To prove the point that I made previously when explaining my response to the work of Brian Michael Bendis, New Avengers #12 shows that sometimes when I cross my fingers and hope, it actually pans out and I do manage to enjoy his work. It's just not as often as I'd like, considering how many books he writes.
The current dual storyline running through New Avengers is what people in the TV business will call a "backdoor pilot," wherein a bunch of characters from a planned spin-off series get their initial exposure within a current hit series, much like CBS's big hit NCIS was initially introduced in a two-part episode of JAG, for example. In this case, it's for an Avengers: 1959 book that hasn't been confirmed as far as I know, but it's been discussed, and I'd certainly be on board for that. Agents of Atlas was so cool that I'm becoming a sucker for hero stories from that era in Marvel – the post Captain America, pre-Fantastic Four era that's becoming an ever-widening gulf of time to play with. Nick Fury, Ulysses Bloodstone, Dominic Fortune, Namora, Sabertooth, Kraven and the original Silver Sable – what's not to like there? Well, aside from Howard Chaykin's penchant for giving everybody Leno chins, that is.
In this episode, the squad has tried to put the kibosh on some Nazi shenanigans, only to find out that they've got a mysterious bulletproof goon dressed as Captain America to foist on them while the Red Skull makes his getaway. It's straight up fun action, for the most part, although Kraven botching things up twice makes him seem less cool, as Sergei is more fun when he's scarily competent – but hey, we can say he was young then. Of course, things always get ugly when Victor Creed is involved, and his lethal methods screw things up for this team – so there's no telling if he'll remain on the roster when they finally get their inevitable spin-off.
It's not clear what this 1959 storyline really has to do with the modern one, where Mockingbird is in the hospital and the rest of the team is intent on finding Superia and her rogue cell of H.A.M.M.E.R., which was Norman Osborn's S.H.I.E.L.D. replacement. One parallel, however, pits both teams' resident hairy savages, Wolverine and Sabertooth, against each other across time – basically putting them both in the role of interrogator to illustrate the difference between the two. Creed just lops heads off and walks away with nothing, while Ol' Howlett plays it a hell of a lot cooler.
It's easy to get sick of seeing Wolverine all the time, but every once in a while, somebody gives him a moment to remind us all why the furry runt has such a timeless appeal of cool, and Bendis and Mike Deodato do a great job with this moment here. I'd love to see Deodato do the Avengers 1959 bits – I know Chaykin's got the more retro style, but it just feels off-putting to me. Art is subjective like that. Everybody's got their somethin'.
Overall, the story's still percolating and could be headed for an interesting place with the uncertain loyalty of Victoria Hand, so my fingers are crossed once again. Although hearing Luke Cage mention that the Avengers are government employees makes me wonder whatever happened to the old charter where they weren't limited by national borders. I guess Steve Rogers being your figurehead doesn't make for easy independence.