The Avengers Annual #1This story picks up after the ‘New Avengers Annual’ #1 which came out in September, so it all takes place before Fear Itself and Spider Island and everything that’s happened in that span of time.  As such, the story feels a bit deflated.  But still, let’s look at this issue itself.

Simon Williams a.k.a. the former Avenger Wonder Man has deemed The Avengers to be a threat and in ‘New Avengers Annual’ he gathered a team of D-List former Avengers and other heroes as The Revengers (Captain Ultra, Virtue, Devil-Slayer, Atlas, a new Goliath, Century, D-Man and Anti-Venom) and stormed Avengers Mansion, practically razing it to the ground.

The New Avengers team consists of Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Spider-Man, The Thing, Wolverine, Ms. Marvel, Dr. Strange and Iron Fist.  Also present was Wong, Dr. Strange’s manservant. Luckily not present were Luke and Jessica’s baby, Danielle and her nanny Squirrel Girl.  Steve Rogers’ adjective-free team includes Iron Man, Hawkeye, Antman, Moon Knight, Spider-Woman, Thor and most significantly, The Beast, Wonder Man’s former best friend.  (Bucky as Captain America doesn’t seem to appear here.)

Wonder Man sends Atlas to attack Rogers’ team’s base, Avengers Tower.  Luckily, it’s Jarvis’ day off, so the building is vacant.  There isn’t much the heroes can do, other than damage control.  But the real attack comes when Wonder Man goes on TV and makes his accusations public… but before he can reveal much, other than The Avengers have not been held accountable for their actions and that they have created a smoke screen to conceal their secrets, The Avengers arrive and tell him to stop his action.  They do not come to blows, rather it is a war of words as The Avengers try reasoning with him, while he keeps insisting that The Avengers come clean and shut down.  He threatens to tell the world about Ultron and the Scarlet Witch, catastrophic situations he feels are attributed to the team.  Steve Rogers tells Simon he is under arrest, but Simon refuses to recognize his authority.  Things escalate until finally action must be taken.  It’s a brief tussle but Iron Man absorbs Wonder Man’s ionic form into a containment sphere.

Atlas refuses to surrender, so Thor teleports them to Citi Field, where the Revengers battle the combined might of both sets of Avengers.  Not possessing nearly enough power, experience or sheer numbers, The Revengers fall before The Avengers.

Beast visits Simon in his containment pod and the two talk, mentioning their past friendship.  Simon reveals that he doesn’t think he’s even real– stating that after his death, the Scarlet Witch brought him back with her chaos magic powers, “out of thin air.”  He states that because of this epiphany, he can see clearly, when The Avengers cannot.  He asks The Beast to keep his eyes open and eventually he too will see the truth and then “Shut them down.”

Williams’ ploy is successful as TV news analysts are buzzing about The Avengers and the freedom they have to act and how little power the people have over them.  They see their capture of Wonder Man as them silencing a whistle-blower who was about to spill the sinister dark truths they want hidden from society.

Back in his cell, Wonder Man confidently comes to peace with his actions and then… vanishes!  Was he just a magical construct?  Guess we have to wait and see.

Since we are seeing the protests in the regular Avengers books, this does tie into continuity, but coming three months too late, a lot of the story’s momentum has lost steam and feels out of date, with ‘Fear Itself’ (Thor and Bucky’s deaths) and ‘Spider Island’ having already occurred and with Marvel gearing up for ‘Avengers Vs. X-Men.’

The idea of a super hero insider-turned whistle blower is clever, except The Avengers are good guys.  They’re not secretly these vile, manipulative individuals.  Despite their mistakes, they typically always act altruistically, with the greater good in mind.  And Simon Williams has always been kind of a goofy, laid back guy, typically more interested in his acting career than fighting bad guys.  This turn is sort of out-of-the-blue.

There are more than too many characters here.  Individually, they may all work on their respective teams, but characters like Antman and Moon Knight are just extras here.  Honestly, that’s even true of bigger names like Spider-Man and Wolverine.  If there were such a thing as too many superheroes, this would be a great example.

Gabriele Del’Otto’s artwork is hard to find fault with.  It’s quite stylized, so it may not appeal to every fan’s sense of attractive, but it’s very effective and dramatic.  There’s a lot of action and he moves things along at the appropriate pace.  He uses tiny panels in a lot of cases, which is a rarity these days with so many writers and artists using the splash page to eat up chunks of story.  Just a fine job in the art department.

Perhaps this story will play out over in the regular ongoing series, but as a stand alone, it felt a bit throw-away.  I’ve read plenty better Avengers stories.

Verdict: Borrow

THE AVENGERS ANNUAL #1
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art and Cover by Gabriele Del’Otto