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New Avengers #34: Bendis Goes Out Strong

The longtime Avengers writer ends his record-breaking run by saving his best for last.

New Avengers #34

It’s been a really long time since I cheered at the end of a comic. It’s been an even longer time since I cheered at the end of a Brian Michael Bendis comic. So it shocked me when I yelled “nice” as loudly as I could at the end of New Avengers #34. This issue completes Bendis’ run, the end of an era, and he’s saved his best stuff for last. New Avengers #34 is one of those few and far between moments when Bendis’ writing is on point with every page.

At the end of New Avengers #33, Doctor Strange had issued Daniel Drumm, the murderous brother of the late Doctor Voodoo, a challenge. Drumm is angry over the death of his brother and blames Doctor Strange, saying the good doctor set up Voodoo to fail so he could once again become the Sorcerer Supreme. Wrapped up in his wrath, Drumm has killed several sorcerers as well as Victoria Hand, the Avengers' controversial liaison. Strange reaches the end of his patience when Drumm begins using mind control to have the Avengers attack him. The challenge is accepted. On one side, Doctor Strange, on the other, Daniel Drumm using all the Avengers as weapons.

The battle rages on, with Strange trying to fight his friends without hurting them. Meanwhile, in the spiritual realm, somebody is watching the fight. Feeling as though he’s about to lose, Doctor Strange remembers that he is not the Sorcerer Supreme and thusly cannot be penalized for using the dark arts. That’s when things get real. Strange opens up a dark arts can of whoop-ass that destroys Drumm forever. Then, from the ethereal plane, the spirit of The Ancient One appears. He is pleased that Strange was able to handle the dark arts and not succumb to them. His reward? Doctor Strange is returned to his rightful place as the Sorcerer Supreme.

Yep, that’s when I cheered.

Bendis absolutely nails this issue. The pacing is perfect, the dialog spot on and he even manages to make the return of Doctor Strange to his rightful spot a surprise. I also like the angle of Luke Cage leaving the Avengers for his family, it sets up the series for some interesting story arcs down the line. I’ll admit, I’m excited to see where the new creative team takes The New Avengers, but I must tip my hat to Mr. Bendis on a final run executed perfectly.

I’m going to assume somebody at Marvel thought it would be a great idea for this double sized issue to feature a myriad of artists. Well, they were wrong. Mike Deodato handles the main art wonderfully, but most of the battle scenes were placed in different hands. As Strange is forced to fight each mind-controlled member of the Avengers, the comic is given a new look.

The first is a splash page by Chuck BB (Black Metal) depicting an overly cartoonish clash of Strange and Red Hulk. Following that, Farel Dalrymple (Pop Gun War) uses his more fantasy driven style to illustrate the clash between Spider-Man and Strange. Ming Doyle steps in when Strange fights The Thing and her work is awful. The Thing looks more like the Toxic Avenger. I was also unimpressed with Lucy Kinsley’s coloring book art featuring Strange and Captain America, but I dug the Thor fight by Becky Cloonan. Yves Bigerel completes the “jam artist” section with a pop art take on Strange battling Captain Marvel. Finally, we’re returned to the art of Mike Deodato to end the issue. I see what Marvel was going for here, but it doesn’t really work out.

Mixed feelings about art and Bendis leaving aside, New Avengers #34 is an absolute gem of a book.

8

(5 Story, 3 Art because of the Jam Art section)