by Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Stuart Immonen (pencils), Wade von Grawbadger (inks), Dave McCaig (colors), and Albert Deschesne (letters)

The Story: The Avengers, with some friends, attempt a daring ploy to rescue Luke Cage.

What’s Good: While it’s nothing groundbreaking, this issue is absolutely solid and as such, it’s the best single issue of New Avengers to come along in some time.  It entertains without committing any real crimes.

First off, on the art front, while it’s taken a few months (as you’ll see from my past reviews of NA), I’ve finally gotten used to Immonen’s presence on the series enough to actually thoroughly enjoy his artwork.  His pencils brim with vitality and are distinct and light-hearted enough to make New Avengers stand apart from the Dark Reign pack.  That alone is an achievement.  Immonen’s style is just pure fun, really and his takes on the characters always carry the interest and freshness of seeing your favourite indie artist do a sketch or variant cover for a beloved mainstream comic.

The real achievement this month though is Bendis’ management of such a large number of guest stars.  The presence of Strange, Voodoo, Daredevil, and Iron Fist maintains its cool factor, but they never really take over the comic or feel like they’re taking away screen time from the Avengers.  The Avengers are still the front and centre stars of the show and the guest stars are merely the backdrops, and that’s just the way it should be.  The guest stars don’t take over the comic so much as they enhance it.

Other than that, there are several little things Bendis does well.  The collision, and conflict, between technology and the mystic arts was an interesting little aside, one that clashed without jarring the reader, at times even giving off a paranormal feel.  Also, having the heroes use a ploy that the bad guys used to use on them in order to get the drop on Osborn was a nice touch.  Basically, to beat a villain, the Avengers have to adopt the sort of cunning usually reserved for villains.  It’s a nice bit of role reversal that doesn’t compromise their heroic status.

What’s Not So Good: While Bendis tried his best to convince me, I’m still not sure I wholly buy Osborn’s being dumb enough to fully and completely buy into the attack at Camp HAMMER.  Perhaps other readers will feel differently, but it felt just a little too easy to me.

Also, I understand she’s a grieving wife and I should feel sympathy, but I found Jessica Jones to be really, really agitating this month.  Her spontaneous outbursts, sobbing, and half the panels having her in tears just got under my skin somehow.  Perhaps I’m just a soulless bastard, but I just found her really annoying.  Perhaps it’s the complete helplessness, relative uselessness, and her kneejerk quips that got to me.  Perhaps it’s how quickly the confidence and resolve she opens the issue with inexplicably dissolves to mush.  Certainly, Immonen’s illustrations of her don’t help her case any.

Conclusion: One annoying character in such a large cast is thankfully not enough to ruin a good comic.  It’s a fun superhero yarn that is everything your standard, monthly Avengers comic should be.

Grade: B+

-Alex Evans