"Avengers: The Children's Crusade" is the bright spot this month for Avengers-related titles. As I mentioned in the "Fear Itself" post, I HATED "Avengers" #17. I'm excited by the groundwork "New Avengers" #16.1 lays here, but the issue itself is pretty ordinary. I liked the "Captain America and Bucky" story, but I'm pretty sure I'll be hard pressed to remember what happened in "Captain America" and "Secret Avengers" when I pick up those books next month, after fairly unmemorable stories this month. With all the terribleness related to "Fear Itself," it was a bummer to feel so meh about so many Marvel books unrelated to "Fear Itself" as well. I was hoping for more than just one bright spot.
Avengers: The Children's Crusade #7: I loved most of this issue. Heinberg does an amazing job, particularly for someone who doesn't have decades of experience writing these characters, giving us perfect characterizations of such iconic characters as Captain America, Dr. Doom, and the Scarlet Witch. The plot remains intricate, but I still generally remember what happened in the previous issue, even with the two-month gap between issues. Heinberg does a good job keeping the Young Avengers in the mix even as this mini-series starts to focus more on the more big-name characters. (Eli's impetuous decision to interrupt the spell was a pretty accurate portrayal of his character.) Heinberg also keeps up the tension. Since it's been made clear in "X-Factor" #225 that the results of this mini-series will, actually, affect the Marvel Universe when it's over, the fact that Wanda may -- or may not -- bring back all mutants really keeps you on the edge of your seat. When you add Dr. Doom and his questionable motivations to the mix, it is really unclear how this series is going to end. However, at this point, the end is the problem. It's time. This series at this point has spanned 16 months. We have at least four to go. I don't know why, but it's annoying me, to have the story extended over so many months. Although, as I mentioned, I applaud Heinberg for maintaining the tension over the course of these eight issues (including the special) and 16 months, I think it's time to get some closure.
Captain America #3: OK, to be honest, I'm still not really sure what's happening in this arc. I mean, I think I sort of get it. Bravo uses Jimmy Jupiter to transport Steve into the imaginary world where Bravo was trapped since the war. To do so, he uses some crazy enormous Cap android created by the Red Skull as bait. I get all that, I guess. But, I'm still not really sure what Bravo's motivations are. He seems to still be a good guy (I mean, people who kill Nazis are always good guys in comic books, right?), but he wants Steve dead. Or, maybe he doesn't? I'm still not sure. I'm not even sure if he's angry, despite the fact that I'm pretty sure he wants revenge. At any rate, McNiven's art is really what makes this book, which isn't normally something I'd say about a Brubaker-scribed book, but there you go.
Captain America and Bucky #622: Although they're a little hokey, I'm still enjoying these stories. I like how Bucky is narrating this series, because it's mostly giving me hope that this series is meant as a stop-gap measure to keep Bucky in our minds until they resurrect him. (Hey, a guy can dream.) At any rate, it's a pretty good self-contained story about Bucky dealing with his insecurities about being surrounded by the super-men of the Invaders. I will say, though, at some point we're probably going to have to get past just "war stories." I don't mean that the stories shouldn't be set during the war, but I think we're probably going to need some sort of epic Invaders arc or something to inject some energy into this book.
New Avengers #16.1: OK, so, first, let's do the bad. First, the art is this book SUCKS. Awful. I mean, it's truly awful. I know it's sacrilege to say that because it's Neal Adams, but I really felt like he drew this book in five minutes while playing the violin and ironing the drapes at the same time. Second, I don't buy, for a minute, that Norman Osborn would've been able to staff the Raft entirely with people who are loyal to him. As I've said before and I will (unfortunately) likely say again, simply because one of your characters (this time, Wolverine) acknowledges that the plot device is ridiculous doesn't mean it's OK for the plot device to be ridiculous in the first place. Are we supposed to believe Steve Rogers would let that happen? Moreover, if it were true, then why would he wait until the Avengers were there to try to escape? Couldn't his flunkies just have left open the door and ignored a boat docked at the Raft? I mean, if he had such total control over the facility's staff, then why wouldn't you do it that way? Why risk a battle with the Avengers? Third, who the hell is the squid lady on the last page? OK, now, let's do the good. I'm totally down with a year-long Norman Osborn arc. Although I didn't read "New Avengers" during the post-"Civil War" era, so their beef with Osborn is something I only know from reading Wikipedia, I have followed all the aspects of his war with Spider-Man since, like, forever. I think having them take on Norman will actually go a long way to setting this series apart from the main title, and provide a villain who's suitable for street-level superheroes. (Hawkeye seems doomed to just stand around the streets watching the Avengers fight in the main title, but I've more or less resigned myself to Bendis' unforgivable mis-handling of him.) I hope, however, that Bendis is preparing to pare down the roster at some point. With the addition of Daredevil, the New Avengers have a ten-person roster, which is actually enough for two separate Avengers teams. I love all the characters on the roster and I enjoy their interactions, but I think we might be able to enjoy them all the more if everyone weren't fighting for screen time, if you will. We shall see. At any rate, this issue is exciting more for what it promises than anything Bendis does here, but I'll take what I can get, particularly post-"Fear Itself."
Secret Avengers #17: Meh. This issue is OK. It's an interesting enough story, and the ending is a surprise but one that comes from clues left by Ellis as the issue progressed. Ellis is a quirky writer, preferring grim stories with a lot of procedural elements. Everyone spent a lot of time yelling, "War Machine engaged," or "Valkyrie en route." It's like last issue, when the Beast essentially narrated the issue with his scientific mumbo-jumbo. Essentially, I've found both issue #16 and this issue...slow. I know people really like Ellis, but so far I'm pretty bored by his version of the Secret Avengers. But, he tells a story that makes sense, more or less, so I can't complain too much, I guess. Although Ellis is probably better suited to the stated goal of this title (black-ops missions), I'm not entirely sure if I enjoy them. Let's see how we go post-"Fear Itself" and we'll see if I keep getting this title.