by Brian Michael Bendis, Stuart Immonen (pencils), Wade von Grawbadger (inks), Laura Martin (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story: The Avengers set their house in order and get a little help along the way.

What’s Good: This is one of those issues that’ll serve as a litmus test for how much of a fan you are of Brian Bendis.  I myself like his work quite a bit, so I enjoyed this issue, as it played to many of his strengths as a superhero writer.

I thought the dialogue was well done.  It was full of laughs and felt dynamic, going through at a good clip.  Yes, there is that Bendis-trademark of repeated lines between characters, but it’s not as overbearing at it occasionally is, and seem to be used in a more restrained fashion.

Ultimately, this is an issue that highlights the strong chemistry that this team shares, arguably the strongest of any of the Avengers teams out there right now.  New Avengers truly does feel like a bunch of friends hanging out, all characters that have been through a lot and know each other well.  This makes the dialogue all the more pleasant to read.  It also makes a conversation-based issue like this one end up being a kind of feel-good read.  It’s pleasant and easy and sometimes it’s just fun to see your favourite characters chatting and having some fun with each other, especially after a big arc.  It takes the series back to the basics that distinguish it while giving it a momentary sigh of relief.

As far as the actual events of this month, a lot of it is really just consolidation and cementing of the status quo, but Bendis’ dialogue and the tight character relationships make this comic far less of a snooze than it could have been.  Once again, Bendis also does fantastic work with Victoria Hand, re-establishing that she you may very well be the best thing to come out of Dark Reign.  She’s a compelling character with interesting motivations and, as she says this month, she adds something unique and special to the team.  The additions of a “household” staff to the Avengers Mansion is also a lot of fun.  Squirrel Girl as nanny is wacky and already a good fit and the addition of a very familiar, grumpy cook, or a Jarvis with an attitude problem, looks to be a blast.  Of course, I’ll leave that cook’s identity for you to see.

Even in a quiet issue like this one, Stuart Immonen’s artwork still shines.  His Victoria Hand in particular looks positively excellent.  I worry that this series will lose a good chunk of his appeal now that he’s leaving the book, which is funny given how iffy I felt when he first came on-board.

What’s Not So Good: As I said, your enjoyment of this issue really hinges on how much you like Bendis.

If you’re not a Bendis fan like I am, this issue is a nightmare and really brings everything you hate about him to the fore.  The entire issue is basically the Avengers sitting around a table chatting.  There’s no actual, clearly defined story.  This means that it’s the sort of issue that you see Bendis-haters raging about on any comics-related forum and any given time.

Really, it’s just a bunch of superheroes hanging around and chatting about the issues of the day, and I know that that’s the sort of Bendis comic that many readers simply cannot stsand.

Conclusion: I enjoyed it, but I imagine that this issue could be something of a divisive one.

Grade: B if you like Bendis, C if you don’t.

-Alex Evans