"So... gentlemen" the Red Hulk inquires, staring down the former members of the covert (now defunct) think-tank The Illuminati, who years ago tasked themselves protectors of the all powerful Infinity Gems. "Where are they?"
In AVENGERS Issue #9, never has Charles Xavier, Reed Richards, Dr. Strange and Tony Stark appeared so uncertain to answer a simple question. Taking such a trusting leap of faith in the Red Hulk and Steve Roger's belief that this once declared enemy of the state has now been truly and successfully rehabilitated was more than difficult. True, both the Reality and Power gems stolen by the villainous Parker Robbins were used to defeat the red monster, and the Red Hulk did facilitate the plan to use the remaining gems to re-obtain them. But would the red beast, who failed to take over the country before, betray the Avengers by seizing the power of the Infinity Gems for himself and reattempt the same feat of mutiny?
Who can you trust is the underlying theme of this issue, expertly written by Brian Michael Bendis. Without a single punch thrown yet drenched with incredible tension, the electrifying exposure of The Illuminati by the Avengers, which fuels Steve Roger's disdain for Tony Stark, is effectively balanced by a terrific prison back story that details how Parker Robbins manipulated an Inhuman with kindness into revealing the location of the first Infinity gem. The dialog is sharp, the pace is excellent, and Bendis knocks this story out of the park leaving the reader in an extreme state of suspicion where Rogers distrusts Stark, the Inhuman mistrusts Robbins, and no one but Captain America trusts the Rulk.
The most pleasant surprise is the artwork of John Romita Jr. While his work has been severely disappointing as of late, Romita seemingly takes his time and puts forth more of an effort in this issue, resulting in some well drawn characters (especially when it comes to their display of emotions.) Of course, it does help that one of Romita’s biggest weaknesses as an artist... i.e. action scenes.. are nonexistent in this issue. And while he still has trouble drawing a good Red Hulk, Romita deserves a bit of praise here for turning the quality up a notch versus his usual lackluster artwork, resulting in one fantastic Avengers comic.
4.5 out of 5 Stars
A general falls. A red monster rises. Stay tuned.
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