Norman Osborn is back and drawn by Neal Adams; rejoice. In Marvel’s latest ‘point one’ issue, the unexpected pairing of Brian Michael Bendis and Neal Adams happens, bridging the gap between the new era of the Avengers franchise and the old. It’s an odd mixture with both men having such different styles and approaches that, before reading the comic, it was hard to even imagine how Bendis’ decompressed, quirky dialogue-heavy writing style would mesh with Adams’ dynamic, melodramatic art. As it turns out, they mesh quite nicely.
The opening scene of Norman Osborn being verbally abused by the Goblin is made better by Bendis letting loose with the Goblin’s craziness while Adams draws Osborn in such an over-the-top manner. He isn’t just a little worried about the voice, he’s positively freaked out. Adams’ depiction of Osborn makes Bendis’ dialogue seem more outrageous and crazy, while, when the issue jumps to a scene at Avengers Mansion, he seems to parody the concept of the team sitting around doing nothing. And Bendis joins in! Even he can’t get behind the idea of having Neal Adams draw his script and fill it with talking heads.
The results are two prison breaks, Wolverine taking some heavy firepower to his face, the heroes freaking out, and Norman Osborn getting to be the big bad guy once again. This issue begins the next big story for both “New Avengers” and “Avengers,” with Osborn and the remnants of H.A.M.M.E.R. striking back. As a beginning, this issue works. It tells a complete story while also setting in motion the larger one.
Bendis tries to give Adams lots of exciting things to draw and almost succeeds. Still, the actual prison break isn’t as visually exciting as it could be, because the subject matter isn’t there. The New Avengers aren’t in action much and are always facing off with random goons with guns. Given the allies Osborn has, it’s a shame we couldn’t have seen some superpowered baddies show up and help their boss get past the Avengers.
Adams’ take on Norman Osborn is one of the best I’ve seen, which is saying a lot given how much he appeared in the Marvel Universe pre-“Siege.” He shifts from abject despair and worrying to slimy confidence to arrogant bravado effortlessly. Adams’ Osborn looks a little crazy, never able to maintain a single mood for longer than a thought. Two panels where Wolverine has his claws pressed up against Osborn’s face are wonderfully done because of how unconcerned Osborn looks. He’s not worried about Wolverine; and he’s right not to be.
Neal Adams drawing more comics is always a good thing. Bringing him on board for a ‘point one’ issue is a smart idea. As a single story, “New Avengers” #16.1 is self-contained enough to be satisfying and open-ended enough to set up the big “New Avengers”/”Avengers” crossover. Too bad Adams won’t be drawing more of it.