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

The Story: “The Red Hulk…proved himself an Avenger.”

The Review:  As far as issue structure goes, this is a bit of a weird one.  We start out with the same talking heads format that found such success last month, then we end up with a near wordless action scene.  Bendis seems to be attempting to flirt with both of these formats, and it feels a little haphazard.

Which is a shame, because taken on their own merits, both sides are pretty solid.  The talking heads continues to bring an intimacy and humanity to the superhero community, which serve to highlight the gravity and devastation of the events of Fear Itself.  The action scenes are pretty damned awesome as well, as you’d expect a Thing-on-Steroids vs. Red Hulk battle to be.  More than that, Bendis manages to convey Red Hulk’s heroism through his actions alone and there is emotion attached to a battle that is, by and large, a regular old megapowered throwdown.

A major event of destruction happens this issue as well.  I can’t say much more than that, but suffice it to say that I have mixed feelings.  On the one hand, Romita’s grand artwork and Bendis’ tone sells this particular catastrophe well in both its scale and importance.  It again hammers home just how bad things are right now amidst the madness of Fear Itself.  On the other hand, it also feels kind of familiar.  Granted, this exact event hasn’t happened before to my knowledge, but we’ve come pretty close before and seen similar things happen.

I was also not a fan of “evil Ben’s” dialogue.  Bendis seems to, for reasons unknown, set Ben apart from most of the rest of his Worthy brethren.  He doesn’t speak that incomprehensible Asgardian monster language and, in fact, not only does he speak only English, he speaks colloquially.  In other words, he’s just evil Ben, which is a bit lame and completely at odds with what other writers have been doing, including Matt Fraction himself.

As far as the art goes, however, this is a real looker of an issue.  The action is fast, dynamic, and exciting and Romita, Janson, and White hit all the big notes.  No complaints on the visual front.

All told, there’s stuff to like here.  Despite my griping, the big event of the issue is still fairly breathtaking and significant and the fight scene is awesome.  Red Hulk continues to gain points from me as he earns his place on the Avengers, and I enjoy what Bendis is doing with the character.  That said, the scattered issue structure and format make it all feel weirdly off-kilter and loosely held together at times.

Conclusion: A decent enough issue with solid artwork and its heart in the right place.

Grade: B-

-Alex Evans