And so, it all ends. Not Siege. This issue has little to do with Siege. If you want a proper conclusion to that series, check out Dark Avengers #16. No, this is a conclusion to the first volume of Bendis’ New Avengers, nothing more, and it’s actually a pretty good one.
Right after Siege concludes, the New Avengers have to chase down The Hood one last time. Why? It doesn’t matter. This series wasn’t about the plot, as most of that was just leading to a disappointing payoff. Like Dark Avengers, this series was about the characters. Bendis wrote this series trying to grasp the feeling of Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused. All of these guys are your friends, and you go along with them on their wacky adventures. Now, of course, this doesn’t make for a perfect comic, but it could easily be a lovable one.
This issue was falsely marketed as the conclusion to The Hood’s story arc, the one that’s been building since the latter half of this series began. The Hood is powerless, his own goons are mad at him, and all he and his girlfriend, Madame Masque, have to turn to is her even crazier father, Count Nefaria. Naturally, the issue sees the Avengers chase them all down, kick their ass, and arrest them. That’s really not too great a conclusion to The Hood and Madame Masque’s story arc, but that’s what we get.
This entire series has seen the New Avengers operate as a ragtag bunch of heroes, usually fleeing from the law while trying to stop the bag guys simultaneously. But, with this issue, Bendis really tries to make these guys feel like the real Avengers. They don’t have to flee from the law anymore, and even get to cooperate with the authorities by the issue’s end. They get to fight Count Neferia, a real old school Avengers foe. This ragtag bunch of heroes have finally graduated to the big time. That’s what Bendis tries to show here, and he does it well, while providing an entertaining adventure along the way.
Bryan Hitch draws about 50 of this issue’s 60 pages, and most of it looks pretty good. Hitch is a good partner for Bendis, as both creators require a lot of page space to truly be effective. Butch Guice continues to ink Hitch here, and although I still don’t think they’re the perfect match, Guice does a good enough job sharpening Hitch’s pencils. Paul Mounts, a longtime collaborator with Hitch, actually has a rare misstep here, as his colors often drown Hitch’s linework with too dark of colors, making the action scenes a bit murky. And Hitch himself is uneven at times, with some pages looking gorgeous, while a few panels here and there look sloppy.
You’re milage may vary. If you didn’t like Bendis’ output on this series, I doubt this issue will change your mind much, though it is one of the better ones. But, if you loved Bendis’ voice on this project, you’ll find the issue to be one to treasure. The issue concludes with a series of flashback double-page spreads. Nearly all of them are reprints, which is very disappointing. During these pages, Bendis gives Luke Cage the closing remarks. It’s a great speech, but since it’s spread out over so many pages, and I was admittedly frustrated by the reprints, it may take you a couple reads to grasp its significance. But, when you do, you’ll find a new spread by Stuart Immonen, and one of the finest conclusions to a Marvel series in recent memory.