New Avengers #12

"New Avengers" #12 divides its time between the past and present like the other issues in this story arc, but this one skews heavily to the Howard Chaykin-drawn adventures of Nick Fury's 'Avengers' squad the in 1950s with 15 of the 22 pages taken up by some Nazi-hunting excitement. The present scenes are purely there to advance that plot and serve a function, but this is an issue devoted to Brian Michael Bendis writing a giant action scene for Chaykin to draw, and I'm more than okay with that.

The three short bits shown of the present deal with the fallout of the team's raid on the new H.A.M.M.E.R. and Mockingbird's critical injuries. While they set up what will happen next, they're so inconsequential that they drag the issue down a little. Since there are only seven pages in the present, they feel like interruptions into the 'main' story of the issue. The final page of the comic ends on a good cliffhanger in the present, but that's about the only thing about these sequences that matters.

For the rest of the issue, Howard Chaykin's art carries things as Nick Fury and the Avengers fight against the Red Skull and his minions. Rarely has the Red Skull looked quite so grotesque and crazy, Chaykin drawing him with bulging eyes, making him almost comedic. That's a big advantage of having Chaykin on art for this part of the story: where others artists would overindulge in serious, highly dramatic art, Chaykin lends a lighter feel to the action scenes. He recognizes the inherent fun in Nick Fury and his thrown-together group taking on the Red Skull and other Nazi leftovers. It's a goofy adventure!

A sequence where Kraven is trying to snipe the Red Skull is marked by him missing and moaning to himself about how ludicrous it is that he could miss the guy with the big red skull for a head! It's that kind of action sequence and Chaykin gets across that clownish charm without losing the danger. An underwater scene is absolutely stunning in how it's paced and drawn, and Nick Fury taking on a fake Captain America is entertaining in how effortless Fury looks. He simply ducks the shield and continues on, barely noticing. That casualness really speaks to the characters and something that Chaykin understands about them.

What exactly the two stories have to do with one another is still a mystery. Part of me can't help but hope that they're unrelated, presented together like this as a means to help Chaykin and Mike Deodato with deadlines by spreading out two short arcs over a longer period of time. But, with the Nick Fury story in the past mostly done with, next issue looks like it will be dominated by Deodato and the present. Giving this issue so much space to show the raid on the Red Skull's base was a smart choice and allows for a lot of great-looking Howard Chaykin art.

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