Written by Abnett & Lanning, Penciled by Yancey Labat, Inked by Rey Garcia
Our story begins with the Hex Ship crashing down into what was the country of "Viet Nam," with the team shaken but otherwise fine. The team can't raise a signal or find their location, so they go out into the woods, along with Fisher, who carries a gun to compensate for his lack of super powers.
Back at Force Works HQ, Cybermancer, aka Suzi Endo, gets upset with Amanda Chaney over being left alone without any support when U.S. Agent broke Hawkeye out of jail. Suzi suggests calling in Iron Man, as the rest of the team has completely disappeared. Rachel, Spider-Woman's daughter, chimes in that she's heard of Vietnam, to the surprise of the gathered adults. She offers to go get an "encyclopedia" to show everyone. At the airstrip, Black Widow has joined up with Hawkeye and company in thinking Stark is somehow framing Hawkeye. We also cut to what looks like a supervillain lair, as a not-fully shown figure in armor has located Hawkeye and company, and orders a "sanction team" to go to the area and presumably re-apprehend Hawkeye.
|Spiked shoulderpads in silhouette don't even begin to narrow down the list of suspects.|
At the base, Rachel is in tears as her encyclopedia no longer has an entry on "Vietnam," making her look like a crazy person. Presumably she hasn't even tried to use the Encarta CD. She tells Amanda that the base is haunted, because things keep happening and un-happening, and insists she never saw Slade until this past week. Amanda acts like the suggestion is outrageous, but moments later realizes she has no memory of Slade joining the team. This can only mean Amanda Chaney is secretly a raging alcoholic.
|Amanda also doesn't know how encyclopedias work.|
In Vietnam, the team finds a temple in the jungle, and Slade freaks out, calling the temple "Agaphaur." A freaked out Slade is comforted by Spider-Woman, but insists his name isn't Slade, it's "Gustav." A mystery group of villains sees the team, led by a mysterious looking figure with a dumb costume. He sends a bunch of nameless flying goons to intercept Force Works, while leaving a small contingent to protect a young boy, presumably the "kite boy" that disappeared last issue. At the steps of the temple, Scarlet Witch pretty coldly says Slade's exhibiting "schizotypal behavior," which is a pretty serious allegation for someone who went crazy in Byrne's horrendous Avengers West Coast (not to mention her complete meltdown in around 10 years time courtesy of Bendis). Spider-Woman's reaction to Scarlet Witch's armchair psychoanalysis is to scream "I love this man! I need to help him!" and then cock her fist back at her team leader. Before they can resolve their issues, they're attacked by the nameless flying goons. Scarlet Witch recognizes these goons from the attack in Avengers: the Crossing, and then pulls out an incredibly obscure villain, recognizing "Apocryphus," an extremely minor servant of Kang, as the leader of their opponents. Scarlet Witch asks if Apocryphus's "master" is behind this, and he only says that his master's plans are "of no concern to you now," after she's shot in the back by one of the goons.
|Scarlet Witch, amateur psychiatrist|
At Force Works HQ, Plato, the base's hologram-robot, gives a recounting of Moonraker joining the team. Amanda realizes that she doesn't have any "real" memory of that happening, and asks Plato to check the base for anything unusual. Plato turns up a bunch of "temporal radiation" in the secret sub-basement U.S. Agent accidentally discovered a few issues before this whole mess started. Amanda finds the sub-basement, and learns that it's run by "Timely Industries," a company founded by Tony Stark... in 2009 (remember, that's 14 years in these people's future)!
Meanwhile, back in Vietnam, Fisher recovers from being knocked away from the battle and finds the kite boy. Before he can help him, the boy starts transforming, causing his guard to say "the rate of acceleration marks him as an alpha level candidate!" (whatever that means). The boy grows wings and grows to full size, apparently losing his mind. In the midst of the battle, Spider-Woman is in danger of being overwhelmed when Moonraker jumps in and helps her, but he insists he's not Slade, he's Gustav Brandt, and that "the end of this world is upon us all."
I'm not sure why they haven't just out and out admitted Kang is behind this at this point. Up to this point, the clues were relatively subtle, but now things are just becoming obvious. From an obscure character only known for his connection with Kang, to the double reference of a future-traveling computer owned by "Timely," things are getting pretty hard to miss, at least for Avengers fans. People trying to jump into this story are probably incredibly confused, because before the internet, or even black and white or online reprints, Marvel is asking its reader to connect a lot of dots (or just read Wizard Magazine and let them do it for them). While there aren't any Cotati plant men running around, Slade reveals his real name to be... Gustav Brandt! Brandt was minor villain "Libra," and more or less reformed under Steve Englehart's run on Avengers in the mid-70's. Since then, he made a couple of spotty appearances in books where it wasn't even clear if it was the same guy in the Libra costume. Now he's back, and not blind, and there's no explanation of who he is or why anyone but hardcore fans should care. Again, I don't like this mix of digging up incredibly obscure material and not explaining where it's coming from. Only hardcore fans would have known all this stuff, and they'd probably still hate that Iron Man and Mantis are apparently both on team Kang. Newcomers who don't have any attachment to these 70's characters are left wondering why the book seems to think they're important.
The art here isn't really bad enough to get excited about, but it's obviously a step down from Cheung's work. The only other thing I've read with Labat's penciling was a 99 cent "Adventures of the X-Men" comic based on the cartoon, and I remember thinking that the art on that book was truly hideous. This is actually a pretty big step up from there. Faces occasionally look wonky and there's a lot of stiff posing, but it's certainly worlds better than War Machine or Iron Man's art.
This book is still a pretty solid read, considering how bad War Machine and Iron Man are. Credit to Abnett & Lanning, years before their great cosmic Marvel stuff, for holding up their end of the crossover. Fisher, Amanda and Rachel give the team a pretty solid supporting cast, and Scarlet Witch as a leader is something we haven't seen a thousand times before. Maybe it's just personal opinion, but I'm also glad we don't have any time to catch up with shaman-looking space alien Century, since I find that character incredibly boring.
Note: I'm going to stop doing exclusively "Crossing" stories, as reading nothing but this awful crossover isn't as much fun as reading random issues of lower tier titles. The plan is to mix in some of each, as this crossover gets more and more unhinged.