New Avengers -- a comic I keep up with more than I'd say I actually "read" -- is absolutely fine the way it is: it's a monthly installment in the current flavor of a popular franchise, and gauged against the other monthly installments of other franchises, it's a relatively satisfactory one.
One idea that's come up during this blogathon is if Bendis writes a 'proper' Avengers book with New Avengers (and by extension, Mighty Avengers and Dark Avengers). Does he populate his teams with real Avengers? In essence, does New Avengers count as the Avengers title or has Marvel been lacking one since it ended with #503?
I find the idea that Bendis's work isn't really an Avengers title an absurd sort of thinking. It's elitist, snobbish, and fails to grasp a simple fact: it's an Avengers book if Marvel says so. There's no other criteria than Marvel saying it's that book. And do you know how we can tell Marvel approves? They publish it. Any fan ideas of what's true to the spirit of the Avengers or canon or whatever is false. The closest it comes to reality is in the concept of the personal canon -- which we all have. Grant Morrison's New X-Men counts; Chuck Austen's work immediately following it doesn't count. Simple.
In that regard, obviously, New Avengers won't count for some. But, let me try and argue why it should without resorting to the easy, absolutely correct answer of 'Because Marvel says so.'
New Avengers is a proper successor to the previous Avengers title since it features the central team of superheroes in the Marvel universe that aren't the Fantastic Four or X-Men. When trouble goes down, the New Avengers are there to save the day just like the Avengers would have. Their membership is unique, but so was pretty much every other team. They have popular members like Spider-Man and Wolverine -- well, Spider-Man was already an Avenger technically prior to this and so what? Why would popularity be grounds to kick someone out. Does that mean when Captain America had two titles at one point, he wouldn't be Avengers material anymore?
I honestly don't understand the idea that New Avengers isn't the real Avengers -- whatever that means. What is it then? The storytelling is different than past runs on the book, but that could just as easily have happened if Bendis had a run on the book without it becoming New Avengers. Say everything stayed the same, but Avengers never ended -- would people have the same complaint?
As far as I can tell, having read 54 issues of the series, Tucker is quite right: New Avengers is a nice enough read for what it is. It's better now -- critically and commercially -- than it was before Bendis took over.
What I still can't figure out... if so many people dislike the book, why does it sell so well? Is everyone buying a copy to bitch about it?
With that, I'll return in 30 minutes to try and answer that question for myself.
[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]