by Brian Michael Bendis (writer) and Daniel Acuna (artist)

The Story: Luke Cage and Jessica Jones go out on a date.  Yeah, that’s not going to go uninterrupted.

What’s Good: It’s always nice when a creator gets to work with characters that he/she knows like the back of his hand, and that’s what we get here.  I guess it’s no surprise given how much he’s worked with Cage and Jones, but it’s clear that Bendis has a great deal of love for these characters, and that really shines through this monthly, ultimately making for a fun read, with Bendis’ affection for his characters ending up being pretty darned infectious.

There’s a lot of dialogue this month, but it’s actually really, really good, showcasing Bendis at his best.  There’s next to no Bendis speak and the writer manages to effortlessly put together serious issues (is Jessica going to return to superheroing?), humour (“Power Woman”), and character history all into one giant conversation.  What makes it such an enjoyable read though is not only Bendis’ comfort level with the characters, but also his ability to write a really good husband-wife banter.  There’s constant teasing and ribbing to overlay the obvious love and concern these two have for each other, and it ends up being not only a fun dynamic, but also one that feels honest, human, and realistic.

While important issues are touched upon and emotions are genuine, I do also want to emphasize that this issue is also pretty damned funny when it wants to be.  The running joke regarding Jessica Jones’ new superhero name is sure to get a laugh and the concluding dialogue between Luke and Spider-Man at issue’s end truly made me laugh out loud.

Raising this all up another level is Daniel Acuna’s impressive, moody painted artwork.  In an issue that spends a good chunk of time on two characters conversing at a dinner table, Acuna is able to add a lot of detail, atmosphere, and subtlety to the work, making things look far more interesting than they have any right to be.  His actions scenes are also surprisingly fluid and at all times impressive.  Certainly, there is only one Daniel Acuna.

What’s Not So Good: I didn’t have any problem with the date being broken up by an action scene (which, let’s face it, was inevitable), but the fact that it was broke up by Dr. Doom of all people was very weird it felt at times like Bendis just wanted a recognizable villain and drew Doom’s name out of a hat.

There are hints though that Doom’s appearance isn’t random and that it’s going to lead into another new plot at some point, but still, if that is the case, it’s awkwardly timed.  I’m a huge fan of Doom and this felt like a throwaway appearance.  I actually found it a bit frustrating that Bendis would use the character in such a manner, or, if that’s what he’s doing, introduce a Doom-centered plot in this manner.  The focus this month is clearly on Jess and Luke and Doom is not a character that works best in the background.

Also….another Doom/Doombot switcheroo to cap the whole thing off?  Really?  It was disappointing as is, but capping it off with that well-worn trick just made it worse.

Conclusion: While my inner Doom-fanboy was a little peeved but honestly, this was a really good issue.

Grade: B

-Alex Evans