Avengers #18: This issue serves more or less as a sequel to "New Avengers" #16.1, showing us a former S.H.I.E.L.D. forensics expert, Dr. Carolina Washington, providing biological samples she stole from superhero crime scenes to Norman Osborn, who re-took control of H.A.M.M.E.R. in the aforementioned issue. Bendis uses an interesting device here to build the story (and tension), showing Washington stealing the samples from the scenes of Goliath's and Captain America's murders during the Civil War and from Central Park after the final battle of the Skrull Invasion. I thought it was a clever way to demonstrate that "Fear Itself" is just the most recent in a long string of terrible events that have created a sense of doom and gloom among the heroes. (Thing speaks to this fact as well when he notes that it's been "a really crappy year," referring of course to Johnny Storm's death in addition to the matter at hand, his destruction of Avengers Tower.)
I have two complaints about this issue, though. One, I don't believe for a minute that Luke Cage and Jessica Jones would complain about the fact that some of the Avengers were going to have to stay temporarily in the Mansion. Second, and most importantly, in perhaps the best example of pet peeve #1 ever, we don't get what seemingly is promised on the cover, the resolution of who will be an Avenger. Cap alludes to the need to make a decision at the end of the issue, but no decisions are actually made. I've been hoping that Bendis would pare down the roster for months (maybe Ms. Marvel, Spidey, and Wolverine could actually chose between the two teams) so that we could begin seeing coherent teams. The beauty of the Avengers has always been the dynamics of the team, but it's hard to get a strong sense of that when you're dealing with a 25+ person roster where everyone gets one or two panels of witty banter an issue, if they're lucky. I think going toe-to-toe with Norman Osborn and H.A.M.M.E.R. would be a great team-building exercise, if Bendis actually gets the rosters under control. (Maybe I'll find out who Squid Lady is...)
New Avengers #17: OK, as promised at the end of last issue, it looks like this year is all about H.A.M.M.E.R. Just as "Avengers" #17 appeared to flow from "New Avengers"# 16.1, this issue seems to flow from "Avengers" #17, with Osborn and his crew seeking to continue collecting items from the superhero community, in the form of Stark's armor and Wolverine's blood. (Osborn fails to get the former, but does get the latter.) It's unclear whether Osborn is planning on creating his own U-Men or something more sinister, but I think Bendis is on the right track here in building the mystery and keeping Norman sinister. In another pet peeve #2 moment this month, we see Daredevil on the cover here, but he doesn't appear anywhere in the book. Given that he had an entire issue dedicated to him in "New Avengers" #16, you'd think he would actually appear at some point. Of course, considering that we already have a nine-person squad AND Iron Man and War Machine in play in this issue, I can understand why Bendis found it hard to work him into the script. Overall, I was pretty pleased with this issue and the direction Bendis seems to be going. I was a little surprised to hear that the Hand and HYDRA had thrown in their lot with Osborn, though it makes sense. (We saw A.I.M. involved with H.A.M.M.E.R. last issue. But, I feel like I missed something with the addition of the Hand and HYDRA. Is Squid Lady attached to one of those groups?) Now, as I mentioned above, if he could just pare down the teams a bit, I'd be a happy camper.