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

The Story: Victoria Hand deals with dissension in the ranks and the Void makes his presence known.

What’s Good: This issue is a solid issue largely because it’s based entirely on perhaps the two best things to come out of Dark Avengers: Victoria Hand and the Osborn/Sentry relationship.

While Hand has spent much of the series in the background, verging on blandness at times, Bendis has made huge strides with the character in the past few issues.  She has become more brazen and empowered and we’ve really gotten know her on a more individual and personal level.  That trend continues here, as her relationship with Osborn becomes a major focus, with her almost achieving a kind of parental role over the disgruntled and desperate HAMMER director.

It’s great to see someone stand up to Norman, sure, but the care and concern Hand expresses actually made me feel bad for Osborn.  I had to remind myself that he’s still the bad guy.  That’s the mark of a great character in Hand and Bendis is really ensuring that she sticks around in the Marvel Universe post-Dark Reign.

The Sentry/Osborn stuff is great once again if only because one really, really gets the sense that Osborn has bitten off more than he can chew and the blade truly is over his head.  Negotiating the Void is not the cakewalk that manipulating Bob was.  Still, Osborn’s frustration-fueled bravery was enjoyable and, when seeing him directly confront a rampaging and all-powerful Void, I had to again remind myself that Osborn was not a good guy.

Mike Deodato throughout all this provides some absolutely fantastic artwork.  His depictions of the apocalyptic environment wrought by the Void truly are hellish.  Deodato simply does some great work in his massive drawings of urban landscapes and it’s really stunning stuff, as are his illustrations of a souped up Sentry.

What’s Not So Good: While this issue does bring together two great components, Bendis effectively just slams them together with pretty much no correlation or segue.  The first half of the issue focuses on Victoria Hand’s taking care of business with Osborn and Moonstone, while the second half sees Osborn attempting to talk down the Void as he he/it tears apart NYC.  Do these two plots sound at all related?  Well, they’re not and there’s no real attempt to link them.  Ultimately, this feels almost feels like two entirely separate issues, from different story-arcs, being read back to back and somewhat out of sequence and it’s pretty off-putting.

Also, the subplot with Moonstone feels really undercooked.  While Bendis has shown glimpses of Moonstone’s plotting and manipulation a couple times, with Hawkeye and Noh-Varr, it’s never been fully realized or explored, nor have we ever learned Moonstone’s motivations.  This month, while it makes Victoria look awesome, the whole thing is effectively quashed.  Really, we’re left with the hints of something cool that could have been much greater.  It just feels as though it could have been really interesting and was meant to be more developed, but with Siege and all, Bendis simply ran out of issues.

Conclusion: While it’s pretty much all talking, this issues brings together Dark Avenger’s best aspects.

Grade: B

-Alex Evans