I Really Don't Want to Say This But....
Okay, let me begin by saying that I hate giving a comic a bad review, first off because I want to see all comics succeed, but also because anytime that you go on forums or anywhere else online to find a comic review all you find is just angry geeks shouting "This is the worst thing ever, this is an abomination, I call BS on all this," when in reality it's just fairly decent and just sort of alright. And because of this I try never to complain about a book, especially online, but this is the book that I finally have to kind of break that code of mine on. Sorry folks, this is a rant review, so turn back now unless you want some uncut nerd disappointment. I don't even know if this review is going to make any sense, I'm just going to throw out there everything I want to say, and hope it makes sense... much like what the writer does in this issue.
Let me start by saying that a lot of people love to complain about Brian Michael Bendis and I hear a lot of them saying "Oh he can't write anything." This couldn't be further from the truth, BMB is a fantastic writer and there are some things he writes better than anything else like noir books or teen drama books or lighthearted fun books with a serious twist. However, he really just can't write the big blockbuster "The Universe is in peril and the World is coming to an end" kind of stories, and sadly that seems like that's all he wants to write. And in this chapter we have someone assembling the Infinity Gauntlet and fighting the Red Hulk and throwing him through the Avenger's front door, in other words, it's exactly what BMB has trouble with and it really shows here.
When BMB wants to write a really clever and really suspense driven drama, oh man can he do it well. When he wants to do a story of this level, really all he does is just write down a list of things he wants to see and he puts it in there, it almost feels like fan fiction. And my argument for this is that the person assembling the Infinity Gauntlet is The Hood. Now, I loved the Hood in New Avengers, I thought BMB turned him into a great ongoing villain and major antagonist for the NEW Avengers, however despite what many people think, there is a huge difference between the New Avengers and the Avengers Avengers, The New Avengers are more of a street level operation and that's why the Hood works so well for them, for the Avengers Avengers he just feels really out of place. But then again that might not be it, the reason why he feels out of place might not be because its the wrong team, but it might just simply be because in all honesty, BMB just loves the Hood and wants to put him in whatever he can and make him as cool as he can, and because of that he feels so shoved into this story and so out of place. After Siege the New Avengers ended their last series by finally defeating The Hood once and for all and sending him to prison. Now yes, I want to see the Hood come back, but it's only been seven months. Him going to jail was such a great end to the last New Avengers series and by having him be here just seven months later makes it feel like that ending was of no importance at all.
And speaking of out of place, The Red Hulk being here makes The Hood's placement in the story seem logical. I mentioned that BMB loves to just throw in anything he thinks is cool and assumes it will work, and the Red Hulk being in here is the embodiment of that. In the story The Hood goes and finds him to test his power, so at least there is at least a reason for it, but still when you read it it really does feel like BMB just went "Oh the Red Hulk is big now? Well wait until I put him in the Avengers book, that's going to be awesome right?"
And as for how the Hood gathers the gems together, he starts by going to the lost city of the Inhumans because the Inhumans obviously no longer lives there because they went into space, and he finds the Reality Gem just inside a case that he is able to blast open. Now, granted Black Bolt after Secret Invasion was acting a little reckless, but there is no way I can believe that he just went off into space leaving the most powerful weapon in reality behind without being contained hardly at all like it was a box of old clothes he was keeping in storage. And not to mention its the Reality Gem, so he is able to use it to just wish the other gems to him, however he still goes after them one by one... for some reason. Now granted I haven't kept that up to date on the gems, but if the Reality Gem can just bring all the other ones to you, then why would anyone need to go after the others, it seems like that one gem could rule everything.
Also, and this was really the moment that made me lose hope with this book and it was only five pages into it too, but when the Illuminati divided up the gems, Iron Man got the Reality Gem, not Black Bolt. Now I know that writers sometimes make continuity mistakes, we're all human and there are so many books out there that we can't keep up with everything that happens. However, Brian Michael Bendis wrote the Illuminati series, he's the one who gave Black Bolt the Space Gem and Iron Man the Reality Gem in the first place. BMB has been criticized before for not caring about continuity, and I defended him, but when you can't even keep up with your own continuity, yeah sorry but you need to do your research before you write a story at that point.
Now before I finish up, I have to talk about the art. Now I make no secret of it that I was never that big a fan of John Romita Jr's art, I never got why so many people thought he was "the best artist in the industry working today." Don't get me wrong, I think just like BMB he does some things incredibly well. Heck, two issues ago when Thor fought Galactus, I thought that double page panel was amazing. And I enjoy the art he did on the hulk books, so I was excited about the idea of him drawing both Thor and Red Hulk in this book, the two characters I thought he did better than anyone. However, the art in this is easily the worst I've seen in his career. A lot of people have been trying to defend him saying "oh well its the inkers in this book, they are the ones who made it look bad." Sorry folks, but every now and again you have to look at the people you respect and say "Sorry, but this one isn't up to your skill level." There's a scene where Wonder Man is standing like he's doing the Chicken Dance, you can't blame that on the inkers, that's all him. And I had heard this would star the Hood in this book, honestly I'm still having to take people's word for that because unless Parker Robbins has been on Meth for the past seven months, that could not look less like him. And there's something that I suspected when this title began but didn't want to say anything until now, which is that JRJ either hasn't seem women fashion since the 80s, or he just has a massive obsession with that decade. Because when Maria Hill was wearing that giant collared headband sporting outfit in the last few issues I had to wonder what made him think that looked good, but in this chapter we meet Noh-Varr's girlfriend Annie, who I loved the look of when Chris Bachalo drew her and thought she had a good sense of style going for her, the way JRJ draws her here makes her look like a groupie for an 80s heavy metal band, complete with headband (again?), big hair, giant earrings, and dead eyes.
Alright, now I'm fully aware that everyone stopped reading this about five paragraphs ago, and I can't blame you, I wouldn't have read this review. This is just me finally getting my frustration with this series off my chest, because honestly this chapter sums up everything that I've had doubts about with it since the series returned seven months ago. If you have been thinking "maybe I should drop this book" then pick up this one and it will answer that question for you.
Whew.... thanks everybody, glad I got that off my chest.