Best to get the “price issue” out of the way early, don’t you think? Yes, this issue of “New Avengers” costs five dollars for 37 pages of story and comes out a mere two weeks after “Thor” #600 had 42 pages of story plus 18 pages of back-up stories, 25 pages of reprint stories, and a cover gallery for the same price. Doesn’t quite seem fair, does it? Well, “Thor” #600 was a strange creature, packed with content that went above-and-beyond, while “New Avengers” #50, which costs $3.99 already, seems more typical and suited to its price. Comparing the two isn’t fair, because “Thor” was the exception and “New Avengers” is the rule.
But, for those still grumbling, “New Avengers” does included a treat with some top-notch guest artists each drawing characters that they are personally associated with. I didn’t even notice them listed on the credits page until I encountered a double-page splash by Bryan Hitch, followed by the likes of David Aja doing Iron Fist, Michael Gaydos doing Luke Cage, Alex Maleev doing Spider-Woman and... well, I could go on and on. To get these artists to illustrate pages focusing on single characters with first-person narration for each by Bendis is a great idea and gives an otherwise typical fight scene something extra, especially because the artists chosen each have a history (or future) with the specific characters they depict.
This issue promises a showdown between the New Avengers and the Dark Avengers, and the result is unexpected. Beginning with the New Avengers dissecting a group shot of Norman Osborn’s Avengers, trying to figure out who is usurping their identities, Bendis showcases his trademark dialogue skills. It’s not all great stuff with “gems” like Ms. Marvel realizing who dressed up in her old costume: “That’s—That’s what’s-her-face, the one with the moonstone. What’s her name?!” to which Luke Cage replies, “Moonstone.” He goes a bit overboard in trying to make the Avengers seem like real people, to the point where they come off as brain dead morons half of the time. The other half, though, is funny and witty.
One nitpicky point: when the Dark Avengers first appear, Bendis and Tan “recreate” a scene from last week’s “Dark Avengers” #2, except it doesn’t actually match up with what happened in that issue thanks to Spider-Woman’s appearance here. It’s a great idea to try and demonstrate where everything fits together, but only when it actually fits together.
Billy Tan’s artwork looks more rushed and ugly than ever. Don’t believe me, check out the preview pages and see for yourself! He can draw action scenes competently, but since the initial pages rely so much on Bendis’s dialogue, an artist with skill at depicting nuanced facial expressions and body language is a must, and that’s not Tan. Including the other artists, even briefly, does him a disservice as well, highlighting his flaws even more.
This issue is saved from being just another typical issue of “New Avengers” by the guest artists and Bendis’s writing some witty and funny dialogue (at least, some of the time). The plot twist and ending are both clever, and point to Bendis having some long-term plans with the current “Dark Reign” status quo.