by Brian Michael Bendis (writer), John Romita Jr. (pencils), Klaus Janson (inks), Dean White (colors), and Cory Petit (letters)

The Story: The Avengers attempt to build a time machine with disastrous result and Wonder Man decides that it’s time for action.

What’s Good: This issue is a definite improvement.  Unlike last month’s unfortunate misstep, this issue has a solid structure and feels far more cohesive and organic in its plot developments and narrative progression as many of the growing pains begin to ease out.

I think a lot of this greater cohesion comes from this issue’s really spelling out the niche for this particular Avengers title.  Free from Dark Reign aftermath and such, the book is allowed to do what it was intended to do, which is delve into the high level, almost cosmic styled adventures reminiscent of classic Avengers comics.  Things are quickly gaining that wacky feel that lets you know that you’re getting increasingly distanced from street level, which is a refreshing shift from Marvel’s direction over the past while.  There’s a greater sense of camp and escapism and the book is finding its identity.

I found myself intrigued most of all by Wonder Man’s sudden, violent involvement.  It’s a promising development and I appreciated the Avengers’ fear of Simon becoming another Sentry or Scarlet Witch type debacle.  Wonder Man himself may serve as an opportunity for the Avengers to prove Simon himself wrong; that the Avengers can avoid repeating the mistakes of old, preventing rather than causing destruction.

Romita also shows improvement.  His art feels a lot more fun and comfortable with itself and while Maria Hill still looks weird as hell, there are, overall, far fewer oddities.

What’s Not So Good: Despite these improvements, there’s still a vaguely underwhelming quality about this title that is rather hard to delineate.  Something just feels lacking or detached, which is very much opposed to how I felt about last week’s New Avengers #1.

If I try to pick apart the reasons for this, the first prime suspect is probably the team’s chemistry which, somehow, doesn’t feel as tight, intimate, complex, or generally engaging as it should be.  We have Iron Man, Bucky-Cap, Thor, and Hawkeye on the same team, and yet I’m getting neither fireworks nor buddy camaraderie.  They’re just kind of there.  I certainly do think that Wolverine and Spider-Man’s presence detract from this chemistry’s being allowed to blossom.  They don’t fit with this team, they’re on both Avengers teams, and they seem in the way, as though Iron Man, Cap, Thor, and Hawkeye would be better able to socialize without them taking up real estate.

There are also other noticeable flaws.  One of the big developments this month involves the time-stream’s getting “broken.”  Bendis is never remotely clear on what exactly this means, how it happened, or what the effects are.  Yet, were time actually broken, one would think the consequences to be disastrous on a narrative-shattering level, and instantaneous.   But nothing really happens till issue’s end and it becomes patently clear that “breaking the time-stream” is just a way for Bendis to have carte blanche to do whatever crazy stuff he wants in order to advance the plot.

I’m also not sure if it’s a good sign that I’m more interested in the new Wonder Man plot than I am the time-stream stuff Bendis has been building.

Conclusion: While not overly impressive, it’s an improvement and, more importantly, it’s an improvement that looks to continue.

Grade: C+

-Alex Evans