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The Hood’s gang has grown stronger and, er, stranger. This issue, we see what happens when The Griffin and Mandrill pit Spider-Woman against Spider-Man. It’s nothing earth-shattering, and while it does feel like it’s there to fill time, it’s also a decent piece of classic Marvel storytelling. Spider-Man holds back, recognizing that Spider-Woman isn’t herself. The villains chuckle off to the side. The situation is eventually resolved by the heroes’ wits and webslinging. Bendis’ dialogue shines on top of this small plot, putting one-liners and wry observations onto the page to entertain the reader.

Daniel Acuna draws these pages of the book, and while I usually enjoy his art, there are moments here that don’t work for me. Many will be happy to see him drawing the classic small-eyes Spider-Man, but I can’t get over how stiff parts of the action look. Spider-Woman’s strong pose looks more hunched-over and in stomach pain. Her kick to Spider-Man’s gut looks like an action figure in stiff motion. And one production error: Special effects coloring bleeds out to the edges, while Spider-Woman’s hair is cut flat at the top of a panel on story page #3. The end effect is disturbing, unless Acuna’s intention was to give her a flat top. Then it’s silly.

Meanwhile, back at Steve Roger’s bombed-out warehouse hideout, the two Captain Americas battle the Living Laser while H.A.M.M.E.R. looks on. Bendis opens the action from afar, seeing it through the point of view of two H.A.M.M.E.R. soldiers, before pushing in to Cage’s first meeting with the revived Steve Rogers, Nick Fury’s return, and the start of The Siege.

This is all mostly connecting material, getting the story to where it needs to be to crossover with the main event, but done entertainingly. Bendis has made you care about these characters in the last 60 issues, and it wouldn’t be right to skip the smaller moments just to get to the punch/splode action. That’s why material that might at first be called “filler” by some is often the most rewarding and exciting.

Stuart Immonen does a great job in this half of the book, starting with the great opening half page splash of two hunkered-down soldiers watching the superheroic craziness from afar, but then selling those smaller moments, such as Cage’s little smirk when hit directly by the Living Laser.

Overall, the book carries on the overall story of these New Avengers well, offering enough little moments to satisfy. New readers shouldn’t be lost or confused. Bendis doesn’t drop much exposition, but a quick read of the opening text page should fill a new reader in on everything they need to know. Acuna’s art is a little disappointing, and that whole storyline is fairly standard, if entertaining, stuff. The rest of the issue lives up to everything you’d expect in the series.