Everything old is truly new again. My stack this week included an issue of "New Mutants," "Time Masters," and this issue featuring Apocalypse and his Horsemen as the villains of the piece. I've been lukewarm (at best) to this whole "Avengers" brand relaunch. The "New Avengers" featured Avengers that don't seem so new, the "Secret Avengers" has Avengers I can't find interest for, and these Avengers just didn't appeal to me.
I'm not sure if it's Romita Jr.'s art on this series that just didn't draw me in, or Bendis' writing, or the composition of the team itself. This is the most Avengery a Bendis Avengers roster has appeared, but in recent times, Slott seemed to really capture the intangible of what appeals to me the best.
Before you fire up the hate mail on anything I've listed above, hear me out. Romita's art is good, his storytelling is strong, but his overall style is best suited for street-level, or even mystical, characters, in my opinion. "Avengers," to me, should be drawn by the George Perezes, Arthur Adamses, Jamal Igles, Phil Jiminezes, Alan Davises, Kevin Maguires, and Paul Pelletiers of the comics world -- artists whose strong storytelling, keen detail, and tremendous character expressions sell the stories they work on. Romita is a master of his craft. There is one panel in this book with all of the Avengers gathered together and they all have different body language, physiques, and posture. Just as often, however, there are panels where the action of it gets muddy. Iron Man composing whatever-the-hell-it-is around Apocalypse. What is it? Where did it come from? It came from nowhere and was brushed away as techno-magic.
Bendis' story evokes the Roger Stern Kang stories of my youth, when the future flashbacks included Colossus and Storm as card-carrying members of the Avengers. The high concept is good, but it needs to be more than a high concept in the background of a big action scene to really make this book special. Kang is a difference maker in the Avengers corner of the universe, and he never appears in this issue, save for the cover. Bendis does, however, make strong use of the roster he has drafted for this squad. Hawkeye bristles at the concept of taking orders from anyone not named Steve Rogers while Thor is driven by his need to smite the foe. Spider-Man under Bendis' pen really shines, and the team, overall, works well together. The Avengers need to be better than "well," though.
The "Oral History" bit at the back of this issue didn't move me much one way or the other, save for the fact that it reprinted a pair of the Arthur Adams covers from the "Classic Avengers" reprint series from a few years back. Those are always fun to see again.
The lackluster non-interest I had in this re-invigorated Avengers brand certainly is not challenged by this issue. It's a decent read, but it wasn't something that's going to stick with me years down the line when I think back to those classic "Avengers" tales I love. Kang on the cover is a good start, and the last page is a fine step in a fun direction, but the rest of the book could use an infusion of "oomph."