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Ontology on the gone!

The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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08/03/2004 Archived Entry: "Comic review: Avengers 500"

Avengers #500
Cover By: David Finch
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: David Finch
Inks: Danny Miki
Published by Marvel

Review by Chad Denton

Here at last is not only a hugely important anniversary issue (according to the numerology that serves as a religion for superhero serials), but the first part of the much-hyped "Avengers Disassembled" issue which had quite a few preludes in other titles up to this point. The title alone doesn't provide much of an indicator as to why this story should be a big deal: after all, one of the motifs of the Avengers is that the line-up is often in flux and its members don't quite get along as well as other superhero teams. Besides, we know there has to be an Avengers team or else there won't be much point in having a series, unless the creators are planning to do what Chris Claremont did with the X-Men in the late '80s and follow the wanderings of individual members for years.

Brian Michael Bendis and David Finch both produced this issue, which has so far gotten a mostly lukewarm response. The things that critics dislike and fans love about Bendis' writing - the 'realistic' stop-start dialogue, for one - actually don't seem to be in full effect here, but the plotting seems to be going to desperate lengths to convince us that, yes, the Avengers are really screwed this time. The opening pages are quite effective: the Avengers are having a quiet breakfast (in costume, for some reason) when the zombified form of a recently killed member appears on their doorstep. But then all hell breaks loose: at the U.N. Tony Stark (who has, by the way, become Secretary of Defense over in his own title) goes beserk on the delegate from Latveria; an Avenger is seemingly killed; the Avengers Mansion is destroyed; and, well, there's more, but I shouldn't spoil it. Just one or two of the crises that affect the Avengers here would have made for a good story, but there's just a feeling of overload here, and with that a sense that the catastrophes that have struck will not really stick.

That said, I don't think it's that dire an opening chapter. In between the massive disasters, there are a few effective character scenes - two Avengers having an almost fanboyish discussion about a supervillain in one of those trademark Bendis moments and Captain America demanding that a SHIELD operative respect Jarvis as much as he respects him - as well as some striking moments of horror - the unfolding of the first catastrophe to strike, the sight of the rubble and what lies under it, and what She-Hulk does toward the end of the issue. What power these individual moments have, though, are inevitably lost in the static.

There's still plenty of time for the plot to go in more interesting and unexpected directions and perhaps in retrospect this one issue will seem more powerful - after all, Bendis is the father of decompressed storytelling in comics - but so far this doesn't even feel like a story, but an exercise in putting the Avengers through hell.

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