New Avengers #55

With the hunt for the sorcerer supreme now over, "New Avengers" #55 begins a new arc for the title, as well as welcoming Bendis' "Ultimate Spider-Man" collaborator, Stuart Immonen, to the series.

This being "New Avengers," a large amount of focus is placed on The Hood, Madam Masque, and their gang of criminals. At this point, it should have become clear that Bendis has mentally repositioned The Hood as a de facto cast member of the title -- indeed, we spend almost as much time with him and his team as the heroes. The problem with that, though, is that the Hood's name isn't on the cover -- I can't be the only person getting a bit sick of seeing the same villains month in, month out, can I?

Mercifully, Bendis has at least come up with an interesting plot that sees the characters dealing with a threat that rarely affects non-mutant superhumans -- that of being depowered. As ever, though, it's the conversational scenes that really carry the book, with Bendis' unique voice as strong as ever. The Spider-Man/Jessica Jones scenes alone are almost worth the price of entry.

However, I did say "almost." The inescapable truth is that no matter how clever the occasional conversation, or how improved the artwork, "New Avengers" has once again failed to live up to the increased expectations that come with the increased cover price. Readers were promised, when the price hike was announced, that every issue would be a must-read, and every storyline an event in itself -- instead, "New Avengers" simply feels like an overlooked stepchild as Bendis pours his energy and attention into the vastly superior "Dark Avengers."

So don't get me wrong, it's not a bad issue. Nor is it a particularly good one. It's technically very strong, but ultimately lacks passion, falling back into almost exactly the same rut it was in before "Secret Invasion" started. If the previous arc on "New Avengers" didn't excite you very much, then there's little here that's likely to change your mind -- and for book that used to thrive on being on the fringe of the Marvel Universe, that can only be seen as a bad thing.

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