By Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Stuart Immonen (artist), Wade von Grawbadger (inker), Dave McCaig (colorist)

The Story: Norman Osborn and Doctor Harrow finalize the terms of their deal while both the New and Dark Avengers are still reeling from the effects of the power drainer. The New Avengers successfully escape a no-win situation, but Osborn’s not going to let them get off so easily, which could be especially bad for one Avenger.

The Good: Say what you will about Bendis and his writing, but the guy has been steadily working on this book for some five years now without interruption and it’s hard not to admire that kind of dedication. This is a fun team, and the addition of Ronin and Mockingbird brings a bit of that old school expertise to the group. I honestly did not expect to enjoy having Mockingbird back, but she’s a wonderfully strong character, as evidenced by her double splash page in this issue. I’m also happy to see Immonen’s art again, having been a huge fan of his work on Nextwave. His work is expressive, dynamic, and as equally good at conveying action sequences as it is the quieter moments, like towards the end in the hospital.  I would love to see him stick around on this title for as long as possible because I really believe he does right by it.

The Not So Good: This power drainer has been a weak and ill-defined Macguffin that has utterly pissed on the plot. Since Bendis never really explained what it can and can’t do, it seems capable of doing whatever it needs to when Bendis calls for it. For example, if this thing is supposed to drain powers, then why was Ronin affected? As far as I know Barton doesn’t have any powers and is just a highly trained fighter. And why could Captain America be affected by this when he only has a cybernetic arm, is the power drainer capable of screwing up electronics as well? Finally, why has the power drainer messed with Cage’s heart of all things? I get that it has left the heroes feeling nauseated and shitty, but that’s still a far cry from the stroke-like symptoms Cage is experiencing. Are we to now believe that the power drainer causes severe health problems too? Hell, is there anything this device can’t do? Bendis doesn’t explain it either way and that’s unfortunate because it makes this issue fairly ridiculous on examination. Also, and I never thought I’d be saying this, but McCaig’s colors here are without doubt the biggest eyesore I’ve ever seen in a comic.  Seriously, his contributions to this issue are disgusting and bring down every background and environment he renders. If there was one reason not to buy this comic, it would be for what he’s done to it.

Conclusion: Some reliably solid character moments are unfortunately lost in the mire of a ridiculous plot that Bendis could have easily fixed if he’d wanted to. This issue was good, but not great, and certainly nothing you need to spend $4 on.

Grade:  C-

-Tony Rakittke