Friday, December 15, 2006

"Chaos" Part Two of Four (Marvel comics)
Avengers #501 When: October 2004
Why: Brian Michael Bendis How: David Finch

The story so far...
The Avengers have faced many opponents, but after decades it may be one of their own who proves to be their ultimate undoing.

One bad day takes a new meaning as the team becomes the unwitting outlet of the out of control hex powers of a resentful and slightly crazed Scarlet Witch.

Killer robots, alien invaders, personality shifts, and now an uncharacteristcally rampaging She-Hulk. Chaos continues, and only a small handful of Avengers are even able to stand to protect their friend from herself.

Previous Form:
She-Hulk (#52): She-Hulk had a win and a loss against Champion of the Universe.
Captain America (#8): Has led victories against Wolverine and AIM.
Iron Man (#4): Has victories over Captain America and The Hulk.
Lionheart: The most recent Captain Britain has not been previously featured.
The Avengers: Have been featured mostly in-fighting via Civil War.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Iron Man 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Iron Man 5 (Professor)
Speed: Captain America 3 (Trained Athlete)
Stamina: Iron Man 6 (Generator)
Agility: Captain America 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Captain America 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Iron Man 5 (Arsenal)

I had a discussion recently about She-Hulk, and it dawned on me that newer readers would be somewhat in the dark about She-Hulk's nature as a character.
Of course, traditionally her strength has been consistently around a 5 or a 6 by our statistics, depending very little on her temprement or emotions, unlike her cousin.

In the last couple of years anxiety and a particular type of radiation has been seen to provoke Hulk style mindless rampages in Jennifer Walters, and during this Scarlet Witch prompted scenario of chaos, that's again what we're dealing with.

Hawkeye and Captain America certainly have only a measurable degree of effectiveness in this situation. Despite their prowess with arms and as tactical fighters, against the brute strength of She-Hulk they are rendered relatively ineffective.

Captain Britain represents a more likely physical opponent, but even she hovers somewhere at the lower cusp of a 5 strength.
Of course, that becomes much less an issue when you add the Iron Man armor into the equation. Stark has previously been seen handling the Hulk [Iron Man #2] in the red and gold, and with the added support of Cap Britain, coupled with the maneuverability of tactical distractions like Hawkeye and Captain America, victory is in hand.

Certainly She-Hulk is a formidable foe at the best of times, and with the team already decimated there's an added advantage, but overall I would certainly lean toward Iron Man and the other Avengers.

Average: The Avengers 25 (+2)
Overall: The Avengers 100 (+77)
The Pick: The Avengers

What went down...
She-Hulk, or captain of the Chinese women's swimming team? U-DECIDE!Iron Man has to deal with the repercussions of his initial arc in this story, racially motivated attacks on foreign countries as American secretary of defense. Talking about flattening countries with bombs before turning them into amusement parks is generally considered something of a faux pas, even if it is Latveria.

Meanwhile, Captain Britain is doing her best to hack the waist with her sword as She-Hulk menaces her American counterpart with a jeep.

Cap whips his shield defensively over his body as She-Hulk dumps the jump straight on top of him.
Super Soldier serum or not, that's going to leave a pretty serious mark, no matter how close to the human peak you are.

Meanwhile Captain Britain gets flung across the battle field, She-Hulk palming her skull before whipping her like a ragdoll.

As the rampage continues in the streets surrounding Avengers Mansion, Hawkeye does his best to make an emotional plee to the woman inside the beast, but it has little effect.

Iron Man arrives on the scene as more automobiles feel the crushing blow of a truly savage She-Hulk.
He swoops in quickly delivering a knock-out punch around the chops of the hulked-out She-Hulk.

IM remarks, "Well, I took no pride in that...", landing meters away from the broken body of another teammate felled earlier in the day -- Vision.

Tony joins Hawkeye in lifting the jeep, to reveal a bruised and battered Captain America, but a still living legend, none the less.

The hammer...
Well, a relatively simple victory, but Iron Man effective in the end against She-Hulk. The assist no doubt coming from the other Avengers present. Even Cap, who essentially spent the entire issue on his back beneath a jeep.

Cap's back up and ready to fight after that. Hard to tell whether or not this is an over estimation of his strength, or just a poorly communicated set of circumstances involving the shield and rubble below.

There's some sort of irony when I say I wasn't generally as venomous about the Disassembled crossover as much other fans. Ironic because, while I didn't bitterly disagree with the story, I do regard it as the definite turning point in Brian Bendis' career.

Disassembled begins the path that eventually unfolds to New Avengers, which is a book still struggling to warm up. Granted, Civil War has provided an editorial break at a premature period, but certainly twelve issues of New Avengers were not well used, with a lot of time spent dwelling on character minutia perfect for Daredevil, but cumbersome in a team book.

The next step in the process of Bendis spreading his fingers was the more literal crossover saga as we know, House of M, which saw ideals of Age of Apocalypse and Heroes Reborn coming together in a fairly uninspired storyline that fascilitated various company movements. One of those being the further dismissal of Morrison's X-implementations, which was the broadening acceptance and existance of mutants. House of M ending on the infamous, "No More Mutants" phrase, which led into the underwhelming 198 and subsequently connected X-events.

Unfortunately even as the New Avengers book appears to steer itself toward Bendis' strengths, it remains inherently disappointing as an Avengers book.
That is not to measure it by the standards of characters or even characteristics, but merely as a book that should ideally feature a team dynamic.

Whether or not the upcoming and more traditional Mighty Avengers will provide Brian Michael with the presumed opportinuty for redemption is uncertain.
Typically it seems Bendis is far better utilized in his own corner, dealing chiefly with his own history and events. Even a very positive turn on Ultimate X-Men further typified his confidence with smaller scope, using Daredevil, Spider-man and Wolverine incredibly well, but obtusely in a team book.

Finch remains what he is in Chaos, and if you like that sort of thing, you're probably quite impressed by the pages in Avengers. As dynamic and emphatic as they are, Finch's grasp on human faces remains ever bothersome. Particularly so in a book that features the talking heads that have made Bendis so well known.

Finch's interpretation of the script also has to be questioned.
His translation came under polite fire even from the writer himself, when defending the absurd scene in a later issue that depicts Hawkeye sacrificing his life, rather than removing his arrow holster.
Hawkeye gets a raw deal even in #501, pictured drawing an arrow to fire, but never seen shooting it. Which is a little silly. Even an arrow hitting Shulkie's back from off panel would've done.

Also disappointing is the colour palette, which does effectively convey the grim disaster area and tone, but obscures the time of day and the characters a little bit too much. I'm never a fan of these draining dark colour palettes, particularly when they have very dry highlights.

The Fight: 3 The Issue: 4.5

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