"Avengers" #23 is not a bad comic book, but given the stakes and the players on the field it should be so much more. In this issue, The Avengers attempt to escape the clutches of Norman Osborne's H.A.M.M.E.R. while Viper negotiates with the U.S. Government, using the kidnapped Avengers as their bargaining chip.
Brian Michael Bendis finds some great funny moments for his characters in this issue, the kind of good chuckles that make comics fun. Unfortunately, beyond those funny moments and a decent escape scene toward the end, there is so much missed opportunity and the issue is ultimately disappointing. The Avengers do make a bid for freedom from Norman Osborne's clutches in this issue, but we don't really see how. It just happens. Quake uses her earthquake powers to come to their rescue, but it's not quite clear how any of them get free beyond Quake mucking up the works. The scenes do a great job of building Quake as a force to be reckoned with but it leaves the rest of the team feeling like an afterthought.
Given who the new Avengers team should be has been a discussion point for the last half dozen issues, this would have been a great moment to show why Captain America specifically chose this team. Instead, they just seem to get rescued by the new recruit. It's implied they've done some of the work themselves but we don't see it, so there's no chance to marvel at how amazing they are.
As interesting as the prolonged negotiations between Viper and the President are, it simply would be more interesting to see the creative ways in which The Avengers make their individual escapes. This is a medium all about showing, making this issue the perfect opportunity to show why the Avengers are Earth's Mightiest Heroes. Sadly, it's wasted. However, Bendis leaves us with a nice cliffhanger that promises an epic battle, so perhaps we'll get a chance to see the characters shine next issue.
Daniel AcuÃ±a's work continues to be a wonderful fit for this book with his striking heroic figures and bold storytelling choices. His color work is particularly strong, especially toward the end of this issue and it delivers powerfully in stark red and blacks setting an amazing tone for the next issue. AcuÃ±a is not afraid to let his characters act, and it nicely fits Bendis' scenes whether comedic or deadly serious.
"Avengers" has been a solid book. Bendis and AcuÃ±a are a great fit together, but it's falling short of what it should be given the talent and characters involved.