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

The Story: The Avengers discover the truth behind the breaking of the time-stream and come up with a gameplan.

What’s Good: The new main Avengers title continues to deliver its brand of old-school, pulpy stories, which is a good thing, as combined with Romita’s distinctive, scratchy style, it makes the title stand out among the mass of Avengers-related title, and that’s a major accomplishment in and of itself.

It also provides grounds to use a smattering of characters that can’t be found anywhere else, guys like Maestro, the Next Avengers, and most importantly, Kang.  Kang is presented really well this month, both arrogant and sniveling, seemingly in a constant state of petulance.  There’s a sense throughout this issue that Kang’s up to something that the others can’t quite put their fingers on, despite their suspicions.  I couldn’t help but get the feeling that despite his current downcast state, he’s still pulling the strings somehow, which did intrigue me about the story-arc’s future.  There’s also a certain kind of tragedy inherent to the fact that the broken time-stream has resulted in, or perhaps is caused by, Kang’s fighting the same unwinnable battle against Ultron again and again and again.  It’s a nice statement on the classic comic villain and, combined with Romita’s down-trodden rendition of Kang, makes the character all the more compelling, even sympathetic.

Beyond that, Romita’s art maintains its recent upswing in quality.  Large panels are very impressive, and the bigger the action, the better.  Giant, flamboyant images are clearly what Romita excels at and he attacks any and all action sequences with gusto.  The book isn’t lacking character, and while it may not be for everyone, I found it to be fun.

What’s Not So Good: With the time-stream stuff now at the forefront of the comic, this issue suffers from many of the same problems that have plagued many stories based on time travel.  That is that it can’t help feeling dubious in its logic, or perhaps a bit sketchy in how it depicts time travel and its consequences.  I never really felt fully comfortable with Bendis’ use of time travel; it just always felt like he was walking on the thin ice of creative license, leaving me with the constant feeling that things aren’t working completely correctly.

This only means that Bends ends up trying really, really hard to convince us that it all makes sense.  This leads to some rather convoluted dialogue and uninteresting exposition and general confusion all around.  While some may take it as a witty sign of self-awareness, I never really take it as a good sign when things get to the point where the majority of the issue sees a major portion of the cast confused about the plot or its central mechanic.  It’s even worse when this leads to the rest of the cast trying to explain things.

That’s really what this often felt like: an issue of characters trying their best to explain what the hell’s going on to some other group of characters.  Despite all of this explaining, things still feel inexact and frustrating.  The whole time element ends up feeling simultaneously simplified to the point of non-functioning and convoluted to the point of irritation.

Conclusion: Turn your brain off, ignore the intricacies of the time stuff, and there’s fun to be had.

Grade: C+

-Alex Evans