by Jeff Parker (writer), Carlo Pagulayan (pencils), Jason Paz (inks), Jana Schirmer (colors), and Nate Piekos (letters)

The Story: Atlas takes on the New Avengers in one big, mighty brawl.

The Good: Well, after how awkward the whole Captain American debacle was last issue, I expected this to be a complete disaster.  After all, if one non-Atlas character was poorly written and out of place, surely the presence of that character’s whole team would only make for an even worse affair, right?

Well, that should be the case, but thankfully, Parker writes a fantastic Spider-Man.  Spidey sounds like and acts like Spidey and his naturally humorous character and zany edge actually make him a very good fit in an Atlas comic.  Parker seems to realize this and also appears to recognize that Spidey is easily the Avenger he is best able to write.  As a result, Spider-Man probably says more and does more of consequence in this issue than the rest of the Avengers combined.  And that’s just fine.  Parker is just fore fronting his strengths and hiding his weaknesses.  The Spider-Man/Atlas dynamic is funny and superb; watching a lovesick Spidey be hypnotized by Venus or hearing Gorilla-Man yell threats at him is just funny.

Also, I really enjoyed Parker’s use of Spider-Man’s spider-sense here.  If Atlas is faking, how would this work with this power?  It’s a very, very clever and interesting situation.

Other positive things going on in this issue were Temugin beginning to cement his place on the team and M-11 recognizing Wolverine’s voice from the team’s run-in with Logan in Cuba in 1958 (way back in issue 1).  Seeing Temugin cooperate made him strangely likeable and creates a more interesting, less directly adversarial.  Meanwhile, the M-11/Wolverine thing was just damn smart.  I knew they’d be facing the New Avengers this issue, but I’d forgotten that they’d already met Logan once before.

Art-wise, Pagulayan’s pencils are solid, pretty, and sleek.  Nothing groundbreaking, but they get the job done.  The real star though, is Schirmer’s work on the colors, which take Pagulayan’s art to the next level.  Everything is bright, beautiful, and glimmering; making the art go from solid to very good, while managing to add a more unique look.

The Not-So-Good: Well, giving Spider-Man the heaviest place on the Avengers works well, because while he does carry it, there are still moments where Parker has trouble writing the other Avengers.  Luke Cage in particular, though only saying 2-3 lines, has some particularly poor moments, especially at the beginning of the issue.

Also, I really do miss the parallel 1958 flashback story.  The parallel story structure was what made this series unique, and it all feels a little more typical without that element.  I truly miss it.  The last couple of issues have seen the 1958 portion as probably the most interesting, so it’s a shame that it’s gone at the moment.  I really hope that this removal isn’t permanent.  The parallel stories really added something unique, both from a writing and art standpoint, particularly as I enjoyed the art in the flashbacks more as well.  The longer the 1958 segments are removed, the more I worry about this comic getting lost in the shuffle.  The interlocking stories were probably the freshest part of this comic, and they need to be brought back.

Conclusion: A really fun comic.  The Spider-Man/Atlas dynamic is no small amount of fun and the action sequences are definitely enjoyable.  I’m really looking forward to the very logical conflict with Namor next issue.  With Namor and Dark Reign, it makes a lot of sense.  That said, with this issue, I can’t overstate how much I missed having a 1958 story.  I feel like the comic, while still having the same great characters, has lost a part of what made it special.

Grade: B

-Alex Evans