Rarely do “good” and “necessary” go together in describing a comic. “Necessary” is a descriptor used when a comic is uninteresting, disappointing or uninspired but fills in the gap of a story. “Avengers” #22 is necessary in the story of Norman Osborn’s war on the Avengers — but it’s not particularly good.
Under attack from Norman Osborn and H.A.M.M.E.R., the Avengers have been defeated and captured except Vision and Quake. This issue sees the Avengers in captivity, their jailers delivering little speeches and inflicting moments of physical torture while accomplishing very little of note. There are a few nice moments such as the Red Hulk’s immune system attacking miniature H.A.M.M.E.R. agents inside his comatose body and Quake proving why she was handpicked as Nick Fury’s protege. Unfortunately, these standout moments are few and far in between. Most of the issue is simple plot advancements presented in a workmanlike fashion.
Last issue, Renato Guedes impressed on artistic duties by showing H.A.M.M.E.R. taking down the Avengers but his work is less polished here. In places, the detail is lacking and the line work isn’t as tight. Quake’s potentially cool intimidation of Osborn’s goon is downright sloppy in places with simplistic, stiff figure work. Madame Hydra’s speech to a tied up Captain America looks awkward and poorly staged.
Even Brian Michael Bendis’ dialogue throughout the issue is lacking. He seems to be spinning his wheels with recognizable speeches, strained banter, and forced scenes checking in on every character. The framing sequence for the issue bolsters the idea of Osborn fighting a war in public to turn people against the Avengers but comes off as contrived and forced in an effort to hammer the point home.
Despite the inter-Avengers Norman Osborn crossover humming along nicely both here and in “New Avengers,” “Avengers” #22 is a definite step backwards quality-wise. With the Avengers captured, the story is in a holding pattern until the escape or prison break from Osborn and H.A.M.M.E.R. It would be unearned and bad storytelling if the heroes were captured then immediately escaped, defeating their captors. It makes this issue necessary for pacing purposes — but not much else.