I'm not a regular New Avengers reader, I'm more a Mighty boy, but if this is the beginning of the end for Dark Reign, I want in.
So, moving quickly on from the fact that this is a big old rip-off in terms of price - $4.99 for 32pp of story, with a long ad for Siege #1 taking up the rest of the story pages - how was it?
Well, for lovers of Clint Barton, this is a great book, as he shows the indomitable spirit that made him a classic Avenger. Captured by Norman Osborn, the Dark Avengers looming over him, there's no way he's going to willingly give up the whereabouts of his friends.
Wife Bobbi, meanwhile, is initially a tad whiny when she realises Clint has gone off to face Osborn and co alone, but her colleagues rally round and they're soon taking the fight to his HAMMER helicarrier (did they not try this months ago, and if not, why not?). Norman isn't there, mind, having used his supervillain resources to get the information he wants despite Clint's impressive efforts, and he's not slow to act on it.
Given the Siege story is going on until May or something, you'll not be surprised there's no big battle between New and Dark Avengers - well, Marvel knows you still have some money set aside, for bills and stuff. But the business that is in this book is good, with Brian Bendis' dialogue not as self-consciously smartyboots as I remember it and some proper forward movement in the overall story. His portrayal of the Clint/Bobbi relationship is spot-on, while Osborn is intelligent and threatening without being too moustache-twirling. I wasn't happy with the defeatist Ms Marvel early on in the book, but given that I dropped her own title because of her super-gung-ho, kill all Skrulls attitude, I suspect I'm never happy.
I am happy with the contribution of illustrator Mike Mayhew and colour artist Andy Troy - it's stunning. For one thing, they present the sexiest Clint Barton ever, naked, bound, hairy-legged . . . AHEM (click to engorge). The anatomy's convincing, the tech is grand, the cityscapes sweeping and the people, perfect. Start to finish, this is a tour de force of dynamic comic art, painterly without being sterile. Favourite moments include a dreamlike flashback splash (splashback?) involving Clint's memories, a panel of a flying Ms Marvel trailing afterimages, and a sortie between Clint and the Dark Avengers that just flies off the page.
Mayhew also provides the gorgeous cover, one of the brightest I've seen from Marvel in years. Maybe that's what happens when you feature Jessica Jones in her old Jewel costume, an outfit so bad even Janet Van Dyne would disown it.
All in all, this is the best New Avengers issue I've read - no ninjas, no one in a Ronin suit, no slinking around alleys. I think I'll try another.