Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artists: Yanick Paquette (p), Ray Snyder (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The book opens with several Avengers gathered for a meeting with a pair of accountants representing the Maria Stark Foundation, which every good Avenger fans knows is the organization that provides the funding that allows the team to operate. We then see that this meeting is a monthly exercise in which a random mission from the past month is chosen, and the Avengers that took part in this mission have to justify the expenses that were incurred during the mission. As each Avenger takes a turn meeting these accountants we learn that the mission being discussed is a battle with the super-villain group, the Elements of Doom, and as the story progresses we see this encounter generated considerable expenses before it was resolved. However, while U.S. Agent takes a decided hostile approach to this questioning, the rest of the Avengers involved manage to explain their actions in their own individual styles. By the end we see that the Avengers have managed to successfully overcome this hurdle, though we see that these accountants do have to accept some fairly large extenuating circumstances to justify their positive review.
Kurt Busiek always seems to be at his best when he's taking a look behind the curtain, as his work on Astro City, and his ground-level view of the Marvel Universe in his career making "Marvels" miniseries have proven to be his strongest material. Now with this being his last issue on this book, it's rather nice to see him drawing upon the format that has served him so well in the past, as this issue offers up an intriguing look at what happens after the Avengers have fought a battle that has destroyed several city blocks. Now this idea has been looked at before in the pages of the "Damage Control" miniseries, but Kurt Busiek turns his focus solely upon the Avengers, and how these characters deal with the idea that their battles do generate considerable property damage. This in turn results in some very humorous scenes such as Thor's colorful account of how the battle played out, or She-Hulk's response to the idea that she was named in a lawsuit for her role in the destruction of a building. The pair of accountants who deal with the Avengers are also well realized, with their final page conversation being particularly amusing.
This issue also has itself a couple surprising guest heroes, as the Beast makes a welcome appearance in these pages, and proves once again that he's still a better fit in these pages that over in the X-Men. This issue also brings in the always charming U.S. Agent, and we see that his dislike for pencil pushers is in full gear, as he tears into the accountants when they question his careless actions during the battle. Of course it also helps matters that this group had itself four members of my dream lineup for the Avengers (Captain America, Iron Man, the Beast, She Hulk, Hawkeye, Quicksilver & Photon, in case you were curious), and that each of these characters is allowed to show off their particular personality, though I must confess that Thor's scene proved to be my favorite moment of the issue. I also have to make mention of the battle itself, as while the villains they face have never struck me as anything special, I did enjoy this encounter, as the struggle was told from seven different viewpoints, which in turn resulted in a rather unique look at what could've been a fairly run-of-the-mill encounter.
Yanick Paquette's name is a welcome sight in most credit boxes, as he's one of the better artists out there who hasn't quite managed to snag himself a monthly title. His work on this issue certainly stands up as some of the best work I've seen from him since his brief stint on "Gambit", and this issue also marks the first time that his work caught my attention as a possible contender as the artist for the often rumored She-Hulk monthly, as Yanick Paquette turns in a very fetching portrayal of everyone's favorite green skinned amazon. I also have to make mention of this issue acting as a nice preview of how the updated look of several characters look outside of their regular titles, as the Beast's feral appearance gets a nice showing in this issue, as does Thor's new regal appearance, and Iron Man's new armor (though I must confess I'm not exactly the biggest fan of this latest armor design). The art also does a pretty good job on the action sequences, as the crash-landing of the Quinjet is a visually exciting scene, and one has to love the big smile plastered on Thor's face as he's fighting the good fight.
Kurt Busiek leaves the book on a high note, as following on the heels of the overlong Kang arc, this standalone issue was a very welcome sight. The issue busies itself telling the type of story that Kurt Busiek does better than any other writer I've come across, as we get a delightfully engaging look behind the scenes of a typical Avengers mission, as the team finds itself faced with the task of explaining the expenses that were incurred during the battle (e.g. the damaged buildings & injuries suffered by civilians who happened to be on sight when the Avengers arrived). In the end Kurt Busiek managed to make the most of what I would have thought was a throwaway idea. I was also quite pleasantly surprised by the humor that Kurt Busiek managed to work into the story, as on the surface the examination of the damage done by the Avengers during one of their battles doesn't seem to be a particularly amusing premise.
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