by Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Billy Tan (pencils), Matt Banning (inks), Justin Ponsor (colors), and Albert Deschesne & Jimmy Betancourt (letters)

The Story: It’s the Hood vs Son of Satan as a new Sorcerer Supreme is crowned.

The Good: The definition of a solid New Avengers issue as Bendis does what he does best in his portrayal of the team.

The dialogue was definitely more a display of the Bendis we love than the Bendis we hate. Spider-Man’s conversation with Luke Cage regarding his wife’s high school crush on Parker had me in stitches. Furthermore, Son of Satan, a low tier Marvel character– if there ever was one, came across really well in this issue; if only because we finally got a character that was completely unimpressed and unsurprised by the demonically possessed Hood.  We’ve had comic after comic of characters reacting in horror and shock with respect to the Hood, speaking of him/Dormammu only in hushed whispers, so it was nice to finally have a character behave in completely opposite fashion.

In the little side parts during the battle with Madame Masque, “Bucky Cap,” as Spider-Man insists on calling him, sees some nice interactions as well, particularly with respect to use his of guns.  It’s a bit of a tongue-in-cheek moment when Cap shows just how much easier things would be if the heroes just started using weapons. Bendis does a great job in showing how Cap’s use of firearms is something of a rift between he and his teammates, and in so doing, exposes Bucky’s unique place on the team.

However, it was not all character development. Tan’s artwork was allowed to really shine in what was a very action-packed issue.  With Son of Satan and Dormammu involved, you can bet on there being a ton of glorious explosions and firestorms– all the things to make Tan up to the challenge.  The result: the action sequences are well thought out and a joy to the eyes. In particular, I loved the Bendis/Tan’s creativity in the fight between Madame Masque and Spider-Woman, with the two squaring off as silhouettes enveloped in smoke clouds.

The Not-So-Good: I wasn’t particularly impressed with the identity of the new Sorcerer Supreme, especially considering a build-up that even saw Dr. Doom mentioned. It appears Bendis has decided to create and build a character by giving the crown to a less central figure as opposed to going with a story-arc fueling shocker. It wasn’t quite as impactful, but hopefully it’ll pay dividends in the long run.

Some may also miss Chris Bachalo’s presence on the art this month, particularly since he drew a very good Hood and lent the whole Sorcerer Supreme arc a distinctly eerie feel. While Bachalo’s art was wonderful, I have never been a huge fan of having more than one penciller on an issue, as I’ve always felt that it leads to a more disjointed comic.

Conclusion: A really solid New Avengers issue that truly succeeds as a “superhero team” comic, where every member of the team has their own unique moment and gets their own time to shine, even despite Son of Satan’s highly entertaining presence.  This is the most enjoyable New Avengers issue since #49.

Grade: B+

-Alex Evans