"Avengers" #11 has Jonathan Hickman and Mike Deodato add in another piece of the overall large puzzle that this series is constructing, and with each new addition it's becoming more intriguing. But at the same time, it's hard to ignore that on an issue-by-issue basis, "Avengers" still has some faults. Some will be fixed in a collected format, others not so much.
The idea of heroes going undercover in a casino full of super-villains isn't the main draw here; it's not a bad idea, but it's certainly one that's been seen before. There are some great little gems along the way, though, ones that are almost all related to the draw of characters and their personalities. Sam and Bobby have hung in the background for so long that it's nice to see them in the field for a change, even if it's finding themselves in the odd situation of partying with A.I.M. Agents. Carol's scenes at the card table are also great; she's a character who's really come into her own with the start of the "Captain Marvel" series and I feel like Hickman's following through on Kelly Sue DeConnick's take from that title. They're fun scenes, even with just the hint of danger.
The scenes with Natasha are distinctly less fun, but I give Hickman credit that not only are they effective, but they're doubly so thanks to them being such a contrast to the jovial nature of the earlier ones. His selection of her as the down-to-business, hard-decisions-to-be-made character works given her past, and it's a nasty little jolt when the end result of her time at the casino is revealed. It works well as a reminder of just what the Avengers are doing there, and who they're dealing with. It's ironically Shang-Chi whose presence I found the least interesting; considering the cover places him in a central role (and to a lesser extent the script), that was a bit of a surprise. I liked his helping out Captain Universe earlier, but here I just couldn't get a grasp on the character enough to have my attention seized. His plot is a little boring and mindless, and that's a shame because he's the one who ultimately brings home the most important piece of information.
Deodato's art is a little variable this issue. The second page of "Avengers" #11 is a classic example of the highs and lows that the art hits. Look at the panel with Bobby throwing the dice with Sam at his side, and you'll find one that works. Everyone's eyes are clearly focused on the action (in this case the dice), the positions everyone's frozen in feels like a snapshot rather than something posed, the outfits all look real, and the dice are coming at you in just the right way that they feel alive. It's a winner. Then you get Carol holding up her pair of queens, and it's everything that doesn't work. Her eyes don't seem focused on anything at all (if anything they're a little glazed over), her head feels out of proportion to her body, her lips feel somehow fake, and her torso comes across as very narrow with the way that her arms fold in. There's something that's not quite right about it from start to finish, and it's frustrating because it's even on the same page as one that worked so well. And that, to me, is the art for "Avengers" #11 in a nutshell. Some great drawings, some that needed to get reworked just a tad.
It almost goes without saying that "Avengers" #11 is, like every other issue these days, also a little slow paced. Sometimes that pacing works well, sometimes it feels like "Avengers" is being dragged out a great deal. This time it falls into the middle of those two positions; it's still slow, but moments like Sam and Bobby parting with AIM Agents give it a certain pep that otherwise wouldn't be there. I'm still enjoying "Avengers," but I am starting to wonder just how long things are going to build. It's still good, but a tiny bit of enthusiasm is starting to chip away the longer that we get that climactic moment delayed.