Four months ago, "New Avengers Annual" #1 began the story that "Avengers Annual" #1 concludes this week. That’s a bit of a wait on the second half of a two-part story where the first half ended with Wonder Man and his Revengers setting their sights on Avengers Tower after taking down the New Avengers in Avengers Mansion. Brian Michael Bendis planted the seeds for Simon Williams’s turn on his former teammates in the early issues of “Avengers” and, despite Williams’s warnings, the Avengers are still taken off guard by his attack. While there are some big fights in this issue, it’s Williams’s argument that the Avengers should be disbanded that takes center stage and is, by far, the most interesting thing in this issue.
Wonder Man’s change of heart occurred in the wake of "Siege," when "Avengers" was relaunched. Saying then that he thought the team had been responsible for so many bad things that it should disband, he put into action a plan to destroy the group by force, beginning with Luke Cage’s Avengers. The way that Williams goes about making his point is comparable to how Norman Osborn is assaulting the Avengers currently: a mix of violence and statements to the media. Raising the various members who have died, the creation of Ultron, "Civil War," and the entire Scarlet Witch debacle make for a compelling argument.
For all of the skill and passion Bendis brings to Williams’s arguments against the group, though, he doesn’t allow the Avengers to respond in kind. Instead of a thoughtful, intelligent debate on the merits of the team, we’re treated to Williams making logical points and the Avengers continually responding with disbelief and cries of “You’re crazy!” They don’t have a response except to scoff and lock Williams up.
More telling than the Avengers’ response to Williams are the reasons given by the captured Revengers for joining Wonder Man’s cause. There, Bendis provides some off-beat character moments that put both the Avengers and those that attacked them in poor lights. Each person has a reason for their Revengers membership and they range from petty to insane to understandable. Oddly, only one joined because he agrees with Williams. It’s almost like the entire comic is setting up Williams as wrong despite him making a case strong enough for, at least, debate.
It’s disappointing that the characters are written in such a manner when this story could have been so much more than more fodder for public opinion turning against the Avengers. Maybe Bendis (or the Avengers) thinks that the reasons for the group are so obvious that they needn’t be stated, but that’s wrong. If you’re going to raise the point, why not see it through?
Gabrielle Dell’Otto’s art is a little strange to see without the paints that usually accompany it. His line work looks a little harsher and darker, with more hard edges, than it does when he paints it. The inks shine through without paints to dull their effect. His ability to nail single panels, though, does carry over from his painted work. He’s very comfortable, and at his best, when drawing a very specific moment in time. When characters are in movement, the art falters a bit. Dell’Otto isn’t helped by Ive Svorcina’s coloring, which varies in style and approach from page to page (sometimes, panel to panel).
"Avengers Annual" #1 raises some interesting points and seems to be a part of a larger story Bendis is telling about the public turning on the Avengers. Wonder Man’s argument against the Avengers has some merit and doesn’t get the follow-through it warrants, especially in the response from the Avengers. Hopefully, Bendis will return to the ideas raised here and develop them further.