tisdag 17 maj 2011

Brian Michael Bendis & David Finch: The New Avengers 1: Breakout

Brian Michael Bendis is apparently somewhat of a superstar these days. For the last decade, I haven't had the money to follow the US comics scene as I used to do, and I'm still sufficiently unhappy with Marvel's pricing policy that I don't care to follow their stuff particularly closely, but with my incomes going up again (unfortunately at the cost of working more), I've been filling out some holes in my collection. Initially concentrating on Essentials, I've also been getting a bunch of regular TPBs – and one of those has been the first New Avengers collection, happily for me.

I've mainly good things to say about the book. Finch is a good artist, and the inkers have generally done a good job over his pencils. It's strong in composition and anatomy, and the line art looks great; in one chapter, the line looks somewhat like good younger-generation Kubert inked with just a hint of Gerry Talaoc elegance – not too much, to give it that sort of "oily" look that I think a lot of the Filipino inkers of the seventies brought to the page, but just a hint. (Sadly, I don't know which inker is responsible for which pages.) Unfortunately, the colors sometimes overpower the line art (as happens so frequently with computer coloring), and when they go for "dark & moody", the result is just "murky & hard-to-read". Mostly, though, the colors are good, and overall the art is very good.

The writing is good, too. The story is as follows: Attorney Matt Murdock is at a prison for super-powered beings (chaperoned by Spider-Woman and bodyguarded by Luke Cage) to talk with Sentry when a prison break occurs. By chance, Captain America and Spiderman happen upon the the scene as well, and Iron Man also arrives to lend a hand. Together, they manage to keep the prison break down to just a minor disaster instead of a full-blown one, but there are still 40+ super-criminals on the loose. The next day, Cap makes Iron Man a suggestion: Why not restart the Avengers? They did good together, and they are sorely needed to stop those super-baddies on the loose. Tony Stark doesn't quite have the money to bankroll the Avengers these days, but Cap, who is very hard to say no to, persuades him that they can do it on the cheap. Cap then proceeds to persuade Spider-Woman, Cage, and Spider-Man to join as well. As (IIRC) Tony Stark puts it, Cap is a very hard person to say no to... (Although Daredevil and Sentry manage to, at least initially.)

So the team reassembles, and under the leadership of Cap and Iron Man manage to negotiate the hot waters of government bureaucracy as well as kick some serious do-badder butt... But will it be enough to counter the danger that is building in the Forgotten Land?

I won't go into the plot more than that; you deserve to read it yourself. The good thing about Bendis' writing is that it flows very well and that he manages to do a lot of characterization in the dialogue without it coming off as contrived. Also, a lot of what Bendis does with the characters is really good: Luke Cage learns what it means to be in the really big leagues; Cap and Iron Man put snotty S.H.I.E.L.D. directors in their place without being rude about it, just very firm and confident in their status as top-line government-endorsed superheroes; Cap is impressed by Peter Parker's dedication and guts; practically everybody is (justly) impressed by Cap – I love the line about how it's nearly impossible to say no to Cap when he asks something of you, not just because he's a living legend but also because he's so totally honest, true-blue and earnest. Etc.

I do have some quibbles with Bendis' writing, though. Apparently, he lists Aaron Sorkin as one of his favorite writers, and there is indeed a certain TV-ish quality, something of a Sorkinesque glibness to some of the dialogue – as if it tries to press just a little bit too much info and cleverness into too-short pieces of dialogue, where taking a couple of panels more to let it develop more naturally would have worked better. He also occasionally tries to have his characters and the situations they're be more adult than the writing can really support, which leads to it looking a bit silly instead – which is of course also something you can see on TV shows occasionally. But overall, Bendis does good here, and this is a good, strong superhero book. Recommended.

The views of another reviewer here.

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