Bendis’ Avengers: New Avengers #61-64/Finale

Reading the New Avengers tie-ins for Civil War and Secret Invasion, it came as no surprise that the title would also tie-in to Bendis’ next big event, Siege. By the end of the series, New Avengers was almost inherently connected to big, game-changing events. Even though I came to expect New Avengers tie-ins to Siege, I remember initially being disappointed by these Siege tie-in issues. For starters, the first two issues of tie-in material didn’t even take place during Siege. Reading the massive, blockbuster events in Siege, I was hoping that New Avengers would show more of the action on Asgard. Yet the first half of tie-in material took place before Siege even happened. The following two issues partially fulfilled my action-quota, showing bits and pieces from the siege of Asgard. Yet even those two issues felt like filler, cutting away to earlier character moments which seemed irrelevant. In hindsight, these four tie-in issues were much better than I remember. Bendis uses these issues to focus on character development and hidden plot points before and during Siege. At the time, however, I just wanted more action, ignoring the important character moments in these final issues. One issue which I enjoyed both as a kid and an adult, however, was the New Avengers: Finale comic. I remember feeling so many emotions as Bendis brought this long-running series to a close. I grew up for years with this group, which I still consider to be my Avengers team. Seeing the whole thing end felt bittersweet, like the series finale to a good TV show. I hadn’t felt so melancholy, yet satisfied, until I read the ending to New Avengers.

One last time

The ending of New Avengers centers around the events of Siege. During this event, Norman Osborn and his forces make one final, desperate grab at power. Believing Asgard to be a threat, Osborn leads a siege on Thor’s fabled home. Witnessing this horrific assault, the original Captain America gathers the Avengers. Earth’s Mightiest Heroes then venture to Asgard, in order to aid Thor and stop Osborn once and for all. Prior to these events, in the pages of New Avengers, the Hood and his gang recently agreed to work for Osborn. Following a major humiliation at the New Avengers’ hands, Osborn tasked these supervillains with killing the street-level heroes. This deal placed the New Avengers in serious jeopardy, as both Osborn’s Avengers and the Hood’s army were after them. Yet there emerged some hope for the heroes, in the form of Steve Rogers, aka Captain America. Before Siege, Rogers had come back from the dead. Sticking to the shadows, Rogers caught up on the current status of the Marvel Universe, preparing to make his move against Osborn and his team. With their former leader back in the game, the New Avengers finally had a fighting chance against Osborn.

Let’s go get im

The final issues of New Avengers begin right after Rogers’ return, yet before the events of Siege. Although these issues do serve as tie-in material for Siege, the main purpose is to conclude the story of the New Avengers. As mentioned previously, event comics had become intertwined with New Avengers, to the point where tie-ins were essentially regular issues. Bendis uses the last issues of New Avengers to tell the story of the team before, during, and even a little bit after, the events of Siege. Most of the issues focus on the New Avengers’ conflict with the Hood and his gang. Much like the New Avengers, the Hood’s gang aren’t prominently featured during Siege itself. It only makes sense, then, that Bendis features the last bit of conflict between these lower-level teams in the pages of New Avengers. By contrast, larger-scale conflicts, such as those between the big name Avengers and Osborn’s forces, would be featured in the main Siege event. These final issues of New Avengers are also a good opportunity to dive deeper into the series’ protagonists one last time. Focusing on the marriage between Ronin and Mockingbird, for example, or the fun dynamic between Spider-Man and Spider-Woman, are both smaller character moments which Siege can’t fully explore.

Some deleted witty banter from Siege

Indeed, Clint Barton/Ronin and Bobbi Morse/Mockingbird are given an issue or two to focus on their marriage. Following their reunion at the end of Secret Invasion, Ronin and Mockingbird haven’t had much room to explore their relationship. During the hectic events of Dark Reign, there was never a good time for Bendis to pause and look at these characters individually. Now, given the gap between Dark Reign and Siege, Bendis can give these characters a bit of a breather. Taking a pause from the action, Ronin and Mockingbird realize that they’re still unsure where their relationship stands. After being held captive by the Skrulls for so long, Mockingbird is understandably changed. Additionally, Ronin is a much darker character than he once was, showing how time may have created a dramatic rift between the couple. Given the hope of Steve Rogers’ return, and the possibility of winning the battle against Osborn, both Ronin and Mockingbird are terrified of pondering their marital status. If they are given time to reflect, perhaps the couple might not like what they find. It’s the events of Siege, however, which essentially scare the couple straight. When Ronin mistakenly believes Mockingbird to have died, he realizes how much she truly means to him. In return, Mockingbird is moved by Ronin’s concern for her safety, realizing her love for her husband. It is this sentimental, character-focused arc which shows Bendis’ ability to explore the New Avengers in the midst of a massive event like Siege.

“Stay out of this, Spidey!”

Additionally, Bendis has plenty of room to look at characters before the events of Siege, including Steve Rogers and Bucky, the current Captain America. Bendis provides a nice window into Rogers’ activity after his return, and before the events of Siege. Specifically, including the exploits of Rogers and Bucky gives the reader a fun look at the characters’ dynamic. Scoping out the wreckage of Rogers’ old apartment, after an attack by Osborn’s forces, Rogers and Bucky demonstrate a strong rapport. As partners in World War II, Rogers and Bucky are back in action, sharing a bond of brotherhood. In battle, the two soldiers flow together seamlessly, fighting off a couple of the Hood’s gang members. It’s also nice to see Bucky catching Steve up on things that he’s missed, such as the Hood’s gang. Not only does this give Steve some knowledge of the world, it also shows how much Bucky has experienced in his time with the New Avengers. Steve may have started the team, but Bucky has spent a good deal of time alongside them. The New Avengers’ reaction to Steve’s return is another good opportunity which Bendis uses well. Luke Cage’s excitement and Ms. Marvel’s emotional hug with Steve are both very heartwarming, capturing the smaller moments of Steve’s return nicely. I do wish that Bucky and Steve had more personal dialogue. For example, what does Steve think of Bucky joining the New Avengers? I guess Ed Brubaker already covered most of these moments in Captain America, but a few more in New Avengers wouldn’t hurt.

“I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed”

Another fun pre-Siege pairing is between Spider-Man and Spider-Woman. Since her return at the end of Secret Invasion, Spider-Woman didn’t really get that much to do. These couple of issues change that, featuring Spider-Woman significantly. The character’s interactions with Spider-Man have a two-pronged effect: detailing more about Spider-Woman, while at the same time establishing a fun dynamic between the characters. Bendis’ dialogue between the two Avengers is spot-on, contrasting the all-business personality of Spider-Woman with Spider-Man’s constant quips and talkative nature. Later on in the story, Bendis also does a nice job turning this dynamic on its head. Spider-Man shows more of his serious side when Spider-Woman is under mind-control by Mandrill, one of the Hood’s gang. Using his brains and his heart, Spider-Man manages to reach Spider-Woman, freeing her from Mandrill’s control. Additionally, when Spider-Woman is tempted to kill Mandrill, Spider-Man gets through to her once more, knowing that she’s above cold-blooded murder. These issues show a rare occasion where Bendis’ Spider-Man isn’t just the comic relief. Indeed, the web-slinger’s experience shines through. Spider-Man realizes that leaving the Hood’s gang for the police means that they’ll be released soon, yet he also understands the reality that getting them off the streets, even for a while, will have to be enough for the moment.

I’d watch this buddy-cop movie

Throughout the final issues of New Avengers, the one, festering nuisance of the team remains the Hood. Before, during, and after Siege, the Hood and his gang are the primary focus for the New Avengers. Acts such as working for Norman Osborn, supplying the norn stones for Osborn’s forces, and involving his gang in the siege of Asgard show all of the Hood’s behind-the-scenes importance. Through all of Siege, the Hood barely manages to make it out alive, almost making him the one criminal who got away. The New Avengers will not stand for this man’s escape, however. The Hood is one last hindrance to the team, the final itch that needs scratching. When all of the big heroes, such as Iron Man or Thor, believe the fight is over, the New Avengers know that small-time guys like the Hood are still out there. It’s genius that Bendis makes the Hood the final problem for the New Avengers to solve. The New Avengers were formed to hunt down escaped criminals, so it only makes sense that their last mission fulfills their original purpose. Guys like the Hood are the ones that most people don’t think about, not like Doctor Doom or Loki. Yet, to a team like the New Avengers, the Hood is an ever-present danger that must be stopped.

Some under-the-table dealings…

Who better to lead the New Avengers’ final charge than Luke Cage, the heart and soul of the team? Cage isn’t featured much until the finale, but he still has some small, fun moments throughout these final issues. One particularly sweet moment comes when Cage helps out Steve and Bucky in the wreckage of Rogers’ apartment. As it turns out, Cage returned to retrieve the pacifier for his baby daughter, Danielle. It’s a very small moment that reminds the reader how down-to-Earth Cage is. Of course, his reaction to Steve’s return is also very nice. Once the finale issue begins, however, Cage takes center stage. Indeed, it’s Luke’s conviction which compels the New Avengers to go after the Hood one last time. Cage even takes the initiative in calling Wolverine to assist, showing his connections with each member of the team. The last few pages of the finale are also capped off with a beautiful speech by Cage. Luke reminisces on the team’s adventures, all the while summing up what New Avengers has all been about. The speech ends with a simple, yet powerful wish by Cage to take a walk in the park with his wife and daughter, which he does. The page of all the New Avengers walking in the park is beautiful, showing why Cage is the center of this team. Seeing him in the park with his family is both inspiring, in light of all of the team’s hardships, yet a very relatable, human moment.

Cage for president!

Amidst the epic, sweeping scope of Siege, New Avengers takes the time to focus on some of the smaller issues, at which it excels. Most of these issues are things which don’t usually receive much focus in larger events. The team only takes on a few members of the Hood’s gang at a time, which is reminiscent of the original New Avengers issues. The team began by going after one criminal at a time, so seeing only a couple of New Avengers take on two members of the Hood’s gang reminds the reader of the series’ beginnings. Even in the finale, the New Avengers spend their time going after the Hood, one criminal who just happened to be associating with two others at the time. These are not major, global-catastrophe level threats. Yet the Hood and his gang are still real threats, ones that hit close to home. The New Avengers, from the start, were formed to battle this level of supervillain. Going after the Hood shows how the New Avengers stand by their principles. Immediately after Siege, the New Avengers are remain unsure of where they stand with the government. Still, the team saddles up to hunt down one criminal, simply because it’s the right thing to do. Even if the New Avengers remained fugitives, they chose to finish their mission, without any thought of praise or reward. Ironically, it’s for this reason that the New Avengers are indeed rewarded. Enduring times such as Secret Invasion and Dark Reign, the team’s patience is rewarded by the return of Steve Rogers, who brings a new hope to the heroes. Taking down Norman Osborn under Rogers’ leadership, the team feels a sense of vindication. The New Avengers stuck by their principles ever since the end of Civil War, despite the sacrifices that came with them. The team’s beliefs are finally validated when the superhuman registration act is abolished. Finally, the New Avengers are free to live, going for a stroll through the park together.

Finishing the job

Re-reading these stories, the final issues of New Avengers are far better than I remember. Specifically, the issues focusing on Steve/Bucky and Spider-Man/Spider-Woman fighting members of the Hood’s gang hold up very well. The character interactions between Spider-Man and Spider-Woman are very fun to read, and there are plenty of great fight scenes during both segments of this story. Luke Cage’s entrance during Steve/Bucky’s segment is very satisfying as well. Steve’s reunion with the New Avengers is very heart-warming, and it feels well-earned. These issues act as a nice prelude to Siege, setting up Steve’s re-connection with the New Avengers and showing exactly how Nick Fury and his Secret Warriors got involved with the Avengers. The next couple of issues are definitely the least interesting of the bunch. There are some fun cuts to the New Avengers during the siege of Asgard, but the flashbacks to Ronin/Mockingbird’s relationship problems didn’t really add much to the series as a whole. There wasn’t much of substance to explore in this relationship, and it seemed like this sub-plot was introduced just to parallel the Hood’s relationship with Madame Masque. The Hood and Madame Masque, on the other hand, got some decent exploration, leading into the finale quite well. Seeing things crumble around the Hood and Masque made them slightly sympathetic, conveying their downfall very well. These events lead into the finale, which remains by far my favorite of these final issues. New Avengers, as a series, culminates in this one issue. The story is no longer about Siege, it’s about the New Avengers. Reading this last mission was exciting, funny, and an all-around joy. Everyone on the team gets a moment to shine, from Spider-Woman to Ms. Marvel. The finale has plenty of great callbacks to the team’s history, tying up all loose ends. It feels great to see the team finish up on their terms, despite Siege already being finished. Wolverine’s return had me cheering in my head. Reuniting the whole team is the best way to end the series. That’s what the finale feels like: a true ending, which is satisfying on all levels.

“I’m back, bub!”

The final issues of New Avengers have a lot to love. The smaller focus, in general, complements the bombastic feel of Siege very well. Much context is given to certain parts of Siege, too, such as Nick Fury’s entrance, introducing the norn stones, and the inclusion of the Hood’s gang. Bendis takes advantage of a good opportunity here, going smaller and focusing more on the details than in Siege. The New Avengers, as a whole, were featured in these last issues in a way that Siege did not have space to do. Plenty of key character moments and interactions are included in New Avengers that may have gotten lost in the shuffle during Siege. For example, the small moments of dialogue during the siege of Asgard are included a lot more in New Avengers than in Siege itself. Above all, the finale issue is the most satisfying among the last few New Avengers issues. The finale strikes an emotional chord with me every time. Bendis writes what feels like a true send-off for the New Avengers, showing how far they’ve come as a group and as individuals. It’s not even a problem that the ending ties into Siege. New Avengers has become so embedded in events that the ending feels perfectly natural. Despite its strong ties to a major event, the ending to New Avengers belongs to the main series.

Look who just got a lot more free time…

After all of the loose ends are tied up, the events of New Avengers don’t have a lot of implications for the future. This doesn’t stop Bendis from continuing his run, however. On a smaller note, the marital drama between Ronin and Mockingbird will be addressed later on. At first, the couple attempts to work on their marriage, once Barton becomes Hawkeye again. Yet the marriage does not last, indicated especially by the fact that Hawkeye and Mockingbird are on two different Avengers teams. Indeed, the New Avengers are going to begin anew, during the Heroic Age era. Luke Cage is given free rein to create a New Avengers team on his own terms. This new team is given a re-modeled Avengers Mansion, many of its old members return, and several new members join the team as well. Even though the New Avengers finished their initial run, the team will continue during a brand new era. During this Heroic Age, a core team of Avengers will form as well. Many of the New Avengers will move over to this team, including Bucky, Spider-Woman, and Clint Barton, who becomes Hawkeye once more. Additionally, Spider-Man and Wolverine, thanks to the magic of popularity, will be on both the Avengers and the New Avengers. Creating two Avengers teams allows the heroes to focus on both street-level and cosmic threats. The main New Avengers series may be over, but the team and its members carry on under Bendis.

The end of one era, the beginning of another

That’s all for today. What do you think about the ending to New Avengers? New Avengers as a whole? I would love to hear your thoughts on Twitter, @book_column, and be sure to share this blog with your friends! Thanks for reading! Check back in tomorrow, when I look at Bendis’ Heroic Age prelude, Avengers Prime!

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