Despite being a big fan of what Marvel’s done recently with its cosmic line of comic books, I have never read some of the classic Marvel stories featuring these characters, such as The Infinity Gauntlet. But having enjoyed Bendis’ Avengers work for a number of years now, and likewise surprisingly finding myself even enjoying John Romita Jr.’s artwork from volume 1 of this new series – I was very excited to learn the Infinity Gems would be a major part of this next storyline.
The Hood, who is little more than a two-bit villain, has discovered that the Infinity Gems – items which provide the holder with unlimited reality altering powers – have been hidden on Earth since the last cosmic war over them. So, he begins a quest to gather the Gems – which soon comes to the attention of the Avengers. Unfortunately, it also reveals the existence of the Illuminati, a secret group of some of the most powerful superheroes of the Marvel universe – who each took one of the Infinity Gems and hid it. Not such a big deal right? Except Iron Man was one of the Illuminati, and Captain America (who was on the other side of the recent Civil War and still harboring some resentment towards Tony Stark) was not.
Now Steve Rogers is going to have to gather the Avengers to help clean up this mess the Illuminati caused, before the Hood can gather enough of the Gems together that he might destroy the entire universe and remake it in his own image. So the Avengers split up – some heading to each of the remaining locations of the Infinity Gems in order to secure them, some attempting to catch up with Hood and get back the Gems he already stole. This is a great set up for a number of different battles, as the Avengers wind up inside Xavier’s Danger Room (where he hid his Gem) or deep underwater where Namor put his.
This was also my first exposure to the Red Hulk, and surprisingly I found I was enjoying the use of the character. After all the bad press I had been hearing about this character and his book, I expected there to be very little of merit – but in some ways it’s like a return to an older Hulk, one who is looking for redemption for the bad things he has done. The only odd thing going on in this comic is the fact that Steve Rogers is not actually Captain America at this point – it’s still a role being played by Bucky – but because Steve was important to this tale, Bucky is left out. I’ll be happy when Fear Itself comes along and sorts this whole mess out.
There’s a coda of a Point One issue at the end of this collection, which provides exactly the kind of story I was hoping for from the Invincible Iron man Point One issue. Spider-Woman is on a solo mission in the jungle tracking down a strange energy source, when she’s attacked and taken by a group of various evil scientist types (such as MODOK, Thinker, etc.). These scientists were likewise following the same trail, to a downed Space Knight, and now they are hoping to unlock its secrets. Meanwhile, the Avengers are also on the case, leading to an inevitable confrontation. This story has a lot of great action, features a cross-section of Avengers from the various Avengers books, has some great character moments, and most importantly also sets up a future storyline and hooks the reader into wanting to come back to see what’ll happen next issue. That’s a successful Point One issue to my thinking.
I enjoyed volume 2 of this new Avengers title as much as I did the first, and while I can’t say that I love John Romita Jr.’s art, this is probably the best work I’ve seen from him. The writing is what I’ve come to expect from Bendis, at this point you pretty much know if you like him or if you don’t. Since he writes the only Avengers I’ve ever regularly followed, I’m happy to say this story more than met my expectations. I eagerly look forward to reading Fear Itself to see what sorts of trouble these heroes get into next, not to mention waiting to see when the seeds planted in this book come to fruition sometime in the near future.