The last time I reviewed a New Avengers #13, back in 2005, I gave it 3 bullets. Bendis is doing better in his second volume, building on what he learned in Dark Avengers to write an altogether more complicated project these days.
It's not that the old tropes aren't still there. I've never read another writer for whom all women are femme fatales. Or mothers, like Jessica Jones. But only because she's a failed fatale. Sometimes they're both, like Scarlet Witch. The heavy in this story, Superia (never was a name delivered in a more mocking tone, by friend and foe alike, every time it's said) is along the lines of Bendis' other female foes -- and friends alike, remember, he hardly differentiates the good guys from the bad -- such as Countess Von Bardass (who wanted to blow everyone up), Daisy Johnson (who could blow up specific targets), Moonstone (who mostly wanted to be Ms. Marvel, and was too horny to blow things up usually) and Madame Hydra (destruction undeterred by being a Skrull sometimes).
Superia has injured Mockingbird, and we've been waiting three issues to see if she survives. They've been flashback issues illustrated by Howard Chaykin, so the wait has been somewhat ameliorated, but I was getting a little tired of all the hand-wringing.
There's no hand-wringing this issue, as it's all about saving Bobbi, by any means necessary. Because Superia, you see, has secrets. Secrets that tie in with all those covert Nazi Cold War flashbacks. This is an issue not for the squeamish, if they mind the idea of Hawkeye, Cage and Wolverine roughing up one of Superia's thugs, who gives as good as she gets. Well, as good as she can give considering she's up against Hawkeye's arsenal, Wolverine's claws, and Cage.
The issue makes time for another flashback with Chaykin-favorite Dominic Fortune being debriefed back in the day, and doing his best to turn everyone's attention to the real problem: the fake Captain America he shot point blank in previous issues. Because, remember, with Bendis, TPTB never know what they're doing, and never listen to their own agents.
There's also the usual overload of Bendis talking heads, but this time what they're saying is mostly useful: Jessica notices that Spider-Man is kind of smart, and sympathises with Danny's dislike for being tossed around. There's even a memory flashback, as Carol recalls something she saw during the initial battle way back when.
It's this image that haunts, because, well, look at it. Ostensibly, Superia is slipping a vial of formula into a copious coat pocket. Sure. That's literally what's happening. But where's that pocket located? And what's being inserted into it? Is there anything more horrifying than a femme fatale who knows just where to secure her phallic weapon?
Deodato impresses on every page this issue. I can't think of another artist who gets as much mileage out of so much page-space of black ink. It must be because his shadows are as detailed as other people's line work. The problem in the past, given Bendis' propensity to blow things up for dramatic impact, has been the struggle to make out what just happened. Not so with Deodato. We see how the explosions (there are like five of them in the extended climax) affect each and every player, every time, mostly by his employment of characteristic silhouettes. It's a tour de force of a nighttime battle lit by burning embers.
There's more funny, like Jessica Drew asking "Who is this Hand person?" about the team's possibly disloyal handler. She's you, Jessica, five years ago, a double-triple-quintuple agent playing all sides against the middle. Wolverine of all people thinks her job is the "most dangerous" of all. We're still left confused about where her loyalties lie by the finale, and Mockingbird's fate has more beats to play as well. But as a wrap-up on the most complex story yet attempted in this title, #13 satisfies.
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