New Avengers Finale #1

Over five years ago, Brian Michael Bendis and David Finch relaunched “Avengers” as “New Avengers” and, since then, it’s been a consistent top ten performer for Marvel, often the top-selling ongoing for the company. It ends prior to another relaunch this week with “New Avengers Finale” #1, a 59-page (60 if you include the recap page) comic that, with “Siege” over, wraps up two of the consistent elements of the book’s existence from the past three years: the team’s outlaw status, and the Hood.

The Hood has been a member of the book’s cast since “New Avengers” #33, filling the void in New York that the Kingpin left, uniting a large number of villains under his leadership, acting as the opposite number to the New Avengers. As the heroes were forced to go further and further underground, the Hood and his gang became more prominent, working for Norman Osborn, the Hood even acting as a member of his Cabal. However, with the loss of his powers, the Hood is on the run with his current girlfriend, Madame Masque, and they’re left with only one place to turn: her father, Count Nefaria.

With Norman Osborn finished, the Hood still being out there is something that Luke Cage and company cannot abide, so they attempt to track him down. This group has always been more active in hunting down threats, particularly since going underground post-“Civil War,” and it makes sense for them to want to eliminate the bad guy that’s been a thorn in their side again and again. Cage, in particular, takes the lead here and stands out as the hero that’s been at the heart of “New Avengers” throughout its run.

Using Nefaria as one of the villains in this finale is a clever way for this book to end since one of the biggest criticisms of “New Avengers” is the that it wasn’t about the ‘real’ Avengers, so having one of the team’s longtime villains be at the center acts as a way to solidify the group as the Avengers. That they can work together to take down a heavyweight Avengers villain, one that’s popped up consistently over the years, is all the proof any reader should need for this team’s credentials.

Bryan Hitch is the last in a long line of all-star artists to work on “New Avengers” and he really makes the issue breathe. He has a habit of taking an issue and expanding scenes, and that shows here as the normally relaxed Bendis-written comic is even more so here, and it helps with the celebratory feeling of the issue. Sure, it’s a little indulgent at times, but so what? It’s very good looking as Hitch brings his A-game to the table, nailing dialogue-driven scenes and providing some ‘big’ moments that bring the comic to a halt.

Hitch’s art is dynamic in the fight scenes, but the coloring is overpowering in places with a strong use of overriding lighting. Instead of clarifying the art, the imposing colors make things difficult to see in places, particularly during the final action scene. While not too different from the manner in which Hitch is usually colored, it’s not as effective here.

Hitch is joined by some other artists on this issue as two-page spreads from past issues are used to provide a visual history of the group, much like the artistic ‘best of’ spreads from “Avengers Finale” #1, ending with the book’s regular artist Stuart Immonen doing a new page that is one of the best endings to a comic series that I’ve read. It’s a happy ending, one that Bendis even had a character wish for recently and that just makes it work better.

While “New Avengers” may be relaunching next month, this giant finale issue seems appropriate and is touching. After so much time hiding, the team finally gets a big victory and shows that they can stand alongside any other Avengers team. The issue also provides closure on the Hood’s story, which has been an integral part of the book for the past 30 or so issues, allowing the book and its cast to begin again next month. It’s everything you could want from a conclusion to Marvel’s premier book of the past five years.

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