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A Tale Of Two Avengers: Comparing Bendis’ Two Team Books

Graeme McMillan

If nothing else, comparing both of Brian Michael Bendis’ relaunched Avengers books – AVENGERS and NEW AVENGERS – is useful in illustrating the importance of artists on his writing. Well, that and the importance of choosing the right characters to write in the first place.

See, to me, New Avengers is successful in a way that Avengers just… isn’t, and at first read, I couldn’t really work out why. Both series have essentially the same plot for their opening arcs – Cosy rebuilding of the team is interrupted by massive disasterous event that forces our heroes onto the defensive – and, let’s be honest, Bendis can only write that kind of thing in one way (Lots of characters asking what’s going on, double page spreads to demonstrate the scale of the threat before cutting to vignettes cutting between individual characters asking what’s wrong and being told to concentrate on what is happening at that very moment while, somewhere, someone figures out the bigger picture). But despite the similarities, Avengers feels so much more scattered and haphazard, so less smooth a reading experience, that it’s as if it’s been written by someone else to me.

The trick is, I think, that Bendis’ voice works far better for the characters in New Avengers, and Stuart Immonen’s art is so much easier on the eye than John Romita Jr.’s (I feel like some kind of turncoat for saying that, for some reason; I used to love Romita Jr.’s artwork, and still feel like it’s got a lot of charm at times, but it really feels too busy, too blocky, for me in Avengers for some reason that I can’t quite put my finger on). Avengers is something that feels like a slog to read – in part because it stutters instead of flows, catching and slowing down with unwieldy dialogue – Bendis’ Thor in particular is horrible, it’s not just me, right? – while New Avengers speeds by, in comparison. Is it because Bendis’ take on Avengers‘ more iconic characters feels more forced and less natural than the down-to-earth characters in New Avengers? I’m not sure – I’m not sure that the disconnect is there for anyone other that myself, to be honest – but as I catch up on both series, it’s something I find kind of wonderful, more than anything else: That the same writer writing what could easily be the same series twice can come up with such different results. While Avengers just feels Okay to me, New Avengers continues to be Good.

Maybe I just want to see Doctor Strange get punched by Iron Fist. It’s normally something that simple.

13 Responses to “ A Tale Of Two Avengers: Comparing Bendis’ Two Team Books ”

  1. That’s . . . it?

  2. I never could get into Avengers. I guess it was just too many varied characters some from varied teams or ones that usually act alone to be done by one voice.

    Wolverine is supposedly the biggest loner in comics but I think he has been in every team ever including the JLA. you have to write him differently than spidey who is a loner generally but works well with others. Then you have to write the core team as more connected, and then you have to have the on/off members. The ever changing cast complicates things more so than other comics. I imagine the book is very hard to write for.

  3. Ninety minutes of podcast, plus whatever they’ve recorded this week, plus Tucker Stone’s critikkake, plus this?

    SLOTH.

    Also, that Future-Tony cover is the cover of the year. And you all know it.

    //\Oo/\\

  4. I’m calling that one pithy bit of business there, Mr. McMillion$. Plenty to dig into if you read Bendis’ books. But I don’t.

    But it’s okay, I have read The Avengers. Sadly, the following has nothing to do with anything you said really, fair warning and such.

    Looking to the future: When these numerous Avengers teams inevitably team-up will Wolverine have to keep running from one group to the other? Also, if they do the whole fight-each-other-before-recognising-the-common-enemy dance routine will Wolverine just stand there stabbing himself in the face for the duration?

    Casting a glance back: I like that Avengers one where the Hulk runs off and poses as a robot(!) in order to join the circus and ends up in full clown makeup juggling elephants. That might even have been the first ever issue. Talk about peaking too soon. I hope that’s in the movie!

    As ever, thanks.

  5. When Bendis was announced as writing the Avengers (as opposed to New Avengers) I thought it was kind of odd to call it a new era. I’m not surprised at all about the result.

  6. “John Romita Jr.’s (I feel like some kind of turncoat for saying that, for some reason; I used to love Romita Jr.’s artwork, and still feel like it’s got a lot of charm at times, but it really feels too busy, too blocky”

    I noticed the change all the way back when he was doing Spider-Man with JMS. His line has gotten thicker and his overall look as gotten a bit more cartoonish, leaving behind the softer and more naturalistic vibe of his dad. I actually get a bit of a Sal Buscema feel off JRJR’s art now, and while I’m a fan of Sal’s, it just doesn’t feel right.

    Mike

  7. I think it’s as simple as – NEW AVENGERS is full of characters he wants to write and AVENGERS is full of characters he feels he should write. It’s insane that he’s writing AVENGERS after the failure of MIGHTY AVENGERS. The current Marvel method seems to be “Well, that didn’t work last time, let’s try it again!” viz a viz – ATLAS’ fourteenth ongoing.

  8. I agree Bendis is not a great fit for the “main” Avengers book — but I’m at a loss to think of who else Marvel could have had writing it that’s as much of a draw as he is. When you’re trying to hype the “new era” and the return to an “iconic” team, it probably wouldn’t do to have it sell less than the “old, uniconic” era…

  9. I had hoped Slott would be on the main Avengers book and am not certain why he wasn’t. Was it really a sales issue? I never got the impression the book wasn’t doing well. Maybe not as well as Bendis’ New Avengers, but not so poorly that it meant booting Slott, either.
    I loved Mighty. It had some flaws but that was the Avengers book this 25-year-long fan WANTED to read.
    As for Bendis’ two books, I’m reading Avengers and haven’t touched New Avengers. I’m, frankly, very glad he has a somewhat different style on the former.
    Also, I don’t think it’s that he DOESN’T want to write the characters in Avengers. But I think that the fact you’ve got the icons of Cap, Thor and Iron Man force him to take the book a bit more seriously and treat it like his version of an “old school” Marvel title as opposed to “Brian Bendis’ Hip Street Heroes”.
    And I’m looking forward to his introducing the Red Hulk to the team.
    All that being said, I will be happy for the day when Bendis is no longer affiliated with the team.
    I would love to see Jeff Parker take over.

  10. “I’m looking forward to his introducing the Red Hulk to the team.”

    So you’re the one.

  11. While Avengers may not be a very good book in many people’s estimations, and Bendis does seem like an odd fit for the direction and focus of the book, the problem Marvel faced when launching this book was; if anyone other than Bendis or Millar launched this title it would have felt second-rate. Especially if Marvel planned to keep New Avengers around with Bendis writing it. Overall, I see this as a potential problem for Marvel (and DC re: Johns). When he’s not writing the book there’s a perception among a lot of fans that the book is less important. No one has emerged to be the next big writer and that leads to a sort of dull, monotonous voice to both universes.

  12. Michael,

    Who knows? It could be fun. I’ve always enjoyed Avengers the most when they bring in the anti-heroes, bet it a guest appearance by the original Hulk, Namor, the Swordsman, Sandman (who had a verrrry brief stint back in the 1980s or 1990s). I even kind of liked the inclusion of Ares on Bendis’ original Mighty Avengers run a couple of years back.

  13. Slott quit Mighty Avengers because the decision was made to promote him to full time Spider-Writer, and he wanted to devote all his energies to that.

    Slott’s MA, even at its worst, was 10 times better than, oh, 99.99% of SEVEN YEARS worth of Bendis Avengers stories.

    Understand I’m talking quality here. I don’t give a shit about sales.

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