by Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Mike Deodato & Howard Chaykin (artists), Rain Beredo & Edgar Delgado (colorists), and Joe Caramagna (letterer)

The Story: “Captain, my captain.  Well done, Miss Hand.”

The Review: New Avengers #13 is a frustrating issue.  Thankfully, it’s frustrating because it’s a good issue, but it’s good in an irritating way that leaves you wondering why the hell Bendis waited this long to pull things together in an arc that has been a complete and utter mess thus far.

The two biggest problems of the arc are solved this month.  Firstly, the much more interesting, and relevant, Mike Deodato illustrated modern day portion takes up most of the issue.  The result is a much more cohesive, and coherent, experience that is much easier to enjoy.

Then there’s the fact that finally, finally, Bendis pulls together the past and the present-day plots, at long last showing how the two relate to one another.  Thankfully, the link isn’t forced or artificial and it is meaningful.  Hell, the brief back-and-forth between the Chaykin and Deodato portions actually works well for once, making the relationship between the two stories seem tight and secretive and when it all comes together, and Nick Fury shows up in the present, it feels like a real bleed-over, and a badassed one at that.  Of course, all of this did also serve to irritate me again about why Bendis took so long to get this formula right, but I can only judge this issue on its own merits.

The issue also makes solid use of Victoria Hand.  Bendis keeps her allegiance clouded in doubt and mystery for most of the issue and there are a couple of real fake-outs.  Cleverly, Bendis never actually has Victoria on panel either; she’s just a disembodied voice from the other end of a phone-line.  It makes her motives all the more murky, all of it leading to a super-slick ending.

The ending of the issue also leaves Mockingbird in a really, really interesting position and one that’s also a bit of a cliffhanger.  Avengers fans will no doubt be dying to know what’s to become of Bobbi.

If there’s one major failing to this issue, it’s Bendis’ Wolverine.  The interrogation scene with Hawkeye and Logan playing bad cop/bad cop is fun, but it isn’t served well by the fact that Wolverine has long been Bendis’ most poorly written character.  For one reason or another, Bendis simply can’t get Logan’s voice right.  Instead of being gruff and mean, Wolverine feels too slick and well-spoken.  It’s bizarre, and it’s the sort of work that only provides fodder for Bendis’ many detractors.

That said, the art is solid.   The Deodato/Beredo team do what they always do, but with far fewer pages on his plate this month, Chaykin does work that’s far more polished and far less rushed than what we’ve been getting from him this far.

Conclusion: Against all odds, we get a pretty good conclusion to what has been an absolutely horrible arc.

Grade: B

-Alex Evans