Once again, it’s H.A.M.M.E.R. time!
After being left to rot in a jail cell following the events of “Siege,” Norman Osborn is subsequently sprung from his imprisonment by a group of loyalists from his organization. Teaming up with Madame Hydra and her terrorist organization, he aims to bring the heroes who took him down to their knees. Meanwhile, the Avengers themselves are left to rebuild in the wake of “Fear Itself.” Though some of their members died in the crossover (and subsequently came right back in their own ongoing series) the team’s morale is bolstered by the return of the Vision and the all-new addition of X-woman Storm. Then everyone fights, Osborn loses, Hydra emerges stronger than ever in the shadows and Vision pouts about being brought back to life. The end. I don’t want to be glad that Bendis is leaving the “Avengers,” but these last few volumes have made it clear that new blood is needed.
This volume starts off strongly with some scenes that play to Bendis’ strengths in crafting good dialogue as we’re shown flashbacks to the big events of the Marvel Universe over the past few years as on innocuous scientist gathers genetic samples from them. From there, we get the traditional “Who’s going to be an Avenger?” plot as the team is re-shuffled and Osborn’s escape is investigated by Daisy Johnson of “Secret Warriors” fame. Not only is it nice to see her get some wider exposure after proving herself in that series, the facts she uncovers help to set up H.A.M.M.E.R. as a credible threat this time around.
However, things quickly degenerate into superhero fighty-punchy from there as the team splits up to cover the hideouts most likely to hide the madman. If you guessed that each group quickly finds themselves overwhelmed and captured by goons with superpowers, then you’re probably not going to be surprised by anything this collection has to offer. Bringing back Osborn to revisit his contention that superheroes are the root of all that is wrong with this world is an interesting starting point for a story. However, Bendis never really does anything interesting with this premise other than use it to set up a lot of fighting. The way Osborn is finally defeated is also eye-rollingly lame and sums up this volume’s lack of imagination quite well.
At least most of this arc is nice to look at. Daniel Acuna provides art for five of the seven issues of this story and as I’ve said in the past, his retro style is always appealing to look at. Parts of it do come off as rushed, but that’s something I can live with. The “rushed” part is evident when you consider that two issues in the middle feature art from Renato Guedes who has a much more conventional style that’s perfectly acceptable for superhero comics. He does have some interesting panel layouts, but his work here gets the job done and not a whole lot more.
There’s also a stand-alone story spotlighting Vision’s return. Oddly, it comes at the end of the volume despite the fact that it takes place before the events of this storyline. As I was never much into the old-school Avengers I don’t have any particular affinity for the character. That said, it’s going to take more than seeing him go around to She-Hulk and Magneto to get some answers regarding his destruction to make me care. Brandon Peterson provides the art and while it’s competent, there’s nothing about it which stands out or elevates the story.
Jonathan Hickman has been announced as the new writer for “Avengers” and “New Avengers,” and not a moment too soon. I’m looking forward to seeing his take on both teams with the hope that his big-idea gonzo sci-fi writing will provide the new perspective these titles need. Bendis has written some good stories with these characters over the years and I hope that he’ll be able to get it back together before the end to send things out on a high note.