by Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Howard Chaykin & Mike Deodato (art), and Rain Beredo & Edgar Delgado (colors)

The Story: The Avengers interrupt Superia’s plans in the present while, in the past, Nick Fury finds himself recruited into a certain initiative.

What’s Good: I wish Howard Chaykin would draw more comics.  He handles the Nick Fury flashback portions of the issue, and truly his style is like no other.  It’s gritty, a little cartoony, and absolutely brimming with life.  His chase sequence is filled with drama and his depiction of Fury’s 1950s spy world is slick and characterful.  Of course, that’s not to say that Mike Deodato’s work is no good; he and Rain Beredo deliver the same caliber of work we’ve been getting from them for some time now.  I also felt that the dichotomy between Deodato’s super-polished style and Chaykin’s more idiosyncratic look did a good job reflecting the past/present nature of the two plots.  There’s also a truly fantastic panel by Deodato that depicts the Avengers as the bad guy ex-HAMMER goons see them, and they look absolutely terrifying.

I had fun with Brian Bendis’ script as well.  As always, the New Avengers feel like a group of buddies more than anything.  Much as was the case last month, this issue’s dialogue is legitimately funny.  More than that though, Bendis enhances the humour with superpowers.  Seeing Luke Cage’s method of competing with his wife and Iron Fist in a truck-race (you read that right) is hilarious, as is Thing’s initiation of his battle plan.  Of course, the best laughs and the tone in general come from the character’s back-and-forth rapport, which is always completely natural, lively, and good humoured.  More than that, it’s also free of the notorious Bendis-speak.

What’s Not So Good: This issue flies by really, really fast.  It takes no time at all to read and I was sincerely shocked when I reached the final page.  Between the chase sequence, an extended action sequence, and having the issue split between two plots, this comic ends up being over way too soon.  It makes the issue almost feel like half a comic.  Worse still, when Bendis tries to leave us on a cliffhanger with one of the Avengers getting shot, the ridiculously brisk pace of the comic makes it come out of left field, with the high drama Bendis and Deodato play for coming off as a bit absurd.  It also means that despite the quick action scenes that might fool you otherwise, the plot progression is pretty glacial.  The Nick Fury plot is just barely gets started on the comic’s last page, while the other plot is still yet to be defined.

There are also some problems with Bendis’ script during the flashback portion.  Put simply, Nick Fury and his crew come across as overly sadistic, villainously so in fact.  They’re downright creepy and come across as gleefully homicidal and cruel.  In other words, they don’t talk and act like the good guys, and I’m fairly certain that this wasn’t intentional.  I get that they’re hunting Nazis and Nazis are always bad and such, but Nick’s dialogue was still off.  He was way too creepy, Nazis or not.

Conclusion: Despite my other complaints, the biggest problem here is that it flies by way too fast and ends up a bit insubstantial.  A shame, since what we do get is pretty good.

Grade: C+

-Alex Evans