It’s that time!  Time to announce an all new roster for The Avengers!  Unlike so many other teams, which tend to stick to a steady lineup, The Avengers has periodically shaken things up with certain stalwarts leaving and returning to the fold and newer members added to keep things fresh and keep fans on their toes.  (Remember when Wolverine and Spider-Man joined?  Fans were floored!)

This issue begins with a high-ranking S.H.I.E.L.D. operative named Daisy Johnson investigating Norman Osborn’s escape from Ryker’s Island Prison.  She questions the warden, John Walker, best known as the former Avenger, the U.S.Agent.  We then switch over to Avengers Mansion where all of the members of both teams are assembled as Captain America and Iron Man consider who to put on their team.  (Luke Cage maintains his own group, The New Avengers)  Cap invites back an old friend, the Black Panther, currently fighting crime in Hell’s Kitchen, but Panther declines and instead recommends a replacement, his wife Storm.  Tony Stark succeeds in bringing back an old standby, The Vision!  Tony reveals he has been working to reconstruct him and recently managed a breakthrough.

Agent Johnson has discovered that H.A.M.M.E.R. has infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D., which is how Osborn escaped.  “We’re surrounded.  H.A.M.M.E.R. is everywhere,” she admits in her report to Cap.  Then in a surprising move, Cap appoints Agent Johnson to The Avengers.  The team goes before the press gathered outside.  All in all, there isn’t much change to the lineup.  Cap, Iron Man, Spider-Woman, Hawkeye and the recently inducted Red Hulk and The Protector (Noh-Varr) remain, with The Vision returning and Storm and Agent Johnson added for the first time.  It looks like Wolverine and Spider-Man are out and will be strictly on Luke’s team.

This issue was very entertaining!  Bendis’ characterization is always top notch.  He absolutely gets all of these characters and has their voices down pat!  Hawkeye and Spider-Woman, who recently began dating, have a cute interlude at Ryker’s Island.  Cap and Iron Man always work well off of one another.  The Vision’s dialogue comes across as appropriately awkward.  Even members that are technically guest-stars in this issue like Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and Spider-Man shine.

There’s an absolutely hilarious double-page spread of various news anchors reacting, which nails the way actual anchors behave on networks like Fox News.  It’s just an overall fun, light issue, after all of the darkness during ‘Fear Itself’ and ‘Spider-Island.’  It actually felt like hanging out at a family barbecue, catching up with relatives.

Daniel Acuna’s style is so lush and beautiful!  The detailing on the characters’ faces is just marvelous!  The rich colors, also by Acuna, really help.  He knows how to pace an issue, varying the panel sizes to fit the scene.  Bigger panels are reserved for bigger moments.  When Storm arrives, she gets a whole splash page.  The one action sequence in this story, featuring Black Panther and Cap against a giant robot is rendered in angular, unique panels to convey the energy of the scene.  Just great stuff!  Acuna strikes me as an artist that might have trouble keeping pace with a monthly book, but so far he’s delivered and I’m quite happy!

It’s the calm before the storm, as Osborn is about to launch his big attack, but after the “cross-overload” of the past few months, we readers needed a chance to catch our breath and become reacquainted with these heroes as people and not just warriors.  It works as a stand-alone issue but still ties into the larger continuity.  It’s a great jumping on point for anyone who hasn’t been following the team, but might want to.  Just a perfect nugget of Avengers goodness.

Verdict: Buy

Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art and Cover by Daniel Acuna