his own worst enemy. He was brooding and insecure, imposing limits on himself in case he released the deadly threat of the Void. Faked old Marvel pages are revisited courtesy of Jenkins and Sal Buscema, writer James Robinson gets to pose as the Sentry, Jenkins gets to meet him, and the character is restored for purpose. Despite several small fine moments, the overall book doesn’t gel in the manner of Breakout, which is down to much of the focus being on characters other than the Avengers.
Bendis initially plotted without taking the subsequent collection of issues as books into account, a matter he rapidly rectified. Here, though, what would otherwise be a very parsimonious four chapters is accompanied by what was originally published as The Avengers Most Wanted Files. It’s profiles of the villains that escaped from jail in Breakout, hardly any of whom will ever appear in an Avengers book. Those desperate for background information on the likes of the Armadillo, Doctor Demonicus and Vermin will have their dreams fulfilled, but others may consider it gratuitous padding.
The content is also available within volume one of the oversize New Avengers Omnibus hardcover, collecting the entire first half of this series.