Readers can now reenter Marvel’s “Heroic Age” with Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis: The Complete Collection Vol. 1. Collecting the first twelve issues of Bendis’ 2010 series along with Avengers Prime and a pair of annuals, is this volume worth the entry price? Is it good?
Most readers likely have preconceived opinions regarding writer Brian Michael Bendis’ work before they even read it: there seems to be an expectation among the fandom that the dialogue will be a little overlong, and that characters may start to sound the same. As a reader, I have to admit that I’ve always found his work on solo titles to be stronger than his team books; the smaller casts tend to increase the strength of his characterization.
With that in mind, Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis: The Complete Collection Vol. 1 came as a bit of a refresher to me. The collection focuses on Bendis’ “Heroic Age” material, which occurred in the aftermath of the Siege event. In a way, this is Bendis’ “classic” Avengers run, after years of deconstruction, rebuilding, New, and Mighty, and it shows a different side to Bendis’ storytelling than much of his earlier work with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
Bendis stretches out toward more cosmic problems here, focusing on Kang and alternate futures in the first six issues, before shifting focus to the Red Hood and the assemblage of the Infinity Gems. Both stories, along with the Avengers Prime material gives Bendis the opportunity to show his plotting talents in a different way than his more character-based stories. That being said, there’s still a bit of character in these books, with an intriguing development for Wonder Man, and a future Tony Stark that reveals the possible dooms the Avengers faced (and for fans attentive enough, a sneak-peek at Marvel’s publishing plans at the time). Bendis nails the adventurous tone, and while not all of the dialogue sticks, it’s an entertaining read that keeps the team dynamic interesting.
The main portion of the book, the collection of Avengers (2010) #1-12, features art handled by John Romita Jr. and his regular inker Klaus Janson and colorist Dean White (though a number of other artists, including inkers Tom Palmer and Scott Hanna, along with colorists Laura Martin and Paul Mounts make smaller appearances). The point is that for a collected edition of this size and from this time period, the book is remarkably visually consistent and with a style that most readers know by sight and have an opinion on. While his name isn’t on the title, Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis: The Complete Collection Vol. 1 is largely just as much a book of Romita’s own authorship as it is Bendis’. Regardless of how one feels about Romita’s style, it’s a perfect fit for the story, bringing an iconic feel to the book that works well with the reunion/fresh start angle that Cap, Iron Man, and Thor are trying to work at and provides a nice contrast to the Avengers Prime material that precedes it.
There, the artwork is handled by Alan Davis with inker Mark Farmer and colorist Javier Rodriguez. Davis’ style feels a bit more modern than Romita’s but his work lends itself well to Farmer’s heavy inks and the fantasy angle of the story.
Is It Good?
With the prominence of its creators, most readers will likely have an idea as to whether or not Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis: The Complete Collection Vol. 1 is worth adding to their bookshelves, based on other titles. The collection however, is solid and consistent in tone and quality.
If there is one complaint about the collection, it’s that it lacks anything truly iconic, and that makes it harder to recommend with the heftier price tag. Granted, telling iconic stories with a team that has as long a history as the Avengers can be a challenge, but there isn’t really a defining moment to this portion of Bendis’ lengthy Avengers tenure that makes it a must buy. For completionists, it’s a nice way to get this material. For most others though, this may just be a collection to come back to on a Sunday afternoon. Fans of Jonathan Hickman’s run on Avengers and New Avengers may find something here as well, as some of the status quo for that epic’s opening act is set up here.