In a small town called the North Pole located in Alaska, the population is viciously attacked by an unknown being. The mysterious figure that is engulfed in flames makes his way to Canada, then from there to the United States. Director of S.H.I.E.I.D., Maria Hill, does what she can to stop the threat only to meet failure with each try. She's then forced to contact the New Avengers to stop this seemingly invincible threat.-summary
New Avengers Volume 4: The Collective which collects issues 16-20 written by Brian Michael Bendis, is probably one of the more unfairly disliked stories in the New Avengers line-up. Many folks seem to dismiss it as comics equivalent to Hollywood's summer blockbuster action flick; while I may agree with this only a little bit, I think some folks had gotten spoiled by Bendis more cerebral storytelling, and for the most part are just reaching. This collection of stories not only manges to entertain with some very nice artwork, but it also lightly clears up older story elements and begins to somewhat address new ones.
Since the story has been accused of being all flash, I'll mention that the artwork by Steve McNiven and Mike Deodata reeks of being awesome in many parts. I like how the females are drawn sexy without being over the top with fan service. There isn't much emphasis on their curves and busts which I never have a problem with; Ms. Marvel, Spider-Woman, and Maria Hill look normal and very good. The males are their superhero manly selves, with Cage looking the coolest as he doesn't even use a costume, he gets down with his civvies adding that normal-ish aspect to the superhero team.
The action panels have several good moments with both Iron Man and Sentry taking on the main threat. There is plenty of detail in the backgrounds with neighborhoods still being focused on during the battles, with very little reliance on static backgrounds. The addition of civilians caught up in the chaos is a plus, because this is another subtle reference towards the events leading to Civil War. If you enjoy great artwork, although not on the level of David Finch, then you'll more than likely get into this book's visuals. The only complaint in this area happens to be that cinematic flow Bendis always shoots for in his books, where he wants the artwork to flow from one page to the next one across it, and back to the previous; this creates some confusion on how exactly to follow the dialog. It doesn't happen much but I can imagine this annoying many readers when it does.
The plot follows the Avengers and SHIELD as they not only battle this crazy threat, but try to learn what exactly it is. When I first read this story, the build-up indeed stood out to me. Slowly I began to realize what they were facing, and the revelation was one of those "wow" moments for me, because I thought that was a very cool way to follow up on some of the aftermath concerning House of M. I'll kill the spoilers here for those who have no idea how this thing turned out.
The characterization may not be to the liking of some who followed this book, since characters like Wolverine, Spider-Woman, and even Quake are here to fill up roles, but at least Maria Hill is well developed which is very important since she does become a key character later on. Readers will learn that she's very determined to protect the world, and she will use any means necessary to do that, even if it means making enemies with A-Listers like Captain America.
In closing, this story arc still holds my attention for several reasons even now, beginning with the guest appearance by the de-powered Magneto, the follow up to House of M, a past major threat from the X-Men's neck of the woods, and finally events that will stretch into the pages of Alpha Flight directly playing a role into Omega Flight, hell, all of this makes up for the rushed ending. I think this is another well done cool down story arc that will entertain most comic fans. Recommended.
Pros: -Artwork, and certain elements play into later stories
Cons: -Ending is kind of rushed, some times the panels can be
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