Comics : New Avengers (Military - AAFES) #2

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: A Word From Our Sponsor

This review was first published on: 2008.

Background...

Over the years Marvel has produced numerous "specialty" comics that have partnered the publisher with various pro-social groups and corporations utilizing the various Marvel characters to promote specific issues, causes, agendas, and/or products. Marvel and the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) produced this particular specialty comic, and it was distributed exclusively on U.S. Military bases.

In Detail...

"Pot of Gold"
New Avengers (Military - AAFES) #2
Oct 2005 : SM Cover
Summary: Spider-Man appears on cover
Editor:  Tom DeFalco
Writer:  Paul Jenkins
Pencils:  Graham Nolan
Inker:  Tom Palmer
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The New Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and Nick Fury and SHIELD are recruited by the President of the US to make a series of personal appearances to the Armed forces around the globe as a goodwill gesture. They run into an armored supervillain and Kingpin.

In General...

As this issue opens up an armored individual attacking a military base. He decimates the base as a mysterious helicopter is shadowing him. The occupants of the chopper describe him as a zealot fanatic, and that he is potentially dangerous to them as well.

Cut to Captain America making the pitch to the Avengers and FF about helping out SHIELD and the President to act as ambassadors to the Military, as Cap explains it, since Wolverine and both Spiders (Man and Woman) are attending to a mission in China, he could really use the help of the FF. Both teams (Thor and Daredevil) agree, and are assigned their missions.

At an undisclosed location, the armored zealot takes a meeting with the Kingpin who explains that there is half a billion dollars (split evenly) to be had if the Armored Zealot does the Kingpin's bidding. When he asks why he just doesn't do the deed and keep all of the cash, the Kingpin explains that not only does the Zealot need Kingpin to get him out of the country, but he has a pair of explosive devices strapped to his wrists that the Kingpin controls, and will detonate if the Zealot turns on him.

Soon the Avengers and the FF are at an AAFES distribution center picking up supplies that they are distributing around the world to various military bases. Cap and Mr. Fantastic are with a man who explains to them that AAFES supports military families by pouring funds and assistance into Morale, Welfare, and recreation, and that there is a quarter of a billion dollars in a fund to do it. It is this money that the Kingpin is after.

As the heroes disperse with their cargo, as a joke (and because he apparently doesn't like him) The Thing sends Sentry off to a bogus location with his load. Meanwhile, all over the world, at bases in Iraq, Germany, and aboard a ship in the Persian Gulf the heroes distribute supplies and lift morale of the Armed forces.

The Zealot and his para-military team approach the building where Fisk has told them that the billion dollars is stored. The Zealot reveals that he doesn't trust Fisk, and will follow instructions only until he can exploit any weakness and make off with the entire amount. As the assault on the building commences, their security devices alert the military personnel defending the building. They attempt to determine what is going on and run smack into he Zealot and his team.

One of the Kingpin's lieutenants reports that the Zealot and his team have attacked the bank as ordered, but they are running slightly behind schedule. The lieutenant nervously takes responsibility for the delay; only the Kingpin assures him that the Zealot's operation is nothing more than a smokescreen for the Kingpin's true operation.

Cap contacts Iron Man, who is somewhere over Kentucky. The Avengers are getting word about the Zealot's invasion of the NYC Midtown bank that the Kingpin told him is housing the AAFES's money. Acknowledging the message, Iron Man heads back to the City. As the Zealot and his team are taking the bank, The Avengers form on the building and move in to take them down. Cap and Cage take on the Zealot's team as Iron Man tracks down an unusual reading that he is tracking just as he approaches the building. Leaving his teammates behind, Iron Man tracks the transmission to its source.

As Cap and Cage take on his goons, the Zealot manages to break into the vault only to discover that it is empty. He is so startled by his discover he is cornered by the Avengers team and is so surprised that he is easily taken down by Cap.

Across town, the Kingpin addresses his underlings as he explains that the Zealot simply was not smart enough to realize that that amount of money doesn't exist in actual currency in any one location, but as virtual cash, and is transferred over data lines. He gloats that he managed to successfully steal a quarter of a billion dollars. His glee is short-lived, however, as Iron Man is hovering outsie his window, stating that he traced the Zealot's transmission back to him, and electronically reprogrammed the transmitter, so that instead of draining a quarter of a billion dollars from the AAFES, he actually deposited that amount, from his own account. Iron Man then thanks Kingpin for the donation to the military, and flies away.

The Zealot (now extracted from his armor) is now in the custody of SHIELD, and Fury is escorting him to an empty shack in the middle of nowhere. The Zealot is going on and on about the cursed Americans, when he is suddenly startled that he is going to have to share a cell with an American. Fury then warns the Zealot that he wont like his cellmate when he's angry, "right Dr. Banner?" then he and his SHIELD team walk away, leaving the de-powered Zealot in the tender mercy of a now transformed and angry Hulk.

Overall Rating...

After the high excellence of the first issue, this comic is really a dismal disappointment. Gone is Bendis' sparkling dialogue, and insightful quips. Paul Jenkins really does not seem to have a handle on who these characters are or how to properly handle them. Sure he has Cap delivering stirring, patriotic speeches, but that really isn't all that difficult, it is the rest of the heroes that he seems to have trouble with in this story. He has Ben Grimm sending Sentry off to deliver much needed supplies to the middle of the Arizona desert rather than to dedicated U.S. troops serving our country just for laughs (completely taking him out of action for the trouble that follows).

He under-uses the FF, and completely passes on using three of the New Avengers most popular characters (Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, and Wolverine). Then, he has Fury lock the protagonist up in a remote shed with a transformed Hulk to deliver a massive beat-down to him with no plausible reason is given for Banner's incarceration. Plus, he never actually names the Zealot throughout the entire length of the comic. Certainly a high-profile comic of this stature deserves higher standards than this.

Footnote...

As stated in the intro, this is a specialty comic that was distributed exclusively to U.S. Military bases and several of the ads specifically target the military (insurance, America Supports you (www.americasupportsyou.mil), etc. plus several of the ads are from a company called AAFES BX/PX (www.aafes.com) which services the military community.

There is also a six-page text feature about the history of the Avengers that is reprinted from OHMU: Avengers (2004), as well as a one-page pin-up of the team's current line-up combined with the Young Avengers. It is only in this pin-up and a single headshot on the Avengers' text profile pages that Spidey actually appears.