Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Review: Avengers #394

Avengers #394, "Bad Blood," Cover Date January 1996
Plot by Bob Harras and Terry Kavanagh, Script by Ben Raab, Pencils by Mike Deodato, Inks by Tom Palmer

Avengers 394 Cover

We begin the issue with narration about Moonraker/Libra, as he is tortured elaborately on the orders of his daughter Mantis. Mantis uses "this one" for the first time in the entire crossover, as she reminds Kang that she doesn't follow the Priest of Pama's code of non-violence. Kang responds by ranting about Mantis's "brood" being unworthy to replace him. Raab then puts in a "meanwhile" when really he means "later," because Kang and Mantis are gone and teenage mystery Luna shows up to give Moonraker something to drink. She frees Moonraker, setting off an alarm, and can't drag him out of the room before the Scarlet Witch's kids, Neut, and some foot-soldiers show up ready for a fight. Luna summons her time chair and zaps herself away, causing Mantis, who somehow knows this is happening, to let out a melodramatic "noooooooooo! Fatheeeerrr!"

Avengers 394 Black Panther
"Sorry dudes, you're on your own." -Black Panther

Back at the Wasp's mansion, Hank sits near her cocoon, while the rest of the team is told by Black Panther via remote that he doesn't have the ability to get into Tony Stark's arctic base. teen Luna zaps in with an unconscious Moonraker, but the team doesn't trust her, and Masque puts a gun to her head, but teen Luna passes out from unrelated causes, mumbling that there was "no time." She recovers, and Jarvis serves her some tea, thinking how she reminds him of someone, and wondering why Crystal seems so unnerved. Hercules, meanwhile, sees something "honest" and "pure" in the girl, which is getting a bit creepy. She warns them that Kang's goons will be coming for Moonraker, and on cue, Neut pops in again, declaring the end-game has begun. FINALLY. Neut punks out the Avengers, making them look like ineffective idiots, as Black Panther and Hawkeye blast each other, Swordsman is disemboweled, teen Luna is killed, and Hank Pym is tossed around by this annoying little blue dude. Suddenly, mid-gloat, Neut is zapped, and collapses. Suddenly, a rejuvenated Wasp appears, in a stupid new Joe Madureira design!

Avengers 394 Wasp 90's design Madureira
Truly a design for the ages.

After a quick check-up that confirms Wasp is fine, the team decide what to do with teen Luna's time chair. Black Widow says they can't just go back and time and kill Tony Stark, but Masque has a better idea: send a genius to catch a genius! Yeah, let's all listen to this mysterious woman who looks like an Iron Man villain! To be continued!


I really hope this is the last appearance of Neut, as he might be the most insufferable character in a pretty insufferable crossover.

Avengers 394 Jarvis Luna
Jarvis, not the world's greatest detective.

On the art side of things, Deodato does some nice, detailed work, complimented by Palmer's inks, although some of the cheesecake-y Deodato stuff feels really out of place in the penultimate chapter of a crossover that is supposed to be a super serious deal, particularly some of the depictions of teenage Luna. He's still probably objectively the best artist on this crossover.

Avengers 394 Hawkeye Black Widow Neut
Earth's Mightiest Heroes in action!

The story is mostly just a meeting with teen Luna, then a fight, which is perfectly cromulent, but individual scenes are still worse than they should be. Kang and Mantis don't reveal why it's so important to have Moonraker, or why Mantis is so upset when he gets away. The actual dialogue in the Black Panther call-in scene is so sparse it's unclear what Panther's even saying he can't do. Help out in any way? Obviously the issue is setting up for the last minute reveal of a revived Janet, which is not really a surprise considering she's on the cover. It feels like there's already enough going on without a completely new version of the Wasp, but they've got to do something with this terrible design. I can't help but think a lot of the blame for these scenes is on Ben Raab, whose voice on these characters is not particularly strong, and who I made fun of earlier for incorrectly using "MEANWHILE," which is comic book writing 101. This still feels like a pretty toothless showdown, but at least the Avengers beating Neut means the team has done something successfully for what seems like the first time in ages. The pacing continues to struggle to find a balance between mindless action and plot, as we still don't really know what's going on, but this far into the crossover I really don't care about the plot. The Avengers can just punch Iron Man, Kang, and Mantis and call it a day.

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