Remember when Annuals were big, larger-than-life events that were just too much to be crammed into the regular, monthly title? If so, that's fantastic, I like knowing that I'll have someone to discuss comic books with when we're both in the nursing home. Over the years, the purpose of the Annual in comics seems to have fallen by the wayside. On the bright side, at least we aren't getting inane "events" where a year's Annuals all introduced lame new characters never to be seen or heard from again. (Marvel and DC, stop snickering, you're both guilty of that one.)
Now that Annuals are a little more infrequent, I had hopes that "New Avengers Annual" #3 would be something big, something special, something that was more than just another issue of "New Avengers." Well, guess what? This felt like another issue of "New Avengers."
With that news out of the way, the issue itself? It's not bad. Following up on "Dark Reign: The List: Avengers" from three months ago, Brian Michael Bendis and Mike Mayhew finally answer the question of what Hawkeye's been doing after capture by Norman Osborn. As it turns out, it's not the world's longest game of Monopoly. Bendis shuffles most of the Avengers out of the scene and turns the issue into an all-female-Avengers rescue mission. It feels a bit contrived and slightly unrealistic in spots, but it's a fun piece of fluff. Once the story gets rolling there are some slightly entertaining action sequences, and some of the lines of dialogue from the Dark Avengers are funny. On the other hand, Bendis' trademark dialogue also comes across like self-parody every now and then, most notably when the female Avengers are discussing Hawkeye's situation and wondering what to do next. If you were wondering how the story got extended to the size of an Annual, look no further than the going-nowhere-slowly dialogue in those scenes.
Mayhew's art is uneven throughout the issue. Some of the early scenes are the best; like Hawkeye fighting against his captors when he sees a chance for escape. Mayhew's art feels energetic on those pages (although the computer-generated sound-effects look wildly out of place and are utterly unnecessary), and gave me a lot of hope for the rest of the issue. There, Mayhew's art looks like pencils that were slightly airbrushed for a final result that feels like art that had all of the hard edges carefully sanded off. Later pages, though, come across more as being posed and modeled off of still photos. Mayhew's definitely an artist who is better at the big action events than the quiet moments.
Last but not least, one of the hazards of working in a shared universe crops its ugly head. Namely, for the second time in two weeks, a comic at Marvel that hasn't been published just yet had its ending spoiled. Sure, I think everyone knows what the ending is (although I'll refrain from spoiling it here) but none the less, it's cringe-inducing. I suppose it's better than holding back entire lines of comics while waiting on one tardy entry, but I winced when it happened. Oops.
At the end of the day, "New Avengers Annual" #3 is just all right. It's no great shakes one way or the other. But did it need to be an Annual (which meant an extra buck and a few additional pages, many of which are a preview of "Siege")? I don't think so. Doubly so when there's a good chance that "New Avengers" as a monthly book will outsell its Annual. Better luck next time with your Annuals, Marvel.