This is the beginning of Brian Michael Bendis’ final farewell to the Avengers and it looks as if he intends to go out on a high note. This issue contained all of the trademarks that make him such a great writer: mystery, intrigue, introspective character analysis, action, and sharp dialogue… all perfectly balanced to create a very enjoyable read.

The story begins in a weird futuristic-looking environment, with a woman on some sort of hover bike, being pursued by multiple alien-looking aircraft. After arriving to the edge of a city, she travels there looking for someone to help her send out a signal using an Avengers ID card. Meanwhile, at Avengers Tower, Captain America is tuning in to various news reports covering the final outcome of the Avengers Vs. X-Men debacle. Suddenly, Simon Williams, a.k.a. Wonder Man, appears on the balcony outside. As you might recall, the Avengers and Wonder Man came to blows, not long ago, when Wonder Man decided that the Avengers did more harm than good and took it upon himself to shut them down. However, he quickly tells a battle-ready Cap that he’s had a change of heart and asks him to hear what he has to say. He wants to talk, not fight. After admitting to Cap that he thinks he probably suffered a mental breakdown, Cap offers a helping hand to Simon. Their resolution is cut short, when the Red Hulk appears out of nowhere and attacks Wonder Man, without questioning why he’s there. (Admittedly, negotiation is not Red Hulk’s strong suit, so his reaction to Simon’s appearance is not surprising.) After defeating the Red Hulk fairly quickly and easily, Simon leaves, declaring that he will earn his way back to the Avengers someday. Back inside Avengers Tower, Tony Stark receives a transmission from the mysterious woman from the beginning and figures out that it’s not coming from outer space, but, rather, inner space. Who this Avenger sending the message is remains a mystery, but I have my suspicions. If it’s who I think it is, a lot of fans should be happy, myself included.

As Bendis prepares to leave the team he’s almost single handedly overseen for the last several years, it’s apparent that he intends to right a lot of the wrongs he’s been criticized for in the past, such as having Wonder Man going rogue and killing off certain fan-favorite characters. Judging from the events in this issue, it’s clear that he’s already well on his way to rectifying both. As for Wonder Man’s sudden change of heart, it does feel a tad rushed and insincere, considering how passionate Simon felt about putting down the Avengers once and for all, only a few issues ago. Granted, a lot of fans felt that it was out-of-character for Simon to go against his teammates to begin with, so one could argue that this is a return to the true Wonder Man we’ve known and loved all along. To his credit, Bendis does attempt to explain Simon’s erratic behavior to his being made of unstable ionic energy… which makes sense, I guess. At any rate, it’s good to see Bendis going out with a bang, as he returns everything back to where they belong in the toy box. His tenure, beginning with Avengers Disassembled, shook up the whole team. He permanently changed what it meant to be an Avenger, who could be an Avenger, and questioned just who it is they should be fighting. Some of this rubbed longtime fans the wrong way, some felt challenged and gratified that someone was taking bold chances with their beloved characters. I fall into the latter category. Thanks to Bendis, Spider-Man finally joined the team permanently. I’ve wanted that since I was a kid. So he’ll forever have my respect for that alone.

The artwork in this issue is, quite simply, amazing. Brandon Peterson and Mike Mayhew really put their all into it here. I particularly liked their rendering of Captain America, who has never looked more heroic and realistic, outside of an Alex Ross painting. They brought that extra something to an already great issue. Very nice work, all around. I give this issue a 9/10. Very much looking forward to next issue!