After last issue's confrontation with Norman Osborn and his new Dark Avengers, the Avengers retreat to regroup and find themselves confronted with Ragnarok, the clone of Thor who just won’t disappear. It’s another fight in "New Avengers" #21 -- but Brian Michael Bendis and Mike Deodato's approach is different: it’s taken from turn-based role-playing games with Ragnarok as the final boss and Spider-Man as the player. Bendis' unique approach highlights the teamwork of the Avengers and tweaks the usual fight dynamic, making for an exciting read.
Team superhero fights usually involve swarming, particularly when there's only one opponent. However, the setting for the fight against Ragnarok and the general lack of flyers make the usual approach difficult. Instead, Wolverine leads the attack while Spider-Man uses his webbing to save the Avengers from falling to their deaths, flinging them up to Ragnarok when needed. The fight continues round-robin style as Wolverine switches out for Luke Cage and Iron Fist while Spider-Man watches their health meters and pulls them back before they die. It’s a simple and effective strategy for the heroes and as a storytelling approach.
Group dynamics in a fight are hard to get down and Mike Deodato’s growth in this regard, even over the past few issues of “New Avengers,” has been surprisingly strong. His approach to pages in this issue is to combine large, issue-stopping images with small panels showing the action around that moment. Placing Ragnarok in the larger panels emphasizes his size and strength, while Spider-Man moving through the smaller surrounding panels shows off his speed and agility.
In the absence of regular colorist Rain Beredo, Paul Mounts fills in with a style nicely complementing Deodato’s line work. Mounts' style is more traditional than Beredo's, choosing basic colors without as many effects. When Wolverine hacks and slashes at Ragnarok, the simplicity of the colors adds to the brutality and visceral impact of the art. Mounts' colors ensure Deodato’s smaller panels have the same look as the larger ones, making for a much smoother layout.
Ensemble fights can be downright dull in superhero comics, simply replaying the same battle over and over again. Surprisingly, Bendis and Deodato deliver a smart and entertaining fight issue hot on the heels of a battle royale against Norman Osborn’s Dark Avengers. More knock-down, drag-out fights are a given for the future and "New Avengers" #21 is a good sign things will stay fresh with a high level of innovative thinking.