The Illuminati's Welcome Return
The Illuminati return in another good issue of Avengers to address a plot thread that has been dangling since their limited series years ago.
The Illuminati have always been one of the more interesting concepts Brian Michael Bendis injected into the Marvel Universe. It is a little disappointing that all the stories we get of them dwell on their perceived failures, but they still make for a very interesting group of characters with a very interesting goal. Their return in this issue is a great thing, and it is made especially interesting by the inclusion of Medusa in Black Bolt's place. Bendis has a great handling on the dynamic of this group from the bickering with Namor to Mr. Fantastic mourning Black Bolt with Medusa.
All is apparently not forgiven between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, which is interesting to see rear its head since it has been an underrepresented story thread since the Heroic Age began. Steve still does not entirely trust Tony, and he may have proven himself correct at the end of this issue. Seeing these two clash is one of the things I am most looking forward to for the next issue.
One of my criticisms about the start of this story arc was how ridiculously unbelievable it was for the Hood to be pulling off any of what he was accomplishing. Bendis addresses that this issue by having the story basically acknowledge the same thing, basically confirming that there is more going on with what the Hood is doing that we have seen.
On the other hand, Bendis also addresses my other main criticism about last issue in a less than satisfying way. It turns out that the Red Hulk's stupidly plot convenient run-in with the Hood was exactly that. A stupidly convenient way to get the Red Hulk into the story. Just by chance, the Hood teleported into the desert and immediately bumped into the Red Hulk. That is seriously weak.
Now, it is time for the regular portion of the Avengers reviews. The art is still unworthy of a book of this caliber. It doesn't matter what John Romita Jr. has done in the past. He is failing terribly here. It is wildly inconsistent this time as some panels actually look all right and then you will come across some truly terrible and awkward looking panels. Strangely, he manages to do a pretty okay Medusa. But this makes it all the more frustrating because he seems incapable of doing Spider-Woman or Maria Hill any justice at all. The coloring also ranges from dull to terrible. I think there are actually a few panels where Steve Rogers turned into Noh-Varr with his hair becoming white. Iron Man is the only thing in the book that any effort seems to be put into with regards to coloring. This is ridiculous, and it's worth noting every issue rather than just accepting.
Once again, Avengers manages to just about hit that glass ceiling of being as good as it can be with its poor art. The return of the Illuminati is very welcome and really helps salvage this arc from a fairly weak first issue. It will be very interesting to see where this arc goes with the team and with who is really the one behind the Hood's rise to power.