New Avengers #53

Though solicited, Chris Bachalo does not contribute any art to this issue aside from a variant cover, which is a shame, because the alternating art sequences between Bachalo and Tan have given this story arc a unique visual look, one that you'd hope was carried through completely.

The Avengers, along with Dr. Strange, are hot on the trail of the Hood in New Orleans and in search for the next Sorcerer Supreme. The issue begins with some of Bendis' usual wit, namely Clint Barton unable to find a spot to park the Quinjet while Spider-Man annoys Luke Cage. Last issue, Jessica Jones revealed that, while in high school, she had a giant crush on Peter Parker, and Spidey's follow-up here is pretty damn funny.

From there, things move to all-out action with Daimon Hellstrom and the Hood fighting, Madame Masque keeping the Avengers occupied, and the question of the next Sorcerer Supreme left hanging until a final page that will surprise some and please many. The interplay between the Avengers is highly entertaining as Bendis takes advantage of the new Captain America, demonstrating for readers not familiar with him, how he is different from Steve Rogers by using tactics that I'm not sure I've seen an Avenger use before. Ever.

While some readers no doubt enjoy it when Bendis gets away from dialogue-based scenes, the manner in which his action scenes play out always seems wanting. It's obvious that that's not where his strength lies. Billy Tan, normally at home in action scenes and lost when characters are just talking, doesn't step up as he normally does, his art looking very rushed, perhaps because of the absence of Chris Bachalo. As the issue goes on, his art gets scratchier and looser, giving the action scenes a very dynamic, energetic feel in spots. But, it also looks incomplete and flat-out ugly in others. His demonically-possessed Hood, though, benefits from this look since it makes him look more threatening and scary.

You'd expect this issue, at times, to feel like it's stalling for time until it can reach that final page and deliver the big reveal of the next Sorcerer Supreme since Bendis is known for decompressed storytelling, this issue is one of his more packed ones. He manages to get some solid characterization in and balance it out with action, even if it is mediocre. Billy Tan's art looks very rushed here, but he has next issue to end his run on the title on a positive note. All in all, a solid read.

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