Both "New" and "Mighty" Avengers books have existed in a fairly nebulous place since Secret Invasion started, hijacked to provide backstory and fill plot gaps while the main cast was otherwise occupied in the main crossover series. With this issue, those days are officially over.
"Dark Reign" has cast a new shadow over the Marvel Universe, and that makes for some nice story possibilities -- not least the idea that, to some people, super-hero registration and mass-mobilization doesn't seem like quite the good idea it did when Stark was running the show. Of course, the New Avengers cast saw this coming all along, so for them it's all business as usual. In this issue, they reconvene at the behest of one of Marvel's oldest heroes (sort of) to decide their next move.
I won't spoil the new line-up of the "New Avengers" team, but suffice to say, there are some surprising changes. The fallout of Secret Invasion is dealt with directly and quickly, and there's no messing around when dealing with Spider-Woman's status or Jessica and Luke's missing child. It's all addressed, and a new team is formed and in action before the issue ends. When it does end, however, there's a final page twist that's guaranteed to blow your socks off. Bendis, for all his faults, has really nailed this issue after a largely disappointing 8 or 9 months. "New Avengers" suddenly feels as vital and exciting as it did 48 issues ago.
Billy Tan's art is also a clear improvement on recent issues of the title. Tan's work finally displays some of the skill that saw him "promoted" to a book at the top of Marvel's A-list, and there are shades of both Yu and McNiven obvious throughout the pages. He does struggle to match the quality of some of the title's recent artists, but if he continues improving at this rate, it won't be long until he does.
All things considered, it's been a while since "New Avengers" felt quite this brilliant. Now that the "Secret Invasion" slog of Skrull-induced paranoia is behind it, the series feels like it's moving forward again -- it might be on issue 48, but this almost functions as a new issue 1, and that can only be a good thing.