Written by Bob Harras and Terry Kavanagh, Pencil breakdowns by Mike Deodato, finishes by Tom Palmer
Previously on the Avengers: In last issue's Avengers, the team encountered the Red Skull at an abandoned base in the Yukon. Black Widow battled him to a draw until Red Skull disappeared. Captain America returned, wearing armor due to health problems. Then, in Captain America, Cap and his squad (Free Spirit, Jack Flag and Falcon), the Avengers, misandrist villain Superia, and the Red Skull all converged on the mysterious Boca Caliente, following a lead on A.I.M. creating a new cosmic cube. The group's have all split up, with Cap receiving an injection of something from Superia.
We begin our story with a small boy running through the jungles of Boca Caliente. Before he can be spotted by A.I.M. goons on hover-boards, a dog appears and shoves him into some bushes. The boy hugs the dog, saying "you came out of nowhere to save me, just like I im-" but he's cut-off mid-sentence, as he discovers empty armor in the grass. The dog leads the boy directly to Captain America, who was apparently wearing his regular armor under his exo-armor. Cap comes to, and at first thinks the clearly pre-pubescent boy is his WWII teenage sidekick Bucky. Then, Bucky appears and points out what a silly mistake that is, to Cap's surprise.
|I'm starting to wonder if Mike Deodato has just never seen the moon.|
Across the island, the Avengers are in the middle of a battle with A.I.M. they seem to have the situation well in hand, when Natasha knocks the beekeeper helmet off one of the men and sees he has an Adaptoid face. Natasha checks her "kemplar scale" and is poised to go rescue Cap when Hercules, his shirt torn, asks what the heck the kemplar scale does, and Widow finally comes clean: the scale measures the output of the cosmic cube! Widow explains the cube has the power to make thoughts into reality, and just as Quicksilver moves in to criticize Widow's secretiveness, he recognizes what looks like a gypsy caravan among the village. On cue, Django Maximoff appears as a young man.
|Finally, a little something for the ladies! Ladies love impossible musculature, right?|
Back on Cap's side of the island, Cap wonders if Bucky isn't some trick of A.I.M. when Bucky comes running at him, bouncing off his shield to knock out two A.I.M. agents. Cap asserts that Bucky is most likely a "fever dream" that just knocked two dudes out, but agrees to take Bucky with him as he explores the island with the unnamed boy and his dog.
|Hey fearless leader? Maybe don't bring up the thing he shouldn't think about.|
Wow is this storyline getting decompressed. The combination of multiple characters/storylines and Deodato's low frame per page count results in not a whole lot happening. Basically there's something going on with the cosmic cube, but we still don't really know what, and we're halfway through this four part story. As with last issue, the writing is perfectly cromulent, far ahead of what's coming, although part of that is most likely Deathcry being left behind at the mansion, Jubilee-style. Presumably she's still recovering from her mystery-burn from two issues ago? Also, it's a troubling look into Cap's psyche that he wishes for his dead sidekick. Get over it already, Cap!
|What is even going on here?|
Deodato's art is definitely at it's most Jim Lee/Image comic phase, with plenty of cross-hatchings, no backgrounds, and big, splashy action. While I'm not a huge fan of this style (and dislike his stiff photo-tracing style), there's undeniably a lot of energy here to power the story through some fight scenes that are somewhat forgettable otherwise. There's also some experimentation with double-paged spreads and horizontally laid-out pages that's pretty cool. I just wish what was actually going on was more interesting. There's a bunch of players and a big showdown coming, with M.O.D.O.K. showing up on... someone's side, but other than "get the cosmic cube," there really isn't a whole lot of explanation for what everyone is trying to accomplish.
You've Got Mail:
Half of the letters page is devoted to a "favorite Avenger" poll that includes every single member of the Avengers or West Coast Avengers to that point. Maybe a lot of people's favorite Avenger really was Doctor Druid? He's on the poll! So are 3/4 of the Fantastic Four!
The first letter says they have a real nasty suspicion as to what's behind the mystery door from a few issues back and recommends re-enforcing it with solid adamantium. In hindsight, this person was probably right, that would've been a good idea. The response says "well we can't tell you if you're right, but a lot of people will get hurt or killed!" So that sounds promising!
Hank Pym's new outfit has no sleeves and a ring of pouches around each arm at the shoulder, which must be kind of tricky to reach, especially the ones on the back. M.O.D.O.K.'s also sporting a new 90's look, as he's absolutely covered in guns.