New Avengers #32

Background

Recently the New Avengers went to Japan to rescue erstwhile teammate Echo from the clutches of the Hand. In the course of the rescue Echo killed Elektra, the Hand's leader, and Elektra's body reverted to its true form: that of a Skrull.

The New Avengers have a good deal of downtime facing them as they fly back to the USA on Danny Rand's corporate jet. Good thing they have a lot to talk about...

Story Details

  New Avengers #32
Summary: Spider-Man appears
Arc: Part 1 of 'The Trust' (1-2-3-4-5-6)
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Leinil Yu
Cover Art: Dave McCaig

...but despite having so much fat to chew over, no one's talking. Peter Parker, the extrovert who thinks out loud, wonders why that is, and Logan helpfully points out that no one's talking because no one trusts each other. If Elektra could be a Skrull, and neither Spider-Man nor Wolverine's enhanced senses could detect that, why then any of the New Avengers might be a Skrull too.

No one is above suspicion. Some of them, like Jessica Drew or Clint Barton, have shady pasts. Others-- like Stephen Strange or Danny Rand-- have always been men of mystery. Yet others have been acting out of character lately: Peter Parker revealing his secret identity; Luke Cage becoming a stand-up husband, father, and team player; Wolverine being active with so many groups at once.

Luke Cage, at least, is pleased. The secret enemy he's been concerned about since the first story arc on this title, who manipulated the Raft breakout and so many events thereafter, has now been revealed. The only question remaining is what to do about that enemy. Jessica Drew thinks she knows the answer, which is take pseudo-Elektra's corpse to Tony Stark. This plan thrills no one, as Stark is the most obvious candidate for being, if you'll permit, Skrullish, but Jessica points out that giving him the problem would be the perfect acid test: if he fails to act decisively, or tries to kill the New Avengers, his status as an alien provocateur would be established beyond doubt.

Some speculation on who else might be Skrullish, and what the Skrulls might want, follows. Bruited candidates include the drafter of the Registration Act and the President. Bruited reasons include a desire to conquer Earth, as the Skrull homeworld has been destroyed, and simply warrior pride, seeking revenge for too many defeats at human hands. (Notably, Dr. Strange, late of the Illuminati, does not contribute to the discussion of what the Skrulls might want, though after New Avengers: Illuminati #1 he's certainly got some insight into the question.)

All of these talking heads are interrupted as the plane's engines cut out. We readers know, but the New Avengers don't, that over in the first story arc of Mighty Avengers Ultron has released an electromagnetic pulse that has, among other things, knocked out every plane in North American airspace.

As the plane enters freefall, the New Avengers barely keep from panicking. Spider-Man tries to slow the plane's descent with judicious application of webbing. Meanwhile, Wolverine tosses Spider-Woman out of the plane. Jessica doesn't want to go, but Logan's sure that anyone who can fly on their own power shouldn't take their chances onboard the jet. (Dr. Strange's Eye of Agamotto won't allow him to fly under these conditions, or so he says.)

Danny Rand manages to bring the plane down on a golf course. Do the Avengers survive? One presumes so, but it isn't clear. Certainly the only Avenger on his or her own feet is Wolverine: healing factor, natch. He stumbles outside, where Jessica Drew has alighted and is studying the battered corpse of pseudo-Elektra. Wolverine tries to subdue her, but in his state she's no match for him, and a combination of punches and venom blasts knocks him out. Silently Jessica departs, corpse over her shoulder, presumably on her way to Tony Stark.

General Comments

I realize it's contentious terrain, but I cheerfully submit that Brian Michael Bendis has many strengths, and one of them is his skill at dialogue. Thus this issue, which is almost entirely made up of talking heads, shows Bendis at his best. The back-and-forth between Avengers flows naturally, as do their disagreements, and Wolverine's speech on why any one of the New Avengers might be a Skrull provides a nicely cock-eyed view of the recent past of these characters.

This issue also displays those traits that Bendis' detractors love to highlight: the story, despite opening an arc, is essentially a middle chapter and has no beginning or end of its own; there are many dialogue-free panels, making for what the cool kids are calling a 'decompressed' issue; the dialogue is mannered; Spider-Man comes off more as the class clown than as a troubled loner. Those who see these qualities as vices should give the book a pass. Those who can live with them, or see them as virtues, will adore this book.

Overall Rating

I'm one of the latter.

Footnote

Leinil Yu's dark, inky pencils are excellent, as usual, adding a noiresque note of corruption and mistrust to a book that makes ample use of those themes.