Review: New Avengers #31

NEW AVENGERS #31
Brian Bendis, Leneil Yu
[Marvel Comics]
Rating: 8.2

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Truth be told, I knew the big secret reveal at the end of the issue long before it hit stands. In this age of internet message boards, it was almost impossible to miss, actually. Rich Johnston even cleverly spoiled it over in his CBR column, which is usually pretty fair indication that the gossip you’re hearing has some basis in reality. And it jibed well with the foreshadowing Bendis did in his New Illuminati series, so… I did not have the “holy shit! I can’t believe they did that” moment many readers had, but that didn’t prevent me from enjoying the hell out of this issue, a nice changup after a couple months of boredom with the title…

Read the review after the breaky-break–

To recap, the New Avengers, post-Civil War edition, have been fighting ninjas. Ninjas led by Elektra, but still, just ninjas. People have been grumbling about this for the last few months– not exactly going up against top-notch baddies, are we? To be fair, the ninja battle scenes have been interspersed with cutbacks to other events, such as their first confrontation with the pro-reg Mighty Avengers– which was pulled off cleverly.

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And now we’re at the climax of our ninja war. One thing I enjoyed here is the quick conversation about killing in battle. This is a team that has several members comfortable with using lethal force– and a couple who most definitely aren’t. With Captain America no longer leading the charge, do these guys decide to let loose or not? It’s something I’d love to see explored in depth at some point in the title.

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Nice. Clint Barton’s been through hell these last couple years, and it’s nice to see the character start to sound like himself again. And the Spidey-Ronin banter is great… having two wiseasses on the team must be a dream come true for Bendis– here’s hoping we see more of these two interacting.

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Finally, Echo gets the kill shot at Elektra. Aside from being a very nicely drawn page, I picked it to spotlight something that has bugged me about this titles since it started, but especially in this arc. Some characters just sound weird, and Elektra’s got it the worst. The whole issue, she just says these strange one-liners: “I’m going to set you on fire.” and “I’m going to take your eyes.” I couldn’t figure out for the life of me how those are supposed to read.

If you’re one of the folks who complain about this title’s decompressed storytelling, well, this is not the issue that’s going to change your mind. NEW AVENGERS is always one of the quickest reads on my pull list, and I often re-read it just because I’m certain I must’ve missed ten pages in there somewhere. This one, really, is nearly all filler to get you to those last few pages.

But what a few pages they are…

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Insert joke about Elektra NEVER protecting the gut here.

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Ooooh. Wait for it…

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Got that foreboding sense of dread yet?

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Oh DAMN!!! Bet you didn’t see that comin’, didja?!! Elektra is a freakin’ SKRULL!

Now, as I said, I already knew that one was coming. But then, Bendis hits us with THIS:

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Oh, shit– SKRULL BABIES!!!

Seriously, though, what a fun, classic B-movie way to end the story. And it hammers the point home… you really have no idea who could be a skrull (though I’ve got a feeling Jessica Jones does… more on that soon).

Now, the night before this issue even dropped, people were fuming about this one… would it be used as a “superboy punch”-type retcon tool to get out of CIVIL WAR? Would the late CAPTAIN AMERICA turn out to be a skrull? Howsabout Holy Emperor and Commander of the Universe TONY STARK?

And almost as fast, the Marvel creative guys were out on the news sites, saying that wouldn’t be the case. But the possibilities here ARE endless… now we get to have round-the-clock discussions about who MIGHT be a skrull, why, and even WHEN they became skrulls! Marvel’s been saying for the last couple of years that they want their universe to be a scary, uncertain place again, and nothing gets you there quite like not knowing who to trust.

It will be tough to execute, but Marvel could have a great story here. I for one would like to see a maturation of the Skrull’s reasons for even wanting to conquer Earth… you could do a great Battlestar Galactica-style story about religious fundamentalism and extremism there. And as for who IS a skrull? Check the blog tomorrow for some guesses.

NEW AVENGERS #31 was definitely an enjoyable read. While you don’t get a LOT of story for your buck, what you do get is golden. Bendis’ team clicks when it comes to chemistry, Yu’s pencils are fluid and full of energy, and the plot twists keep ya guessing. There’s a reason this is, month in and month out, Marvel’s most talked about title.

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