The Avengers are atop an elevated-train track, in pitched battle with a giant made of stone. They're laying into it with webbing, claws, shield, lightning, repulsor rays, and an elevated train (swung like a club by Giant-Girl) but their foe is unimpressed. Loudly, the statue declaims "How foolish are you, Avengers? No warrior is as large or powerful as It, the Living Colossus!"
The battle with It only lasts three pages. While Iron Man and Storm distract It, Spider-Man follows Cap's directions and fashions a gigantic slingshot out of webbing, and Giant-Girl uses it to shoot the Hulk right through It's stone head. With It down for the count, Wolverine easily subdues It's controller (seems It was a stone robot, or something.)
What's going on with It doesn't matter, because we readers are by now aware that It is a minor character in this story. The real villains of the piece have been observing the battle from an undisclosed location, musing on what assets the Avengers will be to their organization: Cap will be the strategist, Hulk the muscle, Iron Man the weapons designer, and so forth. "I can't imagine any possible use for the spider one, though," observes one. Zing! The other agrees, but adds that "with them added to our might, the Sons of the Serpent will have the whole continent in our grip!"
Cut to a meeting in Stark Tower between Tony Stark and Bruce Banner on the one hand, and the aforementioned Sons of the Serpent on the other. The Sons had been wearing green robes and pale snake masks, but they've dressed down in business suits for this confab, which Tony believes to be a negotiation over a pharmaceutical business deal. And pharmaceuticals are indeed on offer. Without warning, snakes hidden below the table bite Tony and Bruce, and the venom immediately transforms them into docile slaves.
Elsewhere in Stark Tower the Avengers are relaxing as Jarvis serves them tea. Huh. Last issue seemed to establish that the Avengers and Jarvis called Avengers Mansion home, but that was then, I guess. It seems that the Avengers have personalized teacups, each with the owner's face painted on it, which is certainly nice. I bet that perk is mentioned explicitly in the recruitment package. Sadly, the Avengers' pause that refreshes is interrupted by a televised message from Storm, who orders Cap, Giant-Girl, Spidey and Wolverine to depart immediately for South America in Quinjet 1. The foursome board the Quinjet, though with misgivings, which are quickly borne out. There's something wrong with the floor panels, and--
Yes, they went there. "Snakes on a Quinjet!" screams Giant-Girl.
A buncha snakes may throw Samuel L. Jackson for a loop, but not the Avengers. Quickly subduing their slithering foes, Spider-Man analyzes their venom in the Quinjet's mobile laboratory. Wolverine is dubious, but Spider-Man insists he's up to the challenge: "Will anyone ever remember that I'm really, really smart?"
The Quinjet arrives at a stadium filled with hundreds of cultists, led by the masked and robed Sons of the Serpent, who have just renamed their organization the Serpent Society on account of Storm's joining up. As she flies overhead, wowing the crowd with a lightning display, we readers realize that, like Banner and Stark, Storm was bitten earlier and transformed into a mindless servant of the Society. Her betrayal accounts for the ambush and pre-programmed coordinates in the Quinjet. Faking subservience, Cap and his crew alight and meet the Sons of the Serpent, who explain their plan to use genetically-engineered serpent venom to enslave the inhabitants of the globe. The Avengers play along, and makes a surreptitious plan to attack. The most important element of that plan is subduing Storm, so Giant-Girl grows big and prepares to knock her out. Thereupon Storm reveals that, thanks to the lightning she's been tossing around, she's shaken off the venom (uh, okay, if you say so) and the Avengers, no longer needing to hold back, cut loose.
It's not an easy fight, as the Society has hundreds of men on its side. Also the Society has a gigantic, genetically-modified boa constrictor, and a venom-addled Wolverine, who switches sides in the middle of the battle. But with a little tactical maneuvering, the Avengers get Wolverine, with his unbreakable metal skeleton, wedged into the snake's jaws, allowing Storm, who has previously filled the arena with rainwater, to hit Wolvie with a gigantic lightning bolt. The electricity passes through Wolverine into the snake, and from there into the rainwater, and from there into the hundreds of cultists, knocking them all out. ("Your body helped regulate the voltage so no one got a fatal dose," she explains later. Wolverine is unmollified.) Meanwhile Spidey captures the two Sons of the Serpent, and the day is saved!
The plot synopsis alone suggests a well-done story, one that combines a fast-moving plot with lots of action, and gives every Avenger something to do. On its own that would be enough. What pushes this story from 'well-done' to 'outstanding' is the portrayal of the Sons of the Serpent. These two come across less as megalomaniacal crazies than glib Tony-Robbins-style CEOs, full of pep. They plan well, treat their subordinates with respect, and refuse to let adversity dampen their spirits. "Just think," Spider-Man observes, "the only villains were those two highly-motivated and well-organized self-starters." I know, I know, The Simpsons already did it with Hank Scorpio, but it's still a fresh and amusing take on a supervillain.
Five webs. A good story that ties up the loose ends, gives every Avenger a chance at the spotlight, and gives us entertaining and memorable villains to boot. It even gives Spidey his due as a high-calibre intellect, which we haven't seen much of in this title or in the 616 books lately.
Two perfect scores in three issues! But this one deserves it. Again, if you can pick this story up as a back issue, go for it.
The last panel suggests we may meet the Sons of the Serpent again. I hope so! Before then, though, the creative team needs to decide how to draw them: page 6 has the Sons as black, or at least one of them anyway, while page 24 has them both as white.