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

The Story: The Avengers find themselves embattled against the Hood’s newly Norm stone-powered goons.

What’s Good: This issue is essentially divided into two separate, but parallel stories as the two Captain Americas battle the Corrupter and Living Laser while Spider-Woman and Spider-Man team up against Mandrill and Griffin.  All told, both sides are enjoyable and lead to an easy, readable book.

Spider-Man in particular is a joy to read.  It’s always a pleasure in New Avengers when Bendis is able to give him any form of extended attention.  The Spider-Man/Spider-Woman is certainly a surprisingly fun one.  Bendis exploits the gender dynamics, the similarity of their aliases (and surprising lack of actual similarities in abilities), and the opposition of Jessica Drew’s dour demeanor with Parker’s signature wackiness.  It makes for really fun reading, with Spider-Woman making for a very, very enjoyable straight-man.  Bendis’ use of Jessica’s Skrull detector as a kind of comic device certainly got a laugh out of me.

The Hood’s goons also show a kind of self-awareness that I appreciated.  They’re typical villains, and it’s weirdly fun to seem them trucking on, well aware of their being typical and their poor success rate.

On art, I really enjoyed both Immonen and Acuna’s work.  Both clearly have a field day with these D-list villains, giving them a campy, Technicolor sort of feel.  Immonen’s over-the-top drawings of the Corrupter are a definite highlight and his cartoonish sensibilities give the characters and actions a kind of fun vitality.  Acuna’s painted artwork is gorgeous, and does a lot to legitimize these relative no-namers.  The final splash, one of Mandrill and Spider-Woman, makes the ridiculous baboon actually appear horrifying.

What’s Not So Good: While both Acuna and Immonen’s work are great in their own right, their being in the same book is odd to say the least.  Marvel has gotten two fantastic artists….who happen to about as different from each other as is possible in a Marvel Comic.  The frequent and dramatic shifts in style that result are off-putting and outright bizarre.  Immonen’s optimistic Saturday morning feel is just completely at odds with Acuna’s mature, somber, painted work.

Also, while both artists seem well-aware of the campy potential of the Hood’s cronies that provide the opposition this month, Bendis seems oblivious to it.  While Acuna and Immonen are enjoying themselves, Bendis writes both villains completely straight and so his script ultimately does not match, and lets down, Acuna and Immonen’s ideas.

The biggest knock on this issue is that it’s just a little familiar.  We’ve seen the Avengers on the back foot against the Hood’s goons more than once in recent months.  Given how generic Bendis writes them and their D-list status, it makes no difference that these are different goons.  The plot of Parker Robbins’ henchmen turning the tables on the power ratio has just been done by Bendis too often and too recently.

It also doesn’t help that Bendis uses the same plot device twice in one issue, using it as the anchor of both his parallel stories.  That it’s your standard “mind control” device, complete with one character telling another to “fight it,” makes it only more tiresome.

Conclusion: It’s fun, but familiar.

Grade: C+

-Alex Evans