Last week marked the Siege's finale -- including the ending of New Avengers, Mighty Avengers, Dark Avengers and Avengers: The Initiative.
Overall, I was pleased with the actual Siege mini-series (didn't read Embedded -- never read those superfluous embedded series). The fourth issue (delayed a couple of weeks) was somewhat disappointing. Yeah, Norm got his due -- and the Sentry/Void was (hopefully) put to rest for good. The way Sentry (as the "angel of death") was taken down seemed a little too easy, but I'm glad he's gone. By the way, as is noted on another thread, the Sentry gets a special "good bye" in a one-shot entitled "The Fallen." Didn't pick it up, but the guy at the shop put it in my box, so I'll get it next time. Maybe it will explain things better than Siege did. Maybe not. It's noteworthy as being written by Paul Jenkins -- the character's creator.
The Sentry played a significant, perhaps central, role in Brian Michael Bendis's relaunch of the Avengers line. While there were some interesting character moments between he and Norman Osborne, I would have preferred that the Sentry's appearances had been limited to his original mini-series and assorted one-shots. I don't know if Bendis ever read John Ostrander's Spectre series, but the revelation that the Sentry was the angel of death seems to have borrowed heavily on the Spectre being the same. This seems somewhat apt for the character -- as his original conception of being a hero forgotten from Marvel's Silver Age was similar to DC's character Triumph having existed in the company's Silver Age. I felt his angelic/demonic connection took a lot away from what Bendis had been building, and that it tied in with Siege was all the more frustrating.
On a similar note, I'll never really understand why Bendis was so hot on using the Hood in any of his Avengers titles. I think the only interesting development was when he broke into Tigra's home (though I think that particular event was poorly written -- probably due to Bendis's dislike of Tigra). The Hood was someone who was empowered by a demon/sorcerer (Dormammu), then lost his powers only to have Loki empower him with the Norn Stones.
And Loki's motivation in this story is very suspect -- he decides to help Asgard -- after it has fallen -- gets the Norn stones back -- and empowers the Avengers so they can beat the Hood's gang of third-string villains. WTF?! Loki claims that he instigated this confrontation for the glory of Asgard. All his plotting, planning and gender-bending was apparently supposed to result in Asgard conquering Earth, not Loki conquering Asgard -- or so Loki claimed before being massacred.
In all of his Avengers stories, I think Dark Avengers is where Bendis worked best. He's not really a master of the big super-hero slamfests. He's much better at character-driven stories -- and examining the dark, twisted people who comprised DA was interesting -- especially aided the dark, shadowy artwork of Mike Deodato. The ending was pretty good for this series -- though Dark Wolverine's escape was disappointing. Also Cap's decision to recruit Victoria Hand seems forced -- just so Bendis can keep her around.
Secret Avengers is kinda the replacement for Dark Avengers -- with Mike Deodato on art chores, and the team's premise being more of a black ops thing, it seems. Brubaker is the writer, so I have high hopes for this. Cool to see the Valkyrie finally getting into the spotlight again -- and the rest of the line-up is pretty satisfying. This is now the only Avengers title on my pull list.
New Avengers got its own, double-sized, double-priced one-shot conclusion. Unfortunately it's more of the Hood and Madame Masque. That's another problem I had with Bendis's writing. Last time we saw Whitney Frost (Masque), she was deathly afraid of being seen in public. After helping the Avengers beat her pop -- Count Nefaria -- she "melted" into the shadows. Somehow, she ended up back in prison and became the Hood's GF, and held a very public position with his gang. So now, she goes crawling back to her daddy -- and he decides to help give the Hood powers similar to his own (another WTF moment). In the 70s, a team with the Scarlet Witch, Iron Man, Thor and Wonder Man (and others not quite as powerful) couldn't defeat Nefaria. But apparently Ms. Marvel and Wolverine is all it takes these days. Well, there is some good Bryan Hitch artwork -- with great moody coloring. Not a horrible end to the series before it comes back, but a good jumping off point for me.
With the exception of the Frank Cho issues, Mighty Avengers never really did much for me. Even in the Cho stories, the use of a nude Jan Pym as Ultron was just bizarre. When Dan Slott took over, I had high expectations that were never met. The art was mostly mediocre and despite some decent ideas, Slott was never really able to write one absorbing Avengers tale. Not sad to see this go. I guess the non-adjective version of the Avengers is kinda the replacement for this. With John Romita, Jr. on board as artist -- it's an easy pass for me.
Finally, we get Avengers: The Initiative. This book was probably as superfluous as Siege: Embedded. Despite a few interesting developments (Tigra's pregnancy, star-crossed lovers Diamondback and Constrictor), the post-Secret Invasion issues just didn't add much to the canvas of Siege. Christos Gage will be joined by Mike McKone on Avengers Academy -- a new title born from the ashes of The Initiative. Gage announced there would be a cool reveal at the end of issue one regarding the new recruits (all of whom were announced last month). Also, this will be the new home for Hank Pym, Tigra, Quicksilver and a few other leftovers. I'll probably check it out occasionally -- depending on the storyline.
Probably the title I'm most highly anticipating is the "Children's Crusade" (or the Search for the Scarlet Witch). Jim Cheung's artwork is always a treat for the eyes -- and though the cast of the Young Avengers is comprised of characters with whom I'm only lukewarm, Allan Heinberg scripted a fun series several years ago. I don't think we'll ever see the Scarlet Witch as the iconic distaff member of the Avengers again, but I am anxious to see where her story leads -- and hopefully have some questions answered (like what is the deal with Hawkeye -- and is Agatha Harkness really dead?).
At the end of the day, I have to give it to Bendis for casting such a huge spotlight on the Avengers franchise. Despite all the hype and hoopla (and sales), with the exception of Dark Avengers, I can't say the past several years worth of Avengers stories were really all that.
Talk about it here!