Written by Dan Abnett, Penciled by Fred Haynes and Sandu Florea, Inked by Greene/Palmiotti/Florea
When last we left the mess that is "The Crossing," Mantis, Steve Englehart's pet character from the 70's, returned with a new husband. Iron Man has been having blackouts, but this time they appear to be mind-control, not alcohol black-outs. He's framed Hawkeye for one of his murders and Hawkeye and some of his pals have retreated to an abandoned airstrip to plan their next move!
Rhodes wakes up from a dream of Iron Man punching him to find Black Widow doing an early morning security check. Apparently after Hawkeye got in touch with her in a recent issue of Avengers, she joined their side, in a conversation we never see dramatized. She talks briefly about how the Avengers are her family and she owes Hawkeye and Iron Man for her joining up with the team way back when. Rhodes armors up and flies off in his Eidolon Warwear, leaving Natasha to return to the base.
|Symmetry is the natural enemy of 90's costumes.|
No sooner does Natasha leave the scanners alone then a bunch of high-tech goons teleport nearby, led by the armor-clad "Deathunt," who warns his men that Hawkeye and two Avengers are within, but says they lack the "guts" to be ruthless enough for a fight to the death.
Back in the compound, Widow brews some coffee, which wakes up a fully costumed Hawkeye, meaning he slept in his costume, which probably stinks by now. Hawkeye is touched by Widow remembering how he takes his coffee, but just as he's going to say something about how being on the run's not so bad, the heroes are shaken by a sudden explosion. While an awakened U.S. Agent fights a low-level goon, Deathunt stands over Hawkeye, complaining about how easy it was to beat him. On cue, Black Widow attacks Deathunt, and U.S. Agent comes in, saying maybe they shouldn't have asked for that wake-up call. He also calls the armored goons "a bunch of S.O.B.s." U.S. Agent is the best.
|Actually looking pretty cool, but "Eidolon Warwear" is still not going to happen.|
Outside, the hero of this comic finally notices a commotion back at the base. He finds Black Widow trying to keep an unconscious Hawkeye from more armored goons. One of them hits her, and seems to have her in trouble when War Machine blasts the guy. We get an absurdly melodramatic narration of Widow talking about War Machine's armor "singing" as he fights, and how alien and weird he is as he blasts a few more goons.
|"Shhh, no spoilers."|
Deathunt pops up with an unconscious Agent in tow, and is excited to fight War Machine, who he apparently hasn't been briefed on (why not? He's been there the whole time?). Hawkeye finally comes to and Black Widow somehow remembers the team has fought Deathunt in the past. Hawkeye says "wasn't Deathunt involved with-" before Black Widow cuts him off. War Machine and Deathunt brawl for awhile, but when War Machine takes control and tries to ask who sent Deathunt, he disappears via an "emergency teleportal."
|Not the coffee!|
We get a quick two pages at a supporting cast member's apartment. An ex-SHIELD agent is slipping back and forth through time, apparently because of the mess that's been going on in Force Works lately. The SHIELD agent drops an enormous mug of coffee in response to... something, but it's not clear what. Back at the base, Agent laments that he wasn't able to take out Deathunt, and Widow says she'll go to the Quinjet and get some medical supplies, when the Quinjet flies overhead. War Machine says "Oh Clint... you idiot."
Well, after running into minor villain "Apocryphus" in Force Works, we get equally minor "Deathunt 9000" revealed this week (he was the mystery man in spiked shoulder pads who didn't fight in Force Works #18). That makes two straight appearances by minions of Kang whose first appearance was in the 1992 Avengers annual. Of course, Black Widow cuts off Hawkeye before he can say the K-word so we can prolong this mystery a bit longer. Most of the issue is dedicated to the fight between the four Avengers and the Anachronauts, which is definitely becoming old hat by this point, since the Avengers have had a bunch of encounters with the group since their first meeting back in Avengers: The Crossing. I will say that at least this issue long fight scene has a few nice moments, like War Machine saving the day, or Black Widow fighting to defend her friend. I'm still very annoyed that we didn't even get a big Hawkeye/Black Widow argument that ended with her joining the renegades, but Avengers in this era is full of jumping past interesting scenes to get to mindless fights or exposition.
Haynes's art is just as inconsistent and bad as it was a month earlier, with bizarre proportions and physiology all over the place, particularly when drawing Black Widow. Sandu Florea, a New 52 inker of Detective Comics and a few other books, fills in with pencils and inks mid-issue, and is actually significantly better then the book's regular penciler. Florea's work would still be a step-down from every book except Iron Man, but he's doing average quality fill-in work, which seems amazing compared to Haynes.
I like that this issue at least focuses in on a few characters and actually advances the plot, even if it's only done on the last page, but I'm still bored by just how padded out this crossover feels. How many times are the Avengers going to fight Kang's goons only to see them teleport away? How long is Marvel going to try to tease us by pretending that the person responsible is a big mystery and not Kang, the Avengers villain who is a time traveler?