“Avengers” #28 continues the pairing of Walt Simonson with Brian Michael Bendis, two Marvel creators a generation apart. After a few issues starring Noh-Varr that felt a little too tangential to the plot of “Avengers Vs. X-Men,” “Avengers” gets back to the battlefield, placing Red Hulk and the crossover center stage as General Ross/Red Hulk attempts to assassinate the Phoenix-powered Cyclops.
As someone unfamiliar with the Red Hulk, it’s still difficult to see a writer attempt to deal with the internal psychology of the character. General Ross was never a particularly layered character and his appearances in “Avengers” have never really helped me as a reader to reconcile his previous appearances with his current status as a Hulk. This issue isn’t going to do that either, but taken on its own, it’s actually quite a good character piece.
There are things about this issue that make Red Hulk interesting as a character. His belief, for example, that Captain America wants him to assassinate Cyclops but can’t say it openly is a window into a kind of rage-fuelled paranoia. Similarly, the consistency between his human and Hulk forms help show how there’s much less of an interpersonal dialogue between this Hulk and previous ones.
Simonson’s more classically-tilted artwork has worked surprisingly well with Bendis’ more modern writing style in recent issues, but this one takes an odd stylistic turn, with Bendis essentially abandoning a panel breakdown of dialogue and narration in favor of a single text box on several pages. Had he not used the technique extensively in other stories, it’d be tempting to blame it on an inability to adapt to Simonson’s artwork. As it is, it just feels like a mistaken technical choice, since Simonson’s rougher, more energetic compositions can’t handle the silence as well as some of Bendis’ former, much moodier collaborators.
Even so, it’s a reasonably good little vignette told within the confines of the crossover. In plot terms, it’s filler, but as a single issue story there’s a simplicity to it that works. The ending isn’t entirely believable and involves some very generous interpretation of Cyclops’ reasoning for not holding the Red Hulk indefinitely, but aside from that, the issue reaches a logical conclusion.
A possible point of criticism is that it hasn’t been that long since “Dark Reign,” when every tie-in book followed a failed-assassination-attempt plot. However, deployed in isolation, the concept holds up. You wouldn’t want every tie-in to be like this, but one is actually not so bad.