by Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Mike Deodato (artist), Rain Beredo (colorist), and Joe Caramagna (letterer)

The Story: Spider-Woman, Hawkeye, and Luke Cage try to break out of the X-Brig.

The Review: This is a tough review to write, as I imagine that opinions will really vary on this comic.  The entire issue builds up to a big twist near the end and your enjoyment of it overall is thus largely contingent upon your reaction to that twist.

For me, I literally said, out loud, “oh, come on!” when I turned that page.  Bendis does a good job in tricking you, sure, but it doesn’t change the fact that the twist ending here is the oldest trick in the book.   That said, to his credit, Bendis almost, almost manages to sell it by making the scenario particularly hellish and twisted.  It’s actually surprisingly dark, and a little disturbing, for an Avengers comic.  Still, that doesn’t change the fact that the core concept of the twist is incredibly old, tired, and cheap.

The dialogue is also a mixed bag.  On the one hand, I liked the characterization Bendis does in showing the very different ways that Cage, Hawkeye, and Spider-Woman interact with their guards.  It showcased their unique personalities, and tactics, very well and was a really nice touch.

On the other hand, I could have done without the banter between Jessica and Clint.  Bendis and Deodato have established that this is a very dark issue they’re giving us and Hawkeye and Spider-Woman are in the middle of a desperate escape off of an island guarded by pissed-off gods and….Hawkeye is telling Spider-Woman that she smells nice, while Spider-Woman makes a joke about a birthmark/scar/something on Hawkeye’s butt?  It’s bad enough that the Hawkeye/Spider-Woman relationship still feels forced and underdeveloped, but this banter is really, really inappropriate and out of place.  This is only further evidenced by the fact that it’s really the only spot of humour in what is really a very grim issue, particularly given that dire twist.

But here’s the thing, while Bendis may be giving us a mixed bag, Mike Deodato does not.  Deodato draws the living HELL out of this issue.  He gives us a fully immersive experience, giving us a dark, grim, and tense issue full of mood and atmosphere.  Really, Deodato succeeds in just about every way a comic artist can: in atmosphere, storytelling, emotion, and action, he hits every note perfectly.  The issue has a really claustrophobic, psychological feel to it and the prison itself feels like, well, a prison.  There’s something so haunting about the way Deodato illustrates the characters in their sells and the whole issue feels sinister and downright creepy.  The action scenes are also very good, and Deodato’s choice to do part of the chase sequence in silhouette was nothing short of brilliant.  Put simply, him and Beredo have knocked it out of the park here.

Conclusion: Again, your mileage will vary depending upon your immediate reaction to the twist.  For me, it didn’t work.  That said, the art is gorgeous, even if it won’t give you happy feelings.

Grade: B- (mostly on the strength of the art)

-Alex Evans