Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Gary Frank (p), Jon Sibal (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The book opens with the revelation that in light of their recent efforts to keep the world from descending into chaos when the various capital cities across the globe were pulled into another dimension, we see the Avengers have been recognized as an official world power, and as such the Avengers Mansion has become sovereign territory, and the Avengers are no longer governed by any world power. Naturally this new setup doesn't sit well with some people, and we see efforts are being made by certain parties to place an insider within the group. We then focus on the Avengers themselves as we see this new status quo hasn't exactly lead to harmony within the group, as the offers that are made to Thor & Namor to remain as Avengers are outright refused, while Ant-Man offers up the thanks but no thanks response to his offer. We also see Jack of Hearts is busy growing increasingly hostile within the sealed vault that he was placed within last issue, and Iron Man & the Black Panther aren't exactly ready to make up and shake hands over their recent disagreement. However, it's not all bad as the Vision & Scarlet Witch look to be mending their relationship, and the Falcon's inclusion within the new lineup has given Captain America a staunch ally.
Geoff Johns uses this issue to whittle down his cast to a fairly manageable number, as Namor & Thor both turn down the offers made to them, while Ant Man decides he's redundant on a team that already has Yellowjacket & the Wasp in its lineup. First off it's always nice to see Captain America as an active member of the group, as his leadership provides the foundation for a good Avenger team. This issue also a nice mix of raw power to make up for the loss of Thor, as She-Hulk & Warbird provide a nice one-two punch, while on the technological side we have the formidable minds of Iron Man, the Black Panther & Hank Pym. The lineup also has itself a nice traditional feel to it as we have the Vision & the Scarlet Witch, who look to be starting to reestablish their relationship, while the Wasp is on hand to provide her wealth of experience, as Captain America's second-in-command. We also have the addition of the Falcon who not only gives us a character who can get Captain America to let down his guard & allow the reader some insight into what's going through Cap's mind, but also it's about time this character got sometime in the center ring, as he's been kicking around the edges for far too long.
Aside from setting up the new lineup, this issue also expends quite a bit of its energies on playing up the character dynamics that are going to exist among these characters. From the fairly impressive little moment where Henry Peter Gyrich is allowed to come across as almost human, to the delightful reaction that Namor delivers to Captain America's offer to rejoin the Avengers, this issue is quite impressive when it comes to its understanding of what makes these various character's tick. There's also a wonderful little moment where we see the Vision making the Scarlet Witch's day a little bit brighter, and Thor's departure has an abruptness to it that nicely reflects the current state of affairs over in the character's monthly title. However the highlight of this issue would have to be the rooftop conversation between Iron Man & the Black Panther, as it does a great job of renewing the tensions that were developed between these two in the pages of the Black Panther solo book. The issue also sets up a pretty interesting new status quo for the team as a whole, as we see Geoff Johns takes a page from the Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League, by making the Avengers a global power.
Jon Sibal's inks over Gary Frank's pencils gave the art a rigid appearance that left me a bit disappointed, as one of the best elements of Gary Frank's past efforts has been the fluid nature of his figure work. The facial work is also littered with far too much line-work, and as such the character's expressions almost look painful, though I do have to say that the three panel sequence that details Namor's reaction was a delight, and Wanda's hopeful smile after her conversation with the Vision was quite convincing. On the other hand Henry Peter Gyrich looks less than convincing when he opens up and lets his human side show, and one has to love the I've been struck upside the head expression that the reporter outside the Mansion is sporting. However, the art does a nice job of developing a nice degree of tension between the Black Panther & Iron Man, as both characters visually convey the idea that they are just barely keeping their tempers in check. The double-page shot of the new lineup is also pretty impressive. There's also the nice little details, like the Vision's new look when he phases through objects, and the fact that Hank's hands are bandaged to reflect the injuries he suffered in the last story.
One's enjoyment of Geoff Johns' work on this title does seem to be largely dependent on one being a fan of the new characters he's decided to add to the mix, and I have to say that I wholeheartedly approve of all of the new additions, as She-Hulk & the Black Panther are both personal favorites of mine, and the Falcon has been a character who is more than deserving of a shot at the big leagues. It also doesn't hurt that Geoff Johns does look to have a very strong understanding of what makes these characters tick, as there's some great little moments in this issue, from the brief encounter that an apologetic Vision has with the Scarlet Witch, to the bristling tension that pervades the rooftop meeting between Iron Man & the Black Panther. The new status quo that has the Avengers cast into the role of a world power is also an interesting twist, and hopefully it'll result in more globe spanning adventures, as it would be nice to see threats that endanger the Earth spring from outside Manhattan.
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