Sigh.  I hate when they do this.  This cover shows Captain America looking over photos of various heroes and reads, “Who will be the new Avengers?”  Answer:  Who knows, because that isn’t revealed in this issue!  Fake out!  (Also, I can pretty much guess it’s not the majority of characters shown here.  Blade?  Loki?  Cyclops?!  I’d love it if Monica Rambeau were to come back, though.  That’s her, mostly obscured by the A in the logo.)

This issue largely focuses on a looming new threat to the team from a very unlikely source.  This story goes behind the scenes (and back in time) to view the aftermaths of every major event from ‘Civil War’ on, from the perspective of the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents assigned to clean up after the super battles.

The story opens after the cyborg Thor (a.k.a. “Clor”) just blew a hole through the torso of Goliath, whose gigantic body is still lying in the rubble, leaving the agents to figure out what to do with it.  One agent, Dr. Carolina Washington, is especially disturbed by this situation and the issue follows her as she reacts to the assassination of Captain America, the ‘Secret Invasion’ by Skrulls and finally the destruction of Avengers Tower, which is the first appearance the Avengers actually make in this story.  Captain America takes it upon himself to move every member of every team of Avengers (there are three… I think) into Luke Cage’s Avengers Mansion, apparently without asking permission.  The Thing has a breakdown over his actions during the ‘Fear Itself’ storyline, in which he was possessed by one of ‘The Worthy’ and wreaked all kinds of havoc before he was almost killed by Thor.

There are a couple of funny character interactions, one between the Avengers’ longtime butler, Jarvis and Dr. Strange’s manservant, Wong.  Another addresses Mockingbird’s reaction to her ex-husband suddenly shacking up with Spider-Woman.  Then Cap asks, “Who will be an Avenger?” and the scene shifts, leaving that question to dangle until next month.

Carolina Washington has been quietly stealing evidence from the various battle scenes she’s been sent to clean up and with the information she’s unlocked, has created a possible means to shutting down all of the Marvel Heroes for good!  Especially when that information falls into the wrong hands.  As has been revealed recently, Norman Osbourn has rallied all of Marvel’s various crime organizations, H.A.M.M.E.R., Hydra, The Hand and A.I.M. into an alliance.  This is sure to spell even more destruction for the beleaguered heroes.

This issue nicely builds to these upcoming events.  I actually liked that the majority of the book didn’t focus on The Avengers and was more story set up.  I liked the idea of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents being forced to constantly clean up after the heroes and resenting it.  And a scientist in Dr. Washington’s position could certainly have access to the deadly knowledge she accumulates.  Hopefully, this will be another classic, like ‘Civil War’ and ‘Secret Invasion!’  The character interactions are funny, which Bendis excels at.  I’m not sure who Cap will decide makes the cut for the teams or how many teams there will be.  (I could live without ‘Secret Avengers,’ personally.)  As long as Luke Cage, Spider-Woman, Ms. Marvel, Hawkeye, Mockingbird and Spider-Man stick around, I’ll be happy.  Oh, and maybe take Valkyrie off the ‘Secret’ team and put her on one of the others.  Thanks!

Daniel Acuna steps on board as the new regular artist on this book.  He has a nice painterly style.  His facial expressions are superb!  And he uses some really interesting techniques here.  Check out the panels in which Dr. Washington conceals the evidence she is stealing!  He also handles body language well, which is one thing I’d say the majority of comic artists don’t even bother with!  The Mockingbird sequence just brings all of that together, the story telling, facial expressions and body language.  It’s one of the best single pages I’ve seen!

This is a fresh start for The Avengers and the beginning of something huge!  If you’re interested in Marvel’s flagship team, this issue is a must!

Verdict: Buy

Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art and Cover by Daniel Acuna