Two words... Bryan Hitch. Every comic he does is a blockbuster and this is no exception. The landscapes feel expansive, the panels are iconic, the characters look like real people. He's a living legend. Bendis' writing style matches Hitch's storytelling surprisingly well and there was a great sense of both realism and spectacle to this whole special. Luke Cage is, more or less, the star of this book and you can really get behind his drawing a line in the sand over the Hood's escape. Also, the reveal of how Cage decides to "play it smart" is really memorable.
As great as Hitch's work is, the procession of guest pin-ups at the end by the likes of Leinil Francis Yu, Steve McNiven and others is a real treat. A great way to sum up the past six issues of storylines (even if Cage's whole accompanying monologue gets a little meandering).
Hitch's art has evolved so much in its realism, it feels like he shouldn't be drawing superheroes anymore - - or, at least, traditional superheroes. Where other artists might fudge some details to compensate for the more ludicrous elements of a costume, he actual seems to figure out how they would work and real life. As anybody who's seen cosplayers at a convention can vouch for, though, there are a lot of costumes that just don't work in a reality. I felt that way about his depictions of Wolverine, in particular, but also Spider-Woman, Ms. Marvel and Iron Man. I almost wish he'd been allowed to redesign them to play better to his strengths, like the Ultimates' costumes.
The Verdict - 4/5
The memories of the Avengers Finale are still clear in my mind and this was a great complimenting bookend to that, recaping all the big storylines from New Avengers the way that Finale recounted all of the original Avengers' great adventures. This is a very satisfying conclusion to both Siege and the New Avengers volume. I just wish Hitch had been allowed to use costumes he designed, himself.