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

The Story: Having gotten a lead, Steve Rogers leads a strike force to claim vengeance against Sin.

What’s Good:  Aside from the first couple of pages, this isn’t really an Avengers comic at all.  Rather, it’s almost entirely a Steve Rogers comic, seeing Steve, Sharon Carter, Maria Hill, and Victoria Hand battling Nazis in an old castle.  Quite honestly, I’m perfect fine with that and I’m thrilled Bendis did this.  This is absolutely a comic that needed to be written, as we haven’t really seen much of a focus on Steve Rogers’ reaction to Bucky’s death.  Finally, we see the extent of his grief and inner turmoil, both from his own perspective and those of his friends.  With Brubaker’s new Cap series being divorced from Fear Itself, there really needed to be a Cap tie-in within which we could experience this emotional fall-out, and that’s pretty much what this is.

Bendis also does well in his pacing and framing of this issue, as “emotional fall-out” could’ve easily just been Steve wailing and whining for 22 pages.  In framing the issue within the context of a revenge mission against Sin, Bendis is able to give us enough thrills and the sort of fluid, high-paced action Romita excels at.  The result is a balanced issue, with almost dialogue-free action scenes interspersed by the monologue sequences that have been the staple of these Avengers tie-ins.

The end result is an issue that feels emotionally genuine, while also managing to move along at a brisk pace and remain fairly exciting throughout.
Also, readers familiar with Jonathan Hickman’s recently concluded Secret Warriors will be really, really happy by a cameo towards the end of the issue, which is a really pleasant surprise that promises things to come for a fun character with a lot of potential.

What’s Not So Good: Romita’s artwork is hit and miss, only really hitting its stride midway through the issue.  I loved his action scenes, as always, and I really enjoyed his castle and illustrations of old Europe.  It really had me wondering what a Romita-illustrated high fantasy book would look like.  However, when it comes to the close-ups during the monologue sequences, there are issues.  Most glaring are his female faces, all of whom have bizarre cheekbones and sunken cheeks.  It’s really quite distracting.

On Bendis’ end, there’s a bit of a strange moment near the end of the issue, where Steve basically loses his shit in a really random and oddly timed fashion.  It’s not helped by Romita’s weak close-ups, either.

Also, while it was a lot of fun seeing a whole bunch of Nazi villains from Cap’s rogues gallery, Bendis’ gleeful refusal to explain how all of these guys are still up and about is a little irritating, and his own acknowledgment of this doesn’t make it any better.  Also, seeing a couple of these characters being shot to death with ease and without ceremony felt a little strange.

Conclusion: My quibbles are really nit-picking, for the most part.  Overall, this is a story that needed to be told and it managed to serve its purpose in a way that managed to feel both fun and integral to Fear Itself.  It also served as grounds for Bendis to try something a little different.

Grade: B

-Alex Evans