In the second issue of "Avengers", the team attempts to decipher Kang's dire warning about the future by enlisting the help of Protector, while attempting to deal with one of their former team-mates turning against them.
The team-mate in question is Wonder Man, as foreshadowed in issue one, and his actions threaten to end the fledgling Avengers team before it has even reasserted itself. For what they are, his actions seem wildly out-of-character, and it's a shame that I'm not sure whether it's building to something or not. Bendis has a habit of defining characters by traits he sees in them which no-one else does, and perhaps, in this case, he believes Wonder Man is legitimately primed to flip out over the reformation of the team. As a reader, I'm not convinced, so let's hope the characters aren't either.
On the plus side, the plot is certainly working on the grander scale one expects of a book called "Avengers," with the overall threat harking back to the fondly-remembered Busiek/Perez era. Similarly, there are nods to continuity that go far beyond what the old "New Avengers" ever did, which nicely repositions "Avengers" as taking advantage of the team's newly re-established link with its own history. In both tone and content, there is a clear break from "New Avengers" that fully justifies its relaunch.
That said, it's not firing on all cylinders. Although Bendis' plotting is fairly strong and deliberately paced, his mix of characters doesn't feel like it's working particularly well. The female component of the team, such that it is, has barely spoken five lines between them, while Wolverine and Spider-Man are hanging around the fringes unsure what to do with themselves. Meanwhile, C-list characters like Wonder-Man and Protector (the one-time Marvel Boy) are hogging vast swathes of page time for themselves, despite not being members of the official line-up. I don't dispute their presence in an Avengers book, but I do question the need to place so much focus on peripheral characters when the main cast hasn't had a chance to bed in yet.
Luckily, not matter how much you enjoy (or don't enjoy) Bendis' writing, it's hard to deny that Romita Jr. is an artist that can make anything look great. It seems pointless to spend time praising Romita when his talent is plain to see, but in case you haven't gotten it, there's exactly the right amount of energy and subtlety in every panel, and a pure storytelling ability that is virtually unsurpassed. When you have an artist like Romita, it almost doesn't matter what the writing is like.
Which, in a way, is good, because so far the writing on "Avengers" has been imperfect, though not massively flawed -- although the less said about the painfully self-indulgent "Oral history of the Avengers" supplemental the better. What bugs me is that for a second issue of such a high-profile launch it's hard not to feel as though it should be eliciting a more dramatic response than "it's alright, I suppose." Of all the Avengers launches so far, it's actually the flagship title -- this title -- which is leaving me coldest. If that turns out to be the case for everyone who reads this book then I'm not sure it's a good thing in the long run.