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

The Story: Double and triple crosses aplenty as the New Avengers find themselves wanted by the government.

The Review:  In many respects, despite sharing a story-arc, New Avengers’ issue this week is opposite to Avengers’ issue and, as a result, while the latter is a success, the former is not.

With Avengers, the comic moved at such a brisk pace with such great action and all around fun that it never gave you a chance to pause and ponder the glaring holes in this story.  Not so much this month.  There are giant, gaping holes in the story that are made apparent and focused on this month that frustrate to no end.  Why exactly is the US government so ready to reinstate Norman freaking Osborn and willingly give official status and power to known terrorist organizations within their own borders?  Why are they arresting the Avengers for crimes unknown?  What exactly ARE the horrible, horrible war crimes that the Avengers are guilty of, and why do I get the feeling that we’ll never know?  Why is Norman Osborn flying in the air, burninating the countryside for no apparent reason, yet nonetheless hailed as a hero by the public?  And, of course, the reasons why the public are so quick to hate the Avengers and so quick to love and support a documented murderer and criminal remains nonsensical.

These are all central problems with the HAMMER War, and while Avengers moves fast and fun enough to simply gloss over it, New Avengers does not, and so we’re left faced with a bevy illogicities and plot holes.

Bendis tries to liven things up by putting a couple major twists with a couple characters revealing their allegiances or otherwise double-crossing their allies.  In the first case, it’s needlessly convoluted and the rationale for it is poorly explain.  It feels overly complicated and disingenuous and, as a result, robbed of any real impact or emotional significance.  As a reader, I was left sharing Spider-Man’s incredulous reaction to the reveal.

The second major twist makes, quite simply, no real sense as it comes completely out of nowhere with no build-up or explanation.  As a result, it comes across as being really random and, honestly, a bit cheap, if not lazy.

On the plus side, Mike Deodato’s art is rock solid this month and it’s one of his better issues out of this arc.  When depicting action sequences, the reader really has the reader feel the physical impacts.  Emotions carry through facial expressions quite well and Deodato also gets a bit creative with lay-outs at some point that make for a less drab experience.

Overall, while I’ve harped on about this issue a bit, it’s not horrible.  The dialogue is quick and generally well-written and this second-tier list of Dark Avengers are actually a bit better portrayed this month, gaining a little more character and significance than they’ve garnered in previous issues.  They actually come across as legitimate characters and legit bad guys, which is great.  Also, the character dynamics in the New Avengers as, above all, a group of buddies under siege is still a strong formula.  It’s just the general problems of this story that are weighing me down.

Conclusion:  It’s amazing to see Bendis do wrong in one issue what he does right in another issue…in the same week.  But that’s where we are.

Grade: C

-Alex Evans