Editor's Note: New Avengers #42 arrives in stores tomorrow, June 25.
Jumping in his Mr. Fusion powered Delorean, Brian Bendis uses issue #42 of New Avengers to rewind the clock and take us back to the start of the New Avengers and the Skrull invasion. The issue's purpose then becomes to explain the bread crumbs Bendis has been planting all along, and to an extent, the issue succeeds.
The entire narrative follows Jessica Drew, a.k.a. Spider-Woman, since it was recently revealed she has been the Skrull Queen all along. For the entirety of New Avengers she has been at least a double agent at all times, working for an underground Nick Fury, S.H.I.E.L.D., and even Hydra. Well, it seems there was another organization in the cards, working in the shadows since the day Jessica gave herself up to Hydra to renew her powers. These shadowy villains are none other than the Skrulls who masqueraded as Hydra agents when Jessica went under for her super-power renewal surgery. There the Queen of the Skrulls, along with her cronies, took control of Jessica with their special voodoo and have been parading around as her ever since, infiltrating every facet of the Marvel U. with Jessica's unique connections.
It is a rather inspired choice on Bendis’ part because of Jessica's connections with pretty much all of the different factions in the never ending battle of good vs. evil. But besides this clever twist of when the Skrull replacement actually happened at the beginning of the issue, which was already spoiled by Marvel in their early previews, the rest of issue #42 is spent meandering around, covering this series and the Marvel Universe's own continuity gaps. For instance, who started the Ryker's prison riot at the beginning of New Avengers, why didn't these infiltrating Skrulls eliminate Marvel's big guns like Tony, Mr. Fantastic, etc. quietly over the course of the previous few years since they had multiple occasions to do so, and how the Skrulls would be approaching the ever expanding roster of mutants in the universe. All of these issues are touched on, but Bendis never seems to go the extra mile to explain why this is so. He simply states them and moves on. It almost seems like Marvel's tactic is to address these logic gaps and appease readers by saying, "Yes we are aware of these situations that punch holes in our plot so here, they are addressed, be happy we even acknowledged them, now go with our flow." It's kind of a disappointment because it would have been nice to see tactics brainstormed to deal with these situations instead of the Skrull Queen telling everyone about them and do nothing about it. Maybe it will be covered down the road in the main Secret Invasion story. I don't know. I don't own a Delorean to find out early for everyone.
However, the real star of the show this month is Jim Cheung. From the very first image, an ultra detailed close shot of Nick Fury, through to the Skrull replacement of Jessica Drew, Cheung nails every panel out of the park. Not until recently was I aware of his craft, but the man has made an impact on my artistic consciousness that's the size of Texas. He has great compositions and his figures straddle the line of cartoony and realistic to produce a perfect comic book art concoction. The highlight of the issue coming from the ceremony of the Skrull Queen replacing Jessica which Cheung chooses to use a double page spread to deliver a dynamic mural of Jessica and the people who surround her. The image is breathtaking and gets the point across to the reader that this is the Skrull replicating all of Jess' memories to "become" her.
Overall, I think New Avengers #42 is a worthwhile purchase. I haven't followed the regular series since about issue #20, but with "Secret Invasion" bleeding into Bendis' other books, and my interest peaked, I gave New Avengers #42 a chance, and it paid off. For long time readers of the series, I'm sure issue #42 is another golden nugget in the overall picture that Bendis is crafting. I'm also quite sure a lot of the moments in this book will have even more impact for long time readers than it did for this guy. Also, New Avengers #42 did achieve another goal besides forwarding the overall "Secret Invasion" plot: it made me curious to go back to the beginning of New Avengers and see if Jessica Drew's actions match up with this new twist, if in hindsight she has been acting "Skrully" all along.
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