by Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Mike Deodato (art), Rain Beredo (colors), and Cory Petit (letters)

The Story: The Avengers go to a small town in Colorado to investigate a string of mysterious disappearances.

What’s Good: Apparently Dark Avengers is a horror comic this month.  It’s surprising, but nonetheless very effective.  Using an abandoned small town with a very bizarre fixation on dinosaurs of all things, Bendis crafts an issue loaded with a heavy atmosphere that is all creepiness.  There are some genuinely unsettling moments, all the moreso due to how we’re kept totally in the dark.

I also found this month’s book to be really strong as far as characterization and team dynamic are concerned.  It was one of those issues where every member clearly has his or her social role on the team, several them having very defined moments.  Hawkeye has become weirdly likable as the guy whose intelligence clashes with his dumb impulses, Daken is the frustrated rabble-rouser, Moonstone is utterly untrustworthy, and the newly medicated Venom is pure comedy.  Honestly, Venom made me laugh in a way I didn’t think possible in Dark Avengers.

Going along with the horror theme, the team dynamic also generates its own mystery.  Something’s obviously funny with Osborn and Moonstone clearly has her own agenda.  Both are certainly intriguing

Mike Deodato’s art is meanwhile nothing short of perfect.  Everything is shadowy without any sacrifice of detail.  In fact, everything is about as close to photo-realistic and detailed as a comic can get without out of control lightboxing.  The last double-page spread in particular is amazing. and Deodato’s depictions of the Sentry never fail to wow.  Also, Deodato’s drawings of Venom’s facial expressions while masked only added to the hilarity of the character

What’s Not So Good: Overall, this is a very good issue, but there are always the little things.  For starters, I’m pretty tired of seeing the Sentry get his ass kicked.  The Sentry is so powerful that in order for any narrative or conflict to transpire, he needs to be taken off the board.  This has become glaringly obvious and increasingly irritating.

I also did find myself wondering why the two girls at the beginning of the issue had to be so scantily clad.  They’re hot, we get it, but aren’t they also just supposed to be average girls?  It’s a little over the top, but I guess it’s also sadly typical of the modern comic.  There’s also an early lettering error regarding the two characters that sees their line’s switched up.

Finally, I suspect the issue’s ending was supposed to pass for a cliffhanger of impressive proportions.  Unfortunately, it’ll probably garner nothing more than a “huh?” from most readers.

Conclusion: Despite my minor quibbles, it’s actually a very strong issue of Dark Avengers.  It’s not quite as good as last month, but it’s pretty much all you can hope for out of a Dark Avengers comic.

Grade: B+

-Alex Evans