Editor's Note: New Avengers #38 arrives in stores tomorrow, February 13.
Following the events of the second New Avengers Annual, in which Jessica Jones finally signed up with Tony Stark's "Mighty Avengers" for the safety of her baby, Luke Cage tracks her down this issue to argue her decision and attempt to convince her to return to the New Avengers.
I've been looking forward to this issue of New Avengers for a while. The reason for this is the presence of Michael Gaydos, the artistic collaborator who first brought Brian Bendis' character of Jessica Jones to life in Alias (and also drew her in later issues of The Pulse), and who returns this issue to illustrate the next major chapter in her life. However, whilst Gaydos' work here is as enjoyably expressive and realistically grounded as expected, the big showdown between Jessica and Luke isn't quite as dramatic and compelling as it might have been - especially for readers like me who have followed the pair's relationship ever since Bendis started writing it more than six years ago.
I can't deny that Bendis is great at capturing the voice of Jessica Jones (he created her, after all), and his characterisation of Luke Cage has become the defining modern take on the character. However, despite a promising start, the bulk of the discussion between the two characters comes off as hollow and feels like little more than going through the motions. Maybe this is an intentional choice, to reflect the idea that the two newlyweds have each considered their situation, adopted a position, and are both stubborn enough to refuse to budge, even when their relationship is on the line - but even if that is the case, it's a fairly thin premise for an entire issue's worth of story.
Luckily, there is a little more to the issue than that: there's another crossover appearance from the Mighty Avengers, and a secondary plot thread which sees Danny Rand come up with a new base of operations for the New team, giving Bendis the opportunity to indulge in some fun banter between the team members, which is one of his strengths. There are other enjoyable touches, too - Bendis' characterisation of Ares from Mighty Avengers continues to entertain, and the coy dialogue and meaningful looks from Ms. Marvel, Spider-Woman and Black Widow should give Skrull theorists plenty to chew on.
Sadly, though, by the end of the issue, there's a sense that very little has changed. Luke and Jessica state and restate their points of view on the wisest course of action to take in light of the possible Skrull invasion and their vulnerability as outlaw heroes, but it never really goes anywhere. The lingering final page again hints that there's more than meets the eye as far as a certain minor character is concerned, but doesn't give us any new information that's solid enough to base any Skrull-related theories on. I can only hope that Bendis has got strong enough plans for his Secret Invasion crossover event that this is all going to turn out to mean something more significant in retrospect - because at the moment, the build-up feels like a bit of a mess. Worryingly, it's beginning to feel like the running plot thread from X-Files about a secret alien invasion, which was drawn out for so long and became so convoluted that even the most faithful viewers had lost interest by the time the weak payoff finally came.
Whilst this issue might provide a welcome opportunity for Michael Gaydos to revisit Luke and Jessica again (and his take on both characters is definitive, in my view) and for Bendis to write some convincing back-and-forths and amusing one-liners, it doesn't do enough to maintain the momentum of the overall New Avengers story at a time when we're meant to be gearing up for a major crossover event. As such, it feels like yet more treading water, and at this point, Secret Invasion can't get here quickly enough.
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