Posted by: Graeme McMillan on May 31, 2007
When I say that the best example of the current state of DC’s superhero comics available this week is Marvel’s NEW AVENGERS: ILLUMINATI #3, I hope you’ll all understand that it’s not really a compliment.
I know that Brad Meltzer and Brian Bendis are fans of each others’ work – I remember reading an interview between the two where they were comparing notes on Justice League and Mighty Avengers with something approaching glee – but it’s a really strange thing to read a comic that so clearly embodies the worst attributes of each of them. On the one hand, I almost want to congratulate Bendis on his incredible ability to write (or co-write; Brian Reed is responsible for some of this as well) a comic that’s not so much a story as much as well-illustrated continuity porn fanfic without much of a plot just like Meltzer’s current JLA run has been – It’s certainly a different style for him if nothing else, as he normally works his fandom into a stronger framework that shelters it slightly. But on the other hand, Good Lord, what the hell is this book?
I have no idea how this saw print, unless it was literally just the “Well, they’re all hot creators” thing – Not only is the entire plot of the issue somewhat weak (It’s literally “The heroes go looking for the Beyonder. They find him. Then they leave, because he’s convinced them that he’s gone away… but he hasn’t!”), not only is the issue based around an unnecessary retcon of a series and character over twenty years old – and, man, is that depressing to realize – but it’s a retcon that doesn’t really work, either: If (spoilers) the Beyonder is just a mutant Inhuman who somehow has the powers of a god, and if he remembers Black Bolt and is therefore on some level aware of his origins – as is what’s suggested here – then why does he go through the whole “What is this thing you call ‘life’?” thing during Secret Wars II? I mean, if he knows that he’s not only not a god, but instead a living thing that – at some point – used to be a mortal himself, then why doesn’t he have any grasp of that concept?
There’s something almost admirable about the way that this issue, much more than either of the earlier issues, seeks to specifically address a subject that was neither a dangling plot point nor a question on any fans’ lips, but instead just something that’s clearly been bothering Bendis and/or Reed since they read the last time the Beyonder was given an origin and they didn’t like it – It’s the same (depressing, anal) drive that created things like The Official Handbook To The Marvel Universe in the first place, the urge for things not only to make sense, but to explain to everyone else just how they make sense so there, as well. But sadly, that and the art (which is good, but somehow lacking compared with earlier issues – Maybe it’s just me?) are really the only two things that this issue has going for it; otherwise, it’s just the continuity porn that DC’s big books have been trafficking in for the last year or so with some extra novelty for coming from the other side of the tracks. Awful.