Pick of the Week

December 20, 2006 – The New Avengers: Illuminati #1

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Story by Brian Michael Bendis & Brian Reed
Art by Jim Cheung
Inks by Mark Morales
Colors by Justin Ponsor
Letters by Cory Petit

Published by Marvel Comics | $2.99

This was a rough week! I could have made several Picks, and the Top 2 both contained the word “Avenger.” And neither of them really had anything to do with Civil War, which I’m pretty much ready to be done with. Conversely, I could have written twice as much here about why Frontline was the book that frustrated more than anything I’ve read this year. But enough of that! What’s this about the Illuminati?

Pure and simple, this was a great Marvel comic. I was having fun reading it. There was action, and big superhero fighting. There were quips and jokes and wisecracks. It felt big and significant. It had Skrulls! But what really sent this over the edge was the thing I’m sure haven’t seen for a while, if ever:

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Black Bolt.

The king of the Inhumans is carrying a big ol’ stick. This is a man who personifies Teddy Roosevelt’s most famous quote. And you NEVER get to see him actually use his power. They just hint at it. But when you need to send a message to the invading Skrull hordes, I defy you to find a better candidate in the entire Marvel Universe to deliver it.

With this particular gathering, you really have a very interesting, very powerful group of characters. I really think that you’d be hard pressed to put together a more complete group of the best Marvel has to offer in terms of a group of people who can’t be beat. And looking at the characters on the cover, I’m noticing how varied these guys are in personality, and how putting them together is a stroke of genius from a storytelling point of view. None of them have anything in common with one another. None of them have a particularly strong affinity for anyone else in the group. There aren’t any partnerships. If anything, they’re all just acquaintances who agreed that they had to work together. The clash of their various personalities, which are all well defined, can be used for endless stories, and interesting character interactions.

Then, they take that concept one step further, and go back to core Marvel history, and show the readers that these guys were involved all along, but no one knew about it. And unlike in the origin of the Sentry, the story actually works in this instance. There might be people out there who balk at tinkering with the official history, I think it’s happening in exactly the spirit in which Stan created this universe, and hence doesn’t feel forced at all.

Like a nerdy fat guy who happens to get a girlfriend who is far too attractive for him, Joe Quesada needs to draw up a contract for Jimmy Cheung, and lock that shit down. I’ll be honest, that I’m not sure this was even his best work, but compared to some of the other art I saw this week (52, Frontline, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Cheung is going to be very much in demand very soon. His work is just good comic booking. From the epic space battles, and the punching, and the alien torture of Reed Richards, it was all strong.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit, there were logical flaws in this book, and bits of it didn’t quite make sense to me, but overall, this was the one book I read which I wished was longer. Normally, I dread the appearance of a new mini-series, because it’s just one more book I have to pay for, but this is a mini I can get behind. At least until it starts getting into the Civil War stuff. Unless Black Bolt is the one to end the whole mess. Fingers crossed.

Josh Flanagan
Who says nothing happens in a Bendis book?
josh@ifanboy.com

Did you read The New Avengers: Illuminati #1? Add a comment and tell everyone what you think about this week’s comics!

Comments

  1. The new Illuminati issue was thoroughly awesome, I agree, and it might’ve been my favorite this week if Casualties of War hadn’t come out. I’m a big fan of the whole Civil War thing, though, so my “ready for it to be over” feeling is more “I can’t wait to see how it ends.”

    Overall, though, I can’t disagree with you. Illuminati was a fucking *great* book and I’m really looking forward to the rest of the mini.

  2. I liked seeing handicapped Xavier again. It just felt right, like going home after a long vacation…I’m getting all teary eyed just thinking about it.

  3. i loved seeing tony stark not be a complete asshole. i thought the characterization was good all around, given the limited space allowed to each member of the illuminati. i also smiled at the appearance of *SPOILER* Thor, even if it ended up not being real.

    new avengers 26 was very very pretty. the entire issue felt like one of those surreal dream sequences. just great.

  4. Illuminati was great I agree, but I also liked New Avengers and I really like FF, for the first time ever I though Bemm Grimm was a great leadin character he was hillarious, come on you gotta love the french JLA(anybody else pick that up) and “IL EST TEMPS DE BATTRE!”

  5. Oh and two more things Penace is Speedball and was that really Wanda?

  6. I wrote this off as a reprint. Glad it aint.

  7. I’m with you that it was a great week for comics, Josh.

    Casualties of War: Iron Man/Captain America was really great. However, halfway through I realized that nothing substantial could come of this issue, it just has to be sort of a recap of Civil War and the timeline; anything big is going to happen in the main books. However, the writer of IM/CA understands these two men unlike any other writer who is doing Civil War right now. And that made it a great read, real insight into the characters and their motivations and Tony didn’t come off as a total jerk.

    I also read Iron Man #14 and really enjoyed that too. I’m starting to think that even though Tony may be a jerk who is convinced that the ends overjustify the means, he is really the most interesting character to come out of Civil War. He’s not just fighting those who oppose him, he’s fighting his inner demons. There’s conflict, there’s subconscious stuff going on. At least in these two books all this has a chance to come out.

  8. I didn’t get a copy of Illuminati, but I may try to track one down tomorrow. Or see if they get it in next week. So far I’ve only read New Avengers and 52 and I must say, I turned back and looked at the Wanda/Clint makeout page ala Klimt several times. Great design, beaut illustration. Can’t wait for ish 27.

  9. Yup, Cheung’s art is great, he got me on to Young Avengers despite the fact that it was writen by the same guy who did the frigin O.C.!

    Oh, yeah.
    Criminal #3 anyone?

  10. The Illuminati waas great. I picked up like 13 book this week and that was the best of the lot.

    A quick comment about Casualties of War: Iron Man/Captain America:

    Did anyone else while reading this think-My god, this issue reads like two former lovers getting back together to review their relationship to determine whether they could/should get back together or not. This did not read like two leaders of warring factions coming together for one last chance at peace or whatever. Reminded me of Brian Wood’s Demo #8: Mixtape. I guess I was expecting a more…heated debate, not a sentimental stroll down memory lane. I felt ill after reading this, kind of like I felt after seeing X-Men 3. This just flat out sucked but I liked the nods to past continuity.

    The bit in Iron Man about Tony using Extremis as a solution to Peter’s spider sense was brilliant!

  11. Wanda/Clint makeout page ala Klimt

    That was really cool and I’m so glad that someone else picked it up. There were actually two pages in a row where as soon as I looked at them I thought immediately of Klimt.

    I didn’t get to the store last night and tonight is crazy too so I’ll be going on Friday so I only got to read part of my ‘stack’.

    Illuminati was really good and probably my best so far. I really like Namor in small doses when he’s written right.

    New Avengers 26 was really good too but for me it was mostly the art. Alex Maleev is so goddamn talented that I lack the words to properly describe how I feel about his work.

    Ms. Marvel #10 was good. It’s getting better as they get further from CW. She was difficult to read during her cw arc.

    Thunderbolts 109 really made me glad that Ellis, Deodato, Bullseye and Venom come in next issue. It was a bullshit ‘clean up mom’s coming home’ type of issue.

    Union Jack #4 was awesome. Again. The whole mini has been. I’m stopping here though because I’m the only one in the world that reads it so why bother?

    X-Men First Class #4 was really good. I’m starting to be able to read this without pissing on it. At first, there were things about it that bothered me. For instance, it’s set in between issues of the original 20 or so issues of X-Men but it takes place in the present. They have the internet. Yeah

    Fables #56 was their Christmas issue. It didn’t suck as much as most do. That is not to say that it was good.

    Cable & Deadpool 35 was cool. More good than bad but not as good as it’s been recently.

    IM/CA Casualties of War: what can I say? I thought it was terrible. Nothing happened and the story went nowhere. The only positive was that it was one of the only semi-positive characterizations of IM in a while. It was just kind of stupid though. It kind of felt like they were only doing it to recap events to this point which is kind of funny because CW just came to IM last issue and CA 3 issues ago, and even then those haven’t really been too much about CW. It feels like they did this with readers of the two series in mind that aren’t reading CW. Like, there’s a continuity shift coming and they want the ‘under a rock’ people to be able to embrace it.

  12. Like a nerdy fat guy who happens to get a girlfriend who is far too attractive for him, Joe Quesada needs to draw up a contract for Jimmy Cheung, and lock that shit down.

    Clearly that’s very funny

  13. This was a good week for comic books… even the Civil War tie ins weren’t awful (Front Line doesn’t count anymore…)
    I do like how in two books (Casualties of War and Iron Man) both major players (Cap and Stark, respectively) were accused of using people’s love for them to their advantage (Cloak and Dagger idolize Cap, Peter idolizes Stark, it’s a vicious cycle my friends!). And Front Line was just crap… as usual… only 2 more issues and then my completist genes will stop causing me pain.
    Checkmate, Criminal, and 52 were all good (as usual), Teen Titans was eh (the second book of my stack that had a scene in the Oblivion bar… I thought this place was exclusive or something), but overall, I totally agree with the POW. I actually didn’t buy it at first, got home, realized I forgot Teen Titans, and then went back and bought Illuminati as well since i figured it was fate or something, and the art looked cool.

    Also… Black Bolt has used his powers on the page before. In the last issue of Son of M, when he says “War” (of course in small letters), and blows everything in Genosha to high heaven (it was a sick spread too, showed a helicopter coming down and everything…)

  14. Sadly, I only got two books this week, Criminal and Ultimate Spider-Man. Criminal, of course, was great and USM took a turn for the better. Didn’t the new collection from Fables come out this week? I’ll have to hunt it down.

  15. Josh – loved the Arrested Development allusion. “You’ve gotta lock that down” is a favorite of mine. Along with George Bush does not care about black puppets.

    Anyway, on to the comics.

    I wasn’t going to get Illuminati, and then I did, and IT WAS AWESOME. This was super-hero Bendis at his finest. I can’t say more about Jim Cheung’s art that hasn’t been said. He’s in a class along with Cassaday and McNiven right now as far as Marvel artists. And Cheung, more than any of the others, seems like a quintessential MARVEL artist.

    For me, though, the pick would have been Checkmate or Criminal. Checkmate is so good – please buy it if you are not already. I love reading Sasha Bordeaux again; I didn’t know how much I missed that character from Rucka’s Batman run. Her showdown with Sarge Steel was riveting. How does Rucka manage to make the politics of fictional policing agencies fascinating?

    As for Criminal, Sean Phillips rocks. I don’t know it there is another artist that lays out a page so well. His use of the panel size to show passage of time to the reader is so well-used. My Criminal complaint – what’s up with the word balloons? They seem so big and distracting. It’s been bothering me since issue 1

    And I’m still enthralled with 52. And now, because I care about Renee and the Question, I care about Batwoman. But when the hell do we get the Nightwing/Barbara Gordon break-up story? (unless it was in Birds of Prey – I don’t read BoP).

  16. Oh crap, I just realized missed Ultimate Spider-man.

    I’ve only read half of my comics so far, but I’d say Illuminati would also be my pick. It was fun for all the reasons already stated but, surprisingly, so was Fantastic Four. JMS is very similar to Peter David in that he can use meta-fictional humor to poke fun at comics. The Thing leaves the U.S. to protest Civil War and then has team-up with the Justice League of France. It wasn’t uniquely clever, just well executed. This kind of comic book is why I am not totally disgusted with JMS. He can write decent stories, but then he also falls flat a lot. Like in the last issue of FF. When I get one of his comics I am hoping its going to be great, but I fear it will be terrible, which is why I am not all that excited about him doing a new Thor series.

  17. Also… Black Bolt has used his powers on the page before. In the last issue of Son of M, when he says “War” (of course in small letters), and blows everything in Genosha to high heaven (it was a sick spread too, showed a helicopter coming down and everything…)

    Yeah, I knew it would be something I hadn’t read. Still….awesome.

  18. I wish this website would remember my info longer than 20 hours. . . ::sigh::

    Yes, Black Bolt rules. Finally, we get an answer to “What would happen if Batman finally just killed the Joker?” Well, OK, not that answer, but an idea along the same lines. It was war they want, and it was war BB gave them. LOVED IT. Others, I know, didn’t feel the same way.

    The CW IM/CA thing stunk. It was a clips show made for comics. Nothing happened. The art was stiff. I give Gage credit for one thing, though — he’s done a better job at trying to rationalize Tony Stark’s behavior better than any of the Big Name Marvel writers have so far. Of course, that rationale is “We need to register superheroes because when they’re drunk, they might kill someone.” Oh, well. . .

  19. I think Illuminati is the best book I’ve read this week, but then I am only 2.5 books into my stack so far. I expected it to be a lot more talky than it was, lots more behind the scenes scheming and plotting like last time, but then I turned the first page, and punch punch shoot kick talksplode!

    When Black Bolt does get to talksplode something, what do you think he says? Do you think he twists the knife by destroying your entire neighborhood by saying something asinine or insulting?

    “Watch out; the Inhuman is unleashing the destructive power of his deadly voice!”

    “DUCKIES.” BOOOOOOM

    I read New Avengers, but I’m still not really sure how it ended if you know what I mean. What happens to Clint next, and why do I have a feeling the next issue won’t tell me?

  20. Duckies

    LOL!

    There’s a whole routine to be gotten out of this.

  21. talksplode

  22. I am not sure what is being sold here, but I will take two.

    http://tomztoyz.blogspot.com/2006/12/sexy-foreign-dc-superheroes-tv.html#links

  23. Hey, somebody give Ron a message for me.

    SQUAWK!

    He’ll know what I’m talking about.

  24. Thanks Horatio – message received

  25. Illuminati rocked indeed. BB FTW!!! And I’d pay big bucks for that original 2 page spread of the ship exploding.

    New Avengers was awesome. I thought it would be a cop out but the art would have made up for any lame story and it was not to bad either.

    Criminal was cool. I knew Old Man Alzheimers would be a great character. He’s about to really screw things up.

    Was anyone elsed depressed by Cable/Deadpool?? Not an average C/D, but I’m not bitching, different is better I guess.

    FF was a laugh riot however. Totally out of left field but was really good.

    The CW tie-ins were meh. War Crimes with The Kingpin was kinda refreshing tho. I like when the bad guy screws the other bad guy but the good guy still wins ?:

    Good week tho.

  26. I like this column but he didn’t read iFB pick so we can’t compare opinions. Oh well. I haven’t read it yet either but I will now that it has gotten so much praise.

    http://www.comicbookresources.com/columns/index.cgi?column=tbp&article=2676

    Yeas I watched oz. It was cool. And yeas I spelled it that way on purpose. I’m from the south after all.

  27. Anyone else think that Old Alzheimers doesn’t have Alzheimers at all and he’s running a game on Soul Patch? (Sorry, can’t remember the guy’s names.) I mean, he gives the guy free drugs and everything.

  28. This is totally unrelated to comics but this makes Iron Man vs. Captain America look like a friendly game of shuffleboard.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d32577Hom08

  29. I’m actually proud of myself this week…I didn’t go and buy EVERY Civil War related tie-in. Hell, not even one Civil War book.

    And yeah Gaumer, Cable and Deadpool was a TAD bit on the depressing side…rather than the upbeat hilarity it should be on a regular basis.

    Also, Teen Titans was pretty good too. I liked getting to know the story behind Kid Devil, especially with his recent appearance in the Titans Tower in 52.

  30. Holy shit. I had heard about this and I actually searched for it this morning but I couldn’t find it. That’s awesome