by Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Bryan Hitch & Stuart Immonen (pencils), Butch Guice, Andrew Currie, & Karl Story (inks), Paul Mounts, Justin Ponsor, & Rain Beredo (colors), and Chris Eliopoulos (letters)

The Story: With Siege ended, the New Avengers turn the tables, as they become the hunters and the Hood becomes the hunted.

What’s Good: Consider this book the pay-off for years of seeing the New Avengers in hiding, down and out, or generally getting their asses kicked.  This issue is cathartic both for long-time readers of New Avengers and the characters themselves.

It’s really refreshing to see the New Avengers in a position of power and to see their former pursuers running from them for a change.  It’s great to see this team so empowered and certainly, they deserve it.  As a result, this book is a very lively, feel-good affair.  The New Avengers are hell-bent on ensuring that payback is indeed a bitch for the Hood and Madame Masque.

What ensues is a book full of gleeful camaraderie where the New Avengers are the hunters.  It’s an extended book where everything, finally, feels like it’s working the way it’s meant to.  The New Avengers are once again a big force, and one to be afraid of if you’re a bad guy.  If there’s one issue this week that encapsulates the Heroic Age and is the direct opposite of everything Dark Reign was, this is it.

The action is solid and the book ends with a fabulous montage that is both reflective and highly nostalgic.  Despite the series’ relaunch next month, this ending montage was just poignant enough to make me believe this to be a true finale, and one that’s merited.  Truly, a new page is turned.

I also enjoyed the use of Count Nefaria this month as a major antagonist.  Introducing him and fully wrapping it up at issue’s end lends the book a more self-contained, “done in one” feel.

Also, the art really is a looker with several fantastic splashes, but with Hitch’s name on a one-shot, I figure that’s expected.

What’s Not So Good: Unfortunately, while this is a feel-good affair, this book is somewhat guilty of hitting the same one note for its entirety and delivering only a single message and mood.  That would be just fine were this a standard 22 page issue, but it’s not.  This is a thick book.  As such, things feel a little drawn out and a bit limited.  There’s only so long one can hit a single note, regardless of how sweet or merited that note may be.

Also, while the art is generally impressive, there is the slightly off panel here and there that feels a bit odd, something I ascribe to the sheer number of hands there are at work over Hitch’s art.  Furthermore, again perhaps due to the books over-length, the great number of splashes at times lead to some awkward storytelling.  Some of the transitions between panel and splash just aren’t there and things can feel more showcase than narrative.

All told, everything unimpressive about this book goes back to its length.  Ultimately, its story is very simple, its message singular and its mood unchanging.  It just didn’t need this giant-size length.  As a result, things are dragged across a bevy of massive panels and splashes that could’ve been compressed just a bit.  I believe a more streamlined, compressed product would’ve made for one of the best superhero issues of the year.  Instead, we just got something solid.

Conclusion: The New Avengers, and their readers, get their reward, though it’s a bit drawn-out.

Grade: B –

-Alex Evans