by Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Mike Deodato (art), Rain Beredo (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story: Norman Osborn explains the mission statement to his new Avengers and Victoria Hand plays her…hand?

The Review: Every now and then, as a devoted comic reader, you find yourself reading something that’s just mind-numbingly stupid.  New Avengers #19, for me, is one of those times.

There is so much within this general plot that is so poorly conceived that even a diamond hard suspension of disbelief would find itself fractured.

With respect to this “HAMMER War,” Bendis tips his hand a bit and what we get is….a complete redux of Dark Reign, only shittier because we’ve seen Osborn’s plans fail once before already.  Even these new (and even more D-list) Avengers themselves ask Osborn (as I suppose many readers will as well) what makes this effort by Osborn any different from his last efforts under Dark Reign.  Norman’s answer is so vapid and empty that it can’t even be called an answer at all. Seriously, one of his reasons is that they now have a “Hulk.”  Right, because that’s more impressive than having the freaking Sentry and a GOD on your team? This is simply the same shit all over again and even though it failed once, we’re going to see it again.  Just because.

I remember when Dark Reign started up, a lot of people had believability issues.  Would the American government really give so much power to a former supervillain?  Well, given the very public failure of Osborn and how his general craziness was exposed for all the world to see  in Siege, this second effort by Osborn only becomes all the more unbelievable.  We get the same old scene of Osborn and his Avengers rushing in to save the day and hence get in the good graces of the American public while upstaging the New Avengers.

Are you kidding me?  Are we really going to see the American public embrace Osborn who is currently an ESCAPED PRISONER with NO government backing?  Really?  How can this even be a plot point?  The result is either going to be really stupid or an incredibly cynical take on the American people, possibly both.

And don’t get me started on Hand’s treatment.  I can’t help but feel that all the potential in Hand, who I called one of the best things to come out of Dark Reign back at the start of the Heroic Age, is flushed down the toilet this month.  All that cool stuff about the character proving herself, redeeming herself, all that back-and-forth banter with paranoid ol’ Spidey…it’s all for nothing, as Bendis goes three steps backwards with the character.

Oh, and there’s a mole on the team revealed this month.  But seriously, the only reason the identity of the mole is surprising is because it is SUCH an obvious choice and so utterly unimaginative and counter-intuitive to the character’s development.

The sad truth though is that as weak as this comic is, there are signs that Bendis is a good writer.  The dialogue between Madame Hydra and Gorgon was really, really well done.  It was a tight back-and-forth with all the Machiavellian scheming and trust issues you’d expect, paired with a really great evaluation of Normal Osborn’s failings, which almost carve him out as a character from a Greek tragedy.  It’s too bad, as this scene, a simple conversation, is a mere island of good quality.

Conclusion: I find it unbelievable that this story exists.  If you had a sneaking suspicion that this was a re-run of various elements from Dark Reign, you’re only half right: it’s Dark Reign, recycled, but only dumber and  more unbelievable than last time.

Grade: D

-Alex Evans