New Avengers Vol. 1
Brian Michael Bendis, pencils and cover by David Finch
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Buy *New Avengers Vol. 1: Breakout* online

New Avengers Vol. 1: Breakout
Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils and cover by David Finch
Marvel Comics
160 pages
January 2005
rated 4 of 5 possible stars
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When the Scarlett Witch went ballistic, it cost the Avengers pride, respect, and most importantly, lives. With several Avengersí lives forfeited, multi-millionaire Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man, has disbanded and defunded the elite team of superheroes. With superhero teams such as the ever-expanding X-Men, the Fantastic Four and new fledgling and splinter groups popping up all the time, maybe it is finally time for the team to retire - or maybe Marvel Comics just realizes that the iconic Avengers need a new take on this whole super-hero thing.

Six months have passed since the Avengers split. When Luke Cage, Matt Murdock (the Daredevil), and Jessica Drew (Spider-Woman) visit The Raft, Ryker Islandís Maximum-Maximum Security, they are thrown into battle as all eighty seven of the super-powered inmates are released. Spider-Man, Captain America, and Iron Man quickly appear on the scene to help contend with fight, but their efforts barely change the course of the battle. It is the solemn, self-imprisoned Sentry who saves the day.

In the aftermath of the battle, Captain American and Iron Man concede that the group worked well together and propose that a new team be formed, if only to help retrieve the forty-two prisoners who made their escape. Everyone but Daredevil tentatively joins, and the crusade to discover who broke open the jail begins. It will lead them ultimately into the wilds of the Savage Land to fight mutations and even the vampyric mutant, Sauron. But before the battle is finished, Wolverine will join, only to make things more complicated.

The concept of these New Avengers starts out interestingly. Iron Man and Captain America provide links to the old team, establishing precedence and continuity to the new team. The other characters add striking elements to the team that the previous Avengers had long since lost. The loaner and comic of the group, Spider-Man, who rarely stays long on any team, seems as peculiar on the Avengers as does Wolverineís acceptance onto the team ( though he will maintain dual membership with the Avengers and the X-Men).

Spider-Woman serves as an interesting counterbalance to Spider-Man as well as the sole female on the starting team. Luke Cage, one of Marvelís earliest black superheroes, rounds out the team, though his presence - like Spider-Womanís - feels a bit dubious. Thus far, he has been given mostly one-liners or brief words and lacks any significant depth. In many panels, he lingers in the background. If Marvel is trying to be more multi-cultural and gender sensitive in including a female and a black hero on this bold new team, then that indeed is a great step forward for the exposure of strong female and black characters. But if the New Avengers is merely a long-winded tale to bring back the old Avengers, the story in retrospect will merely be tokenistic and disappointing, especially given this first volume in which Captain American and Iron Man dominate the dialogue.

first story arc of the New Avengers certainly proves entertaining and exciting, setting up a variety of ongoing sub-themes with characters and government associations (in particular, a tenuous and suspect relationship with S.H.I.E.L.D.). The cover art stands as boldly as the characters displayed on it. With a bolt of lightning giving slight illumination, the New Avengers pose in group formation with dark shadows cast upon each, foreshadowing the darker, edgier tones this team means to explore. The action intermixes keenly with the dialogue and exposition so that neither dominates for too long.

Michael Bendis takes the Avengers in a bold new direction with this new team, and it will be interesting to see who stays and who leaves the team over the following volumes. There seems to be some implication that readers havenít seen the last of Daredevil or the Sentry, who make cameos but are reluctant to join. Thus assembled, the team proves a good mix of popular and marginal heroes that could prove ripe for development.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Lance Eaton, 2006

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