Friday, December 05, 2008


The Trust: Part Five (Marvel)
New Avengers #36 When: January 2008
Why: Brian Bendis How: Leinil Yu

The Story So Far...
Once, the gods and heroes could be trusted to protect humanity in it's time of need, but when the least of their kind entered into a battle that cost the lives of hundreds, a new control was demanded by a traumatized public.

For men like Tony Stark, the prospect of thorough screening and training became a price he was all too willing to pay to repent for the willful negligence of he and his fellows. Trusted powers whose morals had come to harbor cosmically volatile forces within their quarters. A philosophy that puts him at odds with both those who have reasons to hide, and those with a strong belief in the privacy and trust earned by the super-powered guardians.

Divided, Earth's mightiest heroes continue in two factions. Stark's Avengers hunt their secretive counterparts, distracted from the evils the underground heroes continue to pursue with clarity. It is the Secret Avengers who learn of The Hood's play for Kingpin of Villains, and the emergence of a Skrull incursion. Neither, however, could have hoped to anticipate a Latverian satellite position above the Earth. A weapon containing a symbiote bomb that escapes it's master's control and sends an infestation of madness to New York City as an unprepared Secret Avengers is possessed and thrown into battle with their counterparts.

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Wonder Man 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Iron Man 5 (Professor)
Speed: The Sentry 6 (Mach-Speeds)
Stamina: Iron Man 6 (Generator)
Agility: Spider-man 5 (Cat-like)
Fighting Ability: Ares 7 (Warrior)
Energy Power: The Sentry 7 (Cosmic)

- The Mighty Avengers are: Iron Man, Ms. Marvel, Wonder Man, Sentry, Black Widow, Ares, accompanied by Luke Cage and Wolverine.

Plotting against his half-brother, the Norse god of mischief, Loki, uses illusions to manipulate the rages of the green goliath known as the Hulk!
The scheme is intended to draw Thor into a combative trap, but Loki's plans come unravelled when a distress call from Rick Jones is picked up not only by Thor, but also the Wasp, Ant-Man, and Iron Man! Despite initial misunderstandings, the unlikely team forms an alliance and easily defeats the god of mischief - thus, the Avengers are born!

Though their adventures would see the roster subject to change, the growing number of associated heroes would only lend credence to the claim that they are Earth's mightiest heroes! United, the many iterations of the Avengers would face foes of minor, or cosmic natures, always willing to put their lives on the line for the greater good, a philosophy embodied by charter members like iconic early recruit, Captain America.

After the superhero Civil War, the team was segregated between those heroes supportive of the Superhuman Registration Act, and those opposed. The Avengers continue officially as a government agency led by the registration's leading advocate, Tony Stark, who was also appointed Director of SHIELD.

- The Secret Avengers are: Dr. Strange, Iron Fist, Ronin, Echo, Spider-man, and Wasp.

Confronted with a government intending to pit him against the reluctant and unwilling in a mandatory Superhero Registration; Captain America throws his training and leadership against SHIELD and the US Government to instead lead a resistance against the movement. These Secret Avengers emerge to protect those who have pledged their lives to protecting the innocent, intent on preserving their right to anonymity.
Among the most prominent of the ready and willing to join the Captain's cause are; Hercules, Goliath, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Falcon, Cloak, Dagger, and Cable.

Captain America's surrender to Tony Stark during the superhero Civil War, and subsequent assassination, galvanizes the efforts of an underground team allowed leniency by the powers-that-be. Thus, the Secret Avengers continue on in the memory of their leader, dedicated to the same justice they always sought.

Additional: The Secret Avengers are possessed by alien symbiote creatures similar to those warn by Mac Gargan and Cletus Kasady. The creatures have dramatically reduced their reasoning, while enhancing their strength.

Math: Mighty Avengers Ranking: Spider-man (#2)

What Went Down...
Watching their government sponsored counterparts descend to the streets below, the Secret Avengers witness panic in the streets as the results of a symbiote bomb wreak havoc with innocent bystanders. Before they can intervene, the Secret Avengers themselves become possessed by alien creatures, save Luke Cage, whose impenetrable skin may be the reason for his safety.

Set upon by his fellows; Cage struggles as symbiote-possessed Ronin, Spider-man, and Echo launch and acrobatic assault against him. Even his best friend, Iron Fist, throws a taloned swipe that would kill an ordinary man! Overwhelmed by the pummelling of all but Wolverine, Cage briefly loses consciousness.

When Power Man comes to, he is greeted by Wonder Man and Ms. Marvel of the "Mighty" Avengers. With the streets of Manhattan filled with the symbiote possessed, all grudges are dropped as Cage joins the fight that has also claimed Wasp, in giant-form, from the Mighty team.

Contending with Giant-Woman and a cluster of anonymous symbiotes tossed by the towering creature; Iron Man attempts to make an escape, seeking to resolve the threat from it's source. He leaves behind two teams, at odds, but on the common grounds of doing all they can to protect the innocent.

The Sentry waves a street lamp at clambering creatures, while Luke Cage relies on his own unbreakable fists to fight back against the hordes. He's joined by Wolverine who remains unclaimed by the symbiote clinging to his body, racked with pain as his mutant healing factor keeps the creature at bay, allowing him to turn those skills against the other aliens.

The sixty-foot Giant-Wasp symbiote crashes to the ground, walloped with the super-strength of the Sentry. Ares, Wonder Man and Ms. Marvel do the same, using their impressive powers to tackle multiple creatures at once! Wolverine's efforts prove equally as effective as he topples the creatures with mortal fists.

Fighting despite the endless numerical advantage of the swarm, the heroes are rewarded. Just as sudden as the infestation had begun, the symbiotes disappear in an instant, the handy work of Iron Man, Director of SHIELD!

The Hammer...
As far as conclusions go it's a scrappy one, but I give you your year-end winners: Iron Man, Luke Cage, Wolverine, and the Mighty Avengers!

This is ordinarily where we reflect upon the issue with a conversation topic, but for a simple example of superhero smackdown, there are an awful lot of implications from this one issue. The convergence of ideas come from before and after, this issue being part of the transitional period from Civil War, to Secret Invasion.

In a year defined by the "Invasion" with little compromise, this issue of New Avengers reminds us of many things sorely absent from Marvel's 2008.
In fact, they're all fairly simple principles that reflect quite negatively on Brian Bendis' second attempt at a Marvel-wide crossover. Working against him was a promotion that suggested something far more involving, something resembling the Skrull invasion never quite seen to it's logical conclusion. Instead, Secret Invasion amounted to something resembling Infinity War, built out of specials dealing with super-powered Skrulls in the various subsets of Marvel characters.

Like the many writers who picked up themes and concepts from the central plot, Bendis himself expanded the event through threads in the two Avengers titles.
Here, we were again reminded that within Brian Bendis is the capacity to deliver a satisfying superhero story. It would be unfair to drudge up the old theory that Bendis can't handle groups of characters, but it seems entirely convincing that directing the larger picture is not his particular forté. [See also; House of M] It is merely an unfortunate coincidence that these bungles both include large casts.

A tendency to humanize characters - sometimes to the point of losing their character (and differentiation) all together - invariably makes the New Avengers the stronger of the two titles. Alas; each positive seems to come equipped with it's own undermining 'Void' alter-ego, such as New's thematic consistency of often failing to actually deliver the titular grouping.

These problems, of course, do not exist in today's feature issue.
In stark contrast to the dragging inanity of Secret Invasion, the much-hyped symbiote bomb delivers almost too little. Resolved over the course of a couple of issues with fist-pounding simplicity, it is everything the major crossovers of recent years have not been, (from either company). In some ways, I almost wish the Skrulls and Symbiotes could've switched places. A couple of simple battles to resolve the invading super-Skrulls would have been far more palatable, particularly if the dramatic potential of symbiote-infested heroes could've been fulfilled in the traditional crossover model. The model that exacerbated the very worst about Secret Invasion.

Looking back on year through the first issues print-dated 2008, we recognise an event that was much more fun to anticipate than deal with. So, what of 2009?

Marvel appears to be going back to the well again, this time repackaging Acts of Vengeance with a smoother, more organic transition than some recent concepts. Dark Reign is described as a new 'status quo', rather than an event.
While the terminology immediately makes it difficult to feel anything but cynical, it does have the benefit of drawing directly from events outside of the best forgotten Skrull invasion. Norman Osborn's path as a character has made the disappointment of his late nineties resurrection all the easier to swallow, drawing heavily on the 'wolf in sheeps clothing' motiff of the Thunderbolts.

Bendis' "Dark Illuminati" might finally give breathing space to The Hood, whose play for Kingpin of Villains fell disappointingly to the constant interruptions of the Skrull crossover, and other indulgent distractions. With DC's investment across the street with Grant Morrison and a similarly themed direction for Libra, it's been all the harder to take The Hood seriously in his bid to rise from urban thuggery, to mastermind status.

2009 will be a real acid test for Marvel's simmering concepts and ability to bounce back from such an awful lynchpin. As far as the Infinite Wars is concerned, despite noteworthy triumphs, Marvel conceded 2008 to a DC that started slow. Is that about to change? We'll be keen to see!

The Fight: 4 The Issue: 5

Want to start the new year with the best of 2008? Looking for after-Christmas bargains? Check out "The Trust" in collected format! By using Amazon purchase links on the Infinite Wars you help support our tireless efforts! The Gift Shoppe also contains collected versions featuring most reviewed titles from the three years of Secret Archiving! Stay tuned for more belated review on the year that was, continuing with yet another exciting secret war, deviating from the events that drove 2008!

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