Since The Heroic Age started, Brian Michael Bendis has turned his Avengers books from grim and gritty angst-a-thons to bright and madcap adventures where, say, Thor ends up fighting Galactus. It’s been a welcome change in tone. This issue signals the start of a new storyline and while it certainly doesn’t retreat into the darker moments of past storylines, it’s still a step down from the opening issues of the book.
This is definitely a setup issue, but it’s kind of a confusing one. If it weren’t for the recap page, one could have easily missed the antogonist referring to himself as “Mister Robbins” as a signal that he was formerly The Hood. (I did.) Without that knowledge, one is wondering why we’re supposed to care about this stranger suddenly stealing Infinity Gems. (Aside from the obvious threat of a stranger suddenly stealing Infinity Gems.) Once you realize it’s the old The Hood, it adds a bit more weight to the proceedings, but not really enough to excuse the general lack of action in the book.
The much-touted appearance of The Red Hulk is completely random and arbitrary at the outset as well. I’m sure eventually it will probably be given some added importance but, as it stands, he’s just there to show up and get clobbered.
John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson’s art is up to their usual high standards of quality. They’re good at people sitting around and talking and they’re good at people getting pummeled. Special praise should be given to coloring team here as well, as their work is really organic looking, somewhere between the tone of a marker and a watercolor, showing barely any trace of their inevitably digital origin.
I’d also like to add that Bendis’ “Oral History Of The Avengers” backup feature throughout his Avengers books has been great overall. It’s the perfect format for his style of writing and it explains a lot of Avengers back story to neophytes in an entertaining and revealing way.
As a whole, this was a fairly disappointing start to the new storyline. But then, when you have the Avengers travel to the future to stop a world where Galactus runs around all the time from invading our reality with the help of Killraven, it’s kind of hard to top.