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

The Story: The Illuminati re-unite to discuss the recent infinity gem troubles.

What’s Good: It’s another solid issue of Avengers as this title continues to improve.  More than anything, Avengers #8 further solidifies this book as the Marvel Universe title where the big boys play.  It loosely hearkens back to Avengers lore, provides an old school tale with cosmic touches, and features some major players.  With the Infinity Gems in play, it feels like a classic Avengers title and, after years of street-level Avengers heroics, that’s pretty welcome.

But this issue is more about the Illuminati than the Avengers, and I’m fine with that.  Brian Bendis does a great job in bringing the gang back together again, overlaying it all with a constant tension between the characters and a, for the most part, unspoken sense of the sins of the past, guilt, and responsibility.  The dialogue feels weighty, the characters feel guilty and conflicted, and all in all, there’s a conspiratorial feeling that haunts the issue.  These characters are together when they shouldn’t be, discussing things they shouldn’t be discussing.  It’s all dark shadows and hushed whispers about a particularly dangerous topic between characters with a bizarre dynamic.

The best part of Bendis’ work here though is that so much of the tension between the characters, the guilt, and their flat out not wanting to be here is all between the lines.  You get it from their abrasive demeanour, their irritability, and the seeming desire to get the conversation to its end point as quickly as possible.  It’s all between the lines and I think that even Bendis’ most vocal detractors will be satisfied with his dialogue work this month.

As far as the art goes, John Romita Jr. continues to shine on this comic after a rocky start with the series.  I can now say, without any qualifications, that I am enjoying his work.  There weren’t any panels that I cringed at or anything I disliked.  He used his usual cartoony style, but managed to make it carry both the darkness and the cosmic power of the tale being told.  His fight scene between the Red Hulk and “Infinity Gem guy” was also absolutely wonderful, big, and genuinely exciting.  I also much enjoyed Romita’s little comedic touches in his giving the characters winter-clothes.  Professor X wears a suit without a jacket…and a ski mask?  The Thing wears ear-muffs?!  In such a serious issue, these little humorous touches come across almost like easter eggs, and it made me all thearmuffspreciative of them.

What’s Not So Good: There aren’t so much negatives for this issue as there are qualifiers, so here goes, it neat list format:

1.  The Avengers aren’t really in this book.

2.  Outside of one cool flashback scene, it’s mostly dialogue.

3.  I’m no continuity buff, but I imagine that you could find somewhere to pitch a fit about the Infinity Gems, if so inclined.

For myself, none of these three points are problematic, but if they sound like the sorts of things that would negatively impact your reading experience, you have been warned.

Conclusion: A big-time Marvel comic that was both ominous and fun.  One of my favourite issues of this Avengers title thus far.

Grade: B+

-Alex Evans