by Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Mike Deodato (art), Rain Beredo (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story: The New Avengers race to defend New York against Sin’s attack while Mockingbird tests her newly gained powers.

What’s Good: When he puts his mind to it, Brian Bendis is capable of truly fantastic, intimate character-work, and that’s exactly what we get this month with Mockingbird.  The issue is divided up between a monologue by Bobbi and scenes of her and her comrades battling those pesky Nazi robot suits.

The best thing I can say about this issue is that even if you never gave much of a crap about Bobbi Morse, you will come to love her over the course of this issue.  Bendis captures her voice perfectly and makes her so innately likable, both adorable and heroic, that it’s impossible not to like her, want to hang out with her, and root for her.  She comes across as completely and utterly human, with a multi-faceted, fully realized personality complete with humour, doubt, and, of course, heroism.  She just comes across as being so real, which is no small feat in superhero comics.   Funnily enough, she even manages to make light of the fact that up until now, she’s not been the most interesting Avenger and has frequently been put in the background by Bendis.

Well, not anymore, apparently.  The scenes of her kicking ass are almost as much fun as her monologue.  There’s such joy and exaltation in her discovering and exploring her new powers.  It’s uplifting to see her jump twenty feet in the air and blow shit up with her fists.  It’s empowering and you can’t help but root for her and feel good for her.  Frankly, it’s issues like this that turn otherwise unremarkable characters into fan favourites.

Better still, this close-up work with Bobbi makes the most of Fear Itself.  Essentially, Mockingbird decides to make the events of Fear Itself as a means to make the most of this second chance at life.  Basically, seeing Avengers Tower crumble and the world in flames, but finding herself also newly empowered, Fear Itself has become her mission and an event by which she hopes to define herself as a superhero.  That’s a really, really cool idea and a great use of an event tie-in, one that keeps the explosive “big” stuff more personal.

Mike Deodato’s art is also really, really well done here.  While his action and dramatic moments are what you expect from him and Beredo, who are consistent as ever, the real work comes in those pages of monologue.  So much of Mockingbird’s likability comes from Deodato’s ability to capture even the slightest hint of emotion on Bobbi’s face, from solemn reflection to the hint of a smile.

Amidst all this Mockingbird goodness, I honestly forgot about a hugely important Victoria Hand/Spider-Man scene.  Suffice it to say, something really big happens here that looks to have meaningful and lasting changes to the scene.  Bendis writes the scene very well, creating a passioned and heated argument in which both sides make good points, but also fall flat on others.  Both characters clearly let their emotions and prejudices get ahead of them, which makes for a much more human and compelling scene.

What’s Not So Good: I honestly don’t have any complaints on this one.  I guess you could gripe about the cover.  You’d think this issue was entirely about the Thing becoming one of the Worthy and the New Avengers grappling with that, but it isn’t.  In fact, we don’t even see Ben’s transformation this month and it never even comes up.

Conclusion: The best issue of New Avengers to come along since the first arc of this relaunch.  Those who stuck out the last arc are really, really well rewarded.

Grade: A-

-Alex Evans