Brian Michael Bendis, (Writer) Jim Cheung, (Pencils), John Dell, (Inks) and Justin Ponsor (Color Art)

With each Avengers comic that comes out, whether it be of the Mighty or New variety, Brian Bendis is a bit closer to fulfilling the promise that all of this Secret Invasion stuff was planned years in advance. I will admit to being skeptical about this grand plan, but so far the payoff for being a loyal reader has been extremely satisfying.

With New Avengers #42, Bendis takes us back to the moment Jessica Drew was replaced by the Skrull queen, Veranke. It goes without saying that more pieces of the bigger puzzle fall into place and those that have been around since New Avengers #1 will find a lot to chew on. For those of you that are fairly new to the Marvel Universe and unfamiliar with the larger scheme of things, I suggest doing some research on both the history of the New Avengers and the events of M-Day as both are key to the story of the Skrully Spider-Woman. While this is an interesting story in its own right, it must be noted that it works best when put into the context of the Secret Invasion. Those looking for something stand alone would be better off looking elsewhere. This is a tie-in story through and through.

The writing by Bendis is spot on in that he answers questions while creating new ones at the same time. It must be noted that a portion of this story really is reused material from old New Avengers issues, but it is hard to fault him for that when it is necessary in order to tell the story. One thing that is very interesting to me is that this issue suggests that there has been Skrull influence through most of the major events of the past few years and, to be honest, it seems like a pretty gutsy move by Bendis. It’s almost as if he’s making more work for himself and I question whether or not he will be able to pull all of this off in a satisfying way. So far so good, but a lot of blanks still need to be filled in as his plot continues to thicken.

The art in this issue is extremely impressive and actually adds to the story being told. The team handles the major Skrull sequences in a way that elevates the entire issue. The transformation sequence the Skrull queen undergoes is somewhat disturbing and the artwork really is in charge of explaining the process. Also, the shadowy meetings of the Skrull agents are put together like a conspiracy theorists dream scenario. This really is good stuff all around, especially the scenes showing the chaos at The Raft from the first New Avengers arc and the imprinting of Spider-Woman’s memories during her transformation. If I have any complaint at all it is that Spider-Woman seems either a bit fat in the face or too square jawed, but that is just a minor quibble.  Also, just an observation, but some of the Skrull agents seen in the meeting scenes look an awful lot like characters that have yet to be revealed, but it’s hard to tell if that was intentional.

I really enjoyed New Avengers #42, but know I would have been a bit lost had I not caught up with the series when I started really investing in the Marvel Universe. This is a good story, but it’s really only a piece of a larger puzzle, so be aware you aren’t getting a complete story with this issue. If there’s any downside, it’s that Bendis expects the reader to do some homework to truly appreciate his story. If you are as hooked on the Secret Invasion as I am, consider this a must read, but make sure to do your homework first. (Grade: B+)

-Kyle Posluszny