Avengers #8

With Parker Robbins on the trail of the Infinity Gems, the remnants of the Illuminati re-unite to discuss what they should do with the remaining few. Meanwhile the Red Hulk enlists the help of the Avengers after getting a severe beat down. Remember when he was knocking Thor around single-handed? No, me neither.

In fairness, this issue of Avengers is a bit of a step up from Bendis' recent attempts at sweeping, action-blockbuster, being centered largely on the character interactions of the Illuminati, who finally stand revealed to their fellow heroes. The idea of the Illuminati is one of Bendis' more intriguing ones, and it's good to see it getting a little page time after largely disappearing post-Secret Invasion.

Although Bendis is always best when writing dialogue, this issue demonstrates just how much of a purpose that can serve as a technique. When characters stop talking, it forces readers to take notice. The tension between the Illuminati members in their first meeting since the group formally "dissolved" is palpable, and the sparse discussions give a good sense of characters who are distracted by their checkered history together.

It's just a shame that not every member of the cast could be as well-employed as the Illuminati. Spider-woman, unfortunately, is still fulfilling all the functional requirements of nice wallpaper and little else. Admittedly, the character has had a lot of exposure under Bendis' pen, but the fact that she's here and barely doing anything is almost worse than if the Avengers had been an exclusively male team in the first place. Give her something to do or free her up for other writers!

As ever, Romita's work makes the issue look effortlessly enjoyable. In particular, the fight between Robbins and the Red Hulk was a true comic book punch-out, and proof if any were needed that sometimes, Bendis knows when to be quiet, letting the fight play out wordlessly over the space of several pages. Few writers would be confident or smart enough to relinquish control to that much space to the storytelling capabilities of their artist, but Bendis should be applauded for recognizing the right thing to do when you're working with John Romita.

Generally speaking, the Avengers has been great since its relaunch, but it's good to see Bendis doing a bit more of the character material he does well, rather than his impression of an "action" book. The final issue cliffhanger promises that the next issue might well follow the character-centric approach, so it's one that Avengers readers should be able to look forward to without concern.

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