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

The Story: K’un-Lun gets its new Iron Fist as well as a very special guest.

The Review: This issue proves that last issue wasn’t just a fluke, one-issue thing: despite not featuring a single Avenger, being set in the past, and being an event tie-in, this is one of the best New Avengers stories since the relaunch of the title.  Actually, it’s probably my favourite next to the first, Stuart Immonen illustrated arc.

Bendis’ Avengers books have gradually fallen into a creative rut of repetition and stagnation, but this issue, much like the issue before it, allows Bendis to do something totally different: a K’un Lun comic.  The result is a book that is filled with a sense of wonder.  Bendis immerses us into the strange world of prophecy and mysticism that is K’un Lun and the result is an ominous, escapist trip that only comics can provide.

Perhaps the one weakness of this issue is the lack of meaningful character-work, particularly in the case of our redheaded protagonist, who really hasn’t been explored much beyond the surface level.  Oddly, I’m fine with that in the context of this comic.  It’s clear that Bendis has chosen instead to focus on the atmosphere and tone of dread and impending cataclysm; it’s clear that this story, and its characters, are completely driven and controlled by events.  Characterization takes a backseat, but only because the characters are simply pieces in a larger game with the highest stakes.  In this sense, Bendis’ approach actually works for the comic.

Meanwhile, Deodato and Beredo are doing some of the best work I’ve seen out of the pair since their days on Dark Avengers a few years back.  Deodato continues to blow me away with his epic, otherworldly illustrations of K’un Lun.  There are some absolutely gorgeous images here, including a wonderful splash of a giant cliff-face that is guaranteed to get your attention.  Courtesy of a guest star, however, Deodato also gets to draw some technology and the results are just as eye-popping.  I also continue to enjoy how Beredo has changed his game here, going for a much lighter shades, giving the story a more “mythic” feel that emphasizes it’s taking place in another time and in another, very different place.

Speaking of that guest star, it’s a genuine surprise that, despite coming out of left field, is a perfect fit for this story.  Moreover, it gives us a familiar character to latch onto in this arc full of strange faces.  Better still, it emphasizes the timelessness of the character and, by extension, the timelessness of this story insofar as how it relates to the present.  He’s really a great fit and I’ll admit to geeking out a bit when he showed up.  It was a really great move by Bendis.

Conclusion: There’s not much to say about this comic that I didn’t say about the last issue – it’s absolutely excellent for all of the same reasons that last month’s issue was excellent.  This is a very different sort of Bendis book with fantastic artwork.  The difference between last issue and this one, however, is the addition of that fantastic new guest star, which raises the book to another level.  I imagine some might begrudge this book’s featuring no Avengers or X-Men whatsoever, despite the admittedly misleading cover.  That may be true….but it’s still a great comic.

Grade: B+

-Alex Evans