It’s another Marvel event, and it’s another secret meeting of the Illuminati to discuss it amongst themselves. And I really wouldn’t have it any other way.
If I had to choose, I think I would choose the Illuminati as my favorite contribution Brian Michael Bendis has made to the mythology of the Avengers. Ii just love the idea of these influential members of the Marvel Universe trying to orchestrate things in the background. We always get groups like this when it comes to villains, but it makes sense that some of the good guys would do the same. So I like them, even though they haven’t been handled as well as they could have been. I think Bendis made the mistake of not giving us more in the way of showing their accomplishments and focused almost entirely on their failures and unintended consequences.
Still, the Illuminati are fun to read about. Give me an issue of these guys discussing and bickering over something, and I will be entertained. Therefore, this issue entertained me, because that is really all it is. Captain America has called a meeting of the secretive group for the sole purpose of having a face-to-face with Namor, one of the Phoenix Five. Most of the group assembles, but none of them besides Captain America believe that Namor will actually attend. The waiting gives the story an excuse to allow the characters to bounce off one another over recent and current events.
Captain America is an awkward fit for the Illuminati, but that is a major factor in why I like it. The way Bendis portrays him shows that he clearly still does not like the idea of a secret meetings and groups. Yet, he is now a participant in it all. Some might argue that this creates an element of hypocrisy that doesn’t fit a character like Captain America. I don’t see it being as simple as hypocrisy. What other choice does he have? He’s not a fool. He knows very well that Iron Man and the rest would carry on with this whether he participated or protested it. Taking a moral stand by separating himself from the Illuminati would also be an ineffective and irresponsible move. All he can do about the Illuminati is be an influence within it, and that’s an interesting position to place the character.
Professor Xavier rightfully gets a strong moment in this issue, and it’s made stronger by the fact that he has been a criminally underused character lately. Given all the major developments in recent years on the X-Men side of the fence, it’s ridiculous how little we’ve seen of Xavier. That makes it very satisfying to see him in this issue venting his frustration over the turn his X-Men have taken in their conflict with the Avengers.
Mr. Fantastic gets a nice role as the adult in the room, seeing as he is the closest thing to a neutral party given the Fantastic Four’s uninvolvement in the event. He gives voice to the moral dilemma of Avengers Vs. X-Men. What is so wrong about Cyclops and the others doing things to improve the world? Is it right to prejudge that they are going to lose control and lead to disaster? It’s a good moral dilemma but not one that Marvel is portraying very well. Involving the Phoenix Force undermines the whole thing. Readers know damn well that the Phoenix Five will lead to disaster because we have been clearly shown the power is mentally compromising them. There is no real moral dilemma here for readers. We know that. We can see that Cyclops is the only one even remotely holding it together mentally. This whole event and dilemma would be much stronger had Marvel left the Phoenix out of it and made it an issue of mutants asserting themselves as the powerful authority they are capable of being without any unrelated cosmic force behind them.
Reed also gets in a good Civil War shot on Iron Man and Captain America about blowing conflicts out of proportion.
Black Bolt, unfortunately, gets left out of yet another Illuminati meeting due being occupied by other stories. It’s a shame he doesn’t get to be a bigger part of things. He’s already hampered by his silent nature, so it’s extra debilitating for him to be absent so much too. Dr. Strange doesn’t really get to do anything either, but he does at least attend.
What this issue really comes down to is two brothers-in-arms have found themselves on opposing sides of a conflict and there is no way around it. Bendis opens the issue with a nice little Invaders flashback to establish the bound between Namor and Captain America. Then, he brings it full circle by ending on a heartfelt moment between the two. This obviously takes place before Avengers Vs. X-Men #8, but that only makes it more effective since we know what happens next with Namor in Wakanda.
An issue of characters sitting around talking isn’t exactly suited to Mike Deodato’s style, but he pulls it off even though it doesn’t allow him the usual flare he’d bring to a story. I actually really like his flashback scene with the Invaders.
New Avengers gives us another entertaining, character-centric tie-in issue by dipping into the Illuminati well. Seriously, every event should get a tie-in issue of the Illuminati meeting and talking about it. I swear, this just doesn’t get old for me. It’s the kind of issue that plays directly to Bendis’ strengths of dialogue and character interactions. This isn’t terribly important to the event at large but well worth reading for those following Avengers Vs. X-Men.