Finally, New Avengers gets to wrap up its string of Avengers Vs. X-Men tie-ins. This is the last time it has to placate the needs of the unnecessarily drawn-out event. This is it, and boy, does it make the Avengers look bad.
It’s not really New Avengers fault, though. Avengers Vs. X-Men as a whole has consistently made the Avengers look pretty awful. Some of the X-Men at least have the excuse of being possessed by a cosmic force known for making people act a little crazy. The Avengers has been behaving as paranoid idiots from the start. But this issue of New Avengers does personalize and shine a light on it more.
This issue, presumably taking place after Avengers Vs. X-Men has concluded, centers on some of the New Avengers carrying out the prison transport of Emma Frost to wherever she is going to end up. This gets complicated by an attack by well-armed anti-mutant bigots.
But why is Emma Frost in chains in the first place? Come on. Marvel can’t possibly be trying to sell us on the idea that the Phoenix Five were responsible for their actions. Emma was pumped up full of Phoenix juice. Plus, it was the Avengers’ fault that a portion of the Phoenix Force went into her. Yet, here the Avengers are carting her off to jail and even copping an attitude with her about it in the process. Even Daredevil.
Really? Daredevil? My memory isn’t that short. I can remember that he recently got himself possessed by a demon and took over part of New York, putting him in conflict with some Avengers too. How’d that work out? Oh, the Avengers invited him to join up.
The hypocrisy and insensitivity is pretty ripe in this issue. You even have the Avengers facing off with the kind of intense, dangerous bigotry that mutants deal with all of the time. Their response? They’re relieved that their scapegoat Emma Frost wasn’t able to take that opportunity to escape. Wow. There’s not even an apology for nearly getting her killed because they underestimated how badly some people want to kill mutants. All this really makes it hard to buy into the idea that the post-AvX Marvel Universe is going to show the Avengers trying to bridge the gap with the X-Men. The only lesson the Avengers seemed to have learned is that the bad mutants can’t be trusted.
But really, all this is only the backdrop for the story. The real story here is about Luke Cage. His character arc for Avengers Vs. X-Men has been to struggle with his new role as a father along with being an Avenger. His wife, Jessica Jones, has already made the decision that the two roles are incompatible, but Luke hasn’t yet agreed. It’s here that he thinks it through and comes to his own decision.
I’ll be honest. I really haven’t liked where Brian Michael Bendis has decided to go with Luke and Jessica lately. Why would I? As a fan of both characters, there is no way I want to see them retire to go be parents. I don’t care if it makes sense. It’s not at all satisfying for me as a reader. This volume of New Avengers has already let me down because it started with the tease that Jessica would become a fully fledged Avenger and superhero. That never happened. Now, Bendis is teasing something similar with Luke.
The elevation of Luke’s status as a Marvel character has been one of Bendis’ biggest career successes. So ending his Avengers run by shuffling Luke back off to where the character came from is really the worst thing that could be done. Bendis has made Luke Cage viable as a big name Avenger. That achievement is a waste if it isn’t followed through on.
Despite all that, Bendis and Mike Deodato do make the action entertaining as usual. The Thing is a lot of fun in their hands, and Mockingbird gets to come off as a big badass as she takes on Purifiers. The fault here is not the talents of the writer and the artist. There’s no questioning the quality there. It’s just the directions things are going in.
New Avengers entertains but not as much as it frustrates. The book can’t escape Marvel’s severe mishandling of the conflict between the Avengers and the X-Men, and what Bendis is teasing for Luke Cage is by far the most disappointing of all possible outcomes for the character. I know there’s no salvaging Avengers Vs. X-Men, but I can only hope Bendis reverses course with Luke Cage in the few issues he has left on this series.