Or – “Umm… Where IS That Webbing Coming From, Anyway?”
So far, we’ve seen the Avengers identify a threat, talk about the threat, prepare to face the threat, have one of their own destroy the machine that will allow them to address the threat. What we have yet to see is THE THREAT. Will this issue change that, or are we still on the six-issue slow burn to nowhere?
Previously, on Avengers: As the Norman Osborn regime is being dismantled, Tony Stark, Steve Rogers and Thor have finally met on common ground and agreed that it’s time to recreate the classic centerpiece of the Avengers. Gathering a team with Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, Hawkeye and this Canadian guy that nobody has ever heard of, the Avengers Three are surprised to find an attack coming from the future, of an Emmet Brown variety. “Spidey! It’s your kids, Spidey!” With the help of Noh-Varr of the Kree (originally Marvel Boy, then Captain Marvel in the Dark Avengers, now called The Protector) Iron Man assembles a time-viewing device that allows them to realize that something big is up in the future. Before the Avengers can work out the way to get there (other than the way we ALL time-travel into the future, one minute at a time) former member Wonder Man trashes the time machine and explodes, and suddenly they’re under attack by a futuristic looking Apocalypse and his vaguely familiar Four Horsemen…
We start with what is supposed to be a cute moment, as a girl spies on Avengers Tower with her telescope, geeking out about the comings and goings of the various heroes. She is stunned to see something flying TOWARDS her, and is nearly leveled by the rocketing body of Thor! The Thunder God leaps back out her window without so much as a by-your-leave, and returns to a big battle at the Tower. My problem here is a simple one: Not only is this poor woman’s apartment destroyed by Thor’s arrival, she’s NEARLY KILLED as a bystander, and I think the writer intended for the moment to be cute. It rings false for me, especially given that we spent three years yammering about accountability and the Registration Act and like that. Thor returns to the battle just in time for Spider-Man to say, “Hey, I have a question… WHAT THE HELL????” The Four Horsemen who bear the heads of what appear to be Wolverine, Red Hulk, the Scarlet Witch and Anti-Venom are laying waste to the team, and Iron Man moves to try and save what he thinks is his friend Wanda from her possession. She zorches him with her hexiness, and his armor dissolves, causing a very mortal Tony Stark to plummet towards the concrete. There’s a very effective and tense sequence as Spider-Man leaps out after him, and both men freefall for many stories until Spidey whips up a web-trampoline to catch his former employer. “I have trouble doing ‘How Much Webbing Will I Need?” math while freefalling towards major metropolitan areas,” quips Peter as they head back into trouble…
It’s Wolverine who figures out that something is not right with ‘Pocky, as the mutant menace doesn’t have his usual bravado and stupidity. Iron Man suits up again, and engages Apocalypse while his teammates fight off the Horsemen, and he quickly realizes that this fight isn’t the one that matters. The villains suddenly disappear, sucked back into the broken timestream to another place, leaving the puzzled Avengers to pick up the pieces. Spider-Man and Spider-Woman have a bonding moment (and she wonders if “Anti-Venom” wasn’t Spider-Man himself in some future guise, freaking him AND me out) before Noh-Varr arrives and cracks a joke. Wolverine, Iron Man, Captain America and The Protector rebuild the time machine and head for the future, while Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, Thor and Hawkeye deal with the broken timestream, arriving at the site of a temporal anomaly just in time to see Devil Dinosaur and Killraven emerging from a portal. The issue is filled out with the third “Oral History of The Avengers” segment, and I have to say I’m not fully happy with Bendis’ dialogue for the Avengers. Yes, we should make our heroes human and relatable, but this whole exercise in Oral History seems to be rife with sly mockery and attempts to retcon explanations for why Silver Age comic are filld with Silver Age lunacy… I’m not really a fan of these at all, especially since all the art is recycled from issues of Avengers Classic and other sources.
Overall, this issue falls short on a couple of points. One, we STILL don’t have the slightest idea what’s going on or who’se behind it, and the presumed villains of the piece don’t appear in the issue at all. The Marvel solicitations for this issue promise “Guest starring the Next Avengers, the Future Imperfect Hulk and the Amazing Spider-Girl!” but none of these characters are in evidence, save for their paradoxical appearance on the covers. It’s as if the creative team wanted to stuff in more quirky dialogue and tiny character pieces and threw their expected outline of the story off-kilter, then decided to just hand-wave and go with it. It’s hard to care about what’s going on here, since we’re now three issues in with only about 10 pages worth of story provided thus far, and the motivations of all the characters are opaque at best. The Spider-Man/Iron Man sequence is good, but there’s no discussion of the elephant in the room, the fact that Stark turned on Spider-Man a few months ago (their time) and nearly cost him his life and livelihood, unless that’s also been retconned away by Mephisto? Either way, there’s not much to sink your teeth into here, save for an increased profile for The Protector (a Hood-style top-tier push without any real reason for us to love him) and the occasional bit of clever dialogue. My frustration with the unevenness of the Avengers titles just deepened again, and a remark by Spider-Man about how he should have “gone with Cage” is confusing, since it’s clear from New Avengers that he DID go with him. Maybe this team is just an interim squad before we set up the regular lineup? I don’t know, and the answers just aren’t forthcoming. John Romita’s art is as polished and awesome as usual, especially Spidey and Thor, but Maria Hill and Spider-Woman are seriously scary in some of these panels, with inhuman harpy features and chins that would cut glass. Avengers #3 just doesn’t come together as anything more than a story fragment, and earns a disappointed 1.5 out of 5 stars overall.
Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day: Given that Red Hulk is slated to join the team in the future, do you think the Horsemen are indicative of this team’s future adventures, or is Apocalypse’s crew just a red herring?