Wednesday, 11 July 2012

The New Avengers #28 Review

For those that haven't been following the universe-spanning events of "Avengers vs X-Men", the Phoenix Force has returned to Earth and splintered, taking five of the X-Men (Cyclops, Emma Frost, Namor, Colossus and Magik) as hosts. Despite the Phoenix Five doing everything in their power to make the world a better place, ranging from solving world hunger to providing electricity to areas without, the Avengers have decided such incomprehensible power cannot be trusted in the hands of mere mortals and that it will only be a matter of time before the X-Men are corrupted from within. As a result, the Phoenix Five have outlawed the Avengers as a group, driving them underground. This particular issue of New Avengers tells the tale of three captured team members - Hawkeye, Spider-Woman and Luke Cage, as they struggle with imprisonment and plot to escape the X-Men's brig.

First things first, glad to see that Hawkeye's condition has greatly improved since we last saw him in the pages of Avengers vs X-Men. He'd infuriated Emma Frost to such an extent, she decided Clint deserved to die and attempted to roast him like a marshmallow! There's no hint of his injuries here, so all seems to have gone well when Cyclops brought him back to life through sheer willpower. They even put him back in his costume, which I had assumed was burned up during the initial scuffle, but that's a minor quibble.

Unfortunately, while this issue may have brought an Avenger back to life, it certainly does no favours for their public relations. At several points throughout the story, the imprisoned heroes act disturbingly like psychopaths. Hawkeye and Spider-Woman being the pair most at fault. I suppose you could understand their behaviour taking their associations with SHIELD and their past life as spies into account, but they go to some questionable extremes to take down their X-Men captors. One flings a plate into the throat of a young girl and proceeds to break her arm, while the other manages to obtain a pen to write a letter...and holds it to her sympathetic teenage captor's neck, threatening to kill her. So these supposed superheroes are more than happy to physically assault teenagers and when that doesn't work, threaten their lives. Which part of these characterisations sounded good to Brian Michael Bendis as he was writing?

Thankfully, it's not a complete loss, as the moments where they aren't being totally out of character are actually rather charming. There's a particularly funny beat when Spider-Woman attempts to rescue Hawkeye from his cell, only for him to think it's a shape-shifter imitating her. The romance between the pair continues to be a highlight across the entire Avengers franchise, while also raising questions after coming out the same week as Avengers Assemble #5 which depicted an illicit kiss with Black Widow. It just goes to show, they can take the quiver away from Clint Barton, but he always has one "arrow" in reserve.

Luke Cage is the Avenger who comes out of the issue with his reputation most intact. Rather than follow suit with his deplorable colleagues, Cage's thoughts are geared entirely towards the welfare of his wife, Jessica Jones, and their baby, Danielle. It certainly doesn't hurt that the X-Man guarding him is Warpath. It's a lot easier to sympathise with Cage taking on a hardened veteran of X-Force over his team mates cowardly take downs of Magma and one of the Stepford Cuckoos.

As with the majority of these "Avengers vs X-Men" tie-ins, the intent comes across as muddled and confusing. Exactly which side are we meant to be rooting for here? This is a New Avengers issue, so you'd expect the title team to be sympathetic. However, all of the team's members come off extremely badly. Meanwhile, the X-Men, who are the captors in this scenario, are kind, considerate and polite to a fault. They're feeding the Avengers, bathing the Avengers, rushing to get whatever would make the Avengers feel more comfortable, but treated as the villains for their troubles. At the end of the day, the Avengers have never had a good reason to come after the X-Men or regard them so poorly. Infact, with so many members crossing over between the two, you'd expect the Avengers to think highly of Mutants. Until the day comes where the Avengers can produce a valid reason for fearing the Phoenix Five (other than "urmmmm, it could go wrong?"), I will struggle to empathise with their plight.

6 out of 10

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