Remember that parade of old-school-Avengers guest stars which I mentioned last issue...? It ain't over yet. Thor, Hawkeye, the Vision... and this month it's Hercules.
The Avengers are in Pompei [er, sic] investigating disturbances at Stark International's dig of the famous arc]haeological site. I'm not sure why Stark International has a dig site at (ahem) Pompeii—how many archaeological digs do Microsoft or Boeing run, I wonder?—but Stark's got one and the Avengers are on hand to provide security, or something.
Seems the site has been plagued by earthquakes, and has been ever since the archaeologists staffing it began probing a buried temple with their ultrasound machines. The earthquakes seem to be the result of a 300-ton statue buried near the temple... the ultrasound suggests that the statue is moving.
Right on cue, the ground outside the briefing room erupts. The Avengers assemble: while Giant-Girl, with assistance from Iron Man and Spider-Man's webbing, holds back a landslide, the other Avengers square off against the thing that has emerged from the ground. Is it a statue? No, it's the real live Cerberus, a three-headed, 300-ton dog with an attitude.
This reveal is not a surprise to the Avengers. They'd already been briefed that the temple that is hosting all of this mythological mayhem was devoted to the legend of Cerberus and Hercules, who were apparently fighting near the site when Hades caused Mount Vesuvius to erupt and bury the two combatants, and incidentally the city of Pompeii, in lava. This coup cost Hades his dog, but ended his centuries-long feud with Hercules.
A cranky classicist might take issue with all of this, starting with wondering why the temple would mix up Roman Hercules with Grecian Hades, but we'd tell him to take a hike, this is a kids' comic.
With Giant-Girl already engaged with holding off the landslide, it's up to the Hulk to take out the giant dog. Three heads are better than one, it seems, because while the green goliath can stun one head, the other two are ready to pound him into the earth. And needless to say Storm, Wolverine, Spidey, and Cap are out of their league on this one. This leads Wolverine to grumble that he hates mythological stuff and that no one can win when they go up against the gods.
Right on cue, another figure emerges from the earth, caked in earth and mud. This figure being more the latter Avengers' speed, they engage it, but to little effect: the figure, roaring in ancient Greek, is strong enough to shrug off Cap's shield, Wolverine's claws, and Spider-Man's webbing. Nor are Storm's lightning bolts more effective, but they at least shatter the figure's rocky coating, revealing... wait for it... Hercules!
Precisely no one in the audience is surprised.
More brawling ensues, with Hercules more than a match for the assembled Avengers, but with a bit of linguistic intervention from Captain America, who picked up some Greek in the war, Hercules figures out that they're all on the same side. I hear that cranky classicist pointing out that ancient Greek and modern Greek are pretty much different languages—if I ran into Chaucer at the supermarket tomorrow, my modern-day English would be pretty much nonsense to him—but we're still ignoring him, right? With Hercules' help, the big dog is subdued and the landslide is put to rights. Hercules provides the Avengers with a magic ring that will summon him should the team ever need his aid, than dives into the lava core of Vesuvius (whatever) to take up his quarrel with his uncle Hades.
No joke to go out on this time, just Wolverine being grumpy—and possibly foreshadowing some major defeats for the Avengers in the near future, to boot.
No, no, no. This isn't who these Avengers are. Cap isn't a drill sergeant, Wolverine isn't a grump, Bruce Banner doesn't hate himself, and Spidey is supposed to be funny.
Nor should they be so bowled over by the mythological. These are the same Avengers who hang out with Thor on a regular basis, and saved Asgard from the Frost Giants a mere three issues ago.
Sins against tone, sins against continuity: yes, there is continuity, because no one would describe this book as a done-in-one story. Wolverine's bitching about defeat and Hercules' magic ring both say that writer Ty Templeton has a larger plot in mind. So if the creative team wants readers to care about where this book is going, they had better start by respecting where this book has been, and bring back the light-hearted tone and characterization that made this book worth reading.
And while the creative team is at it... for Zeus' sake, let's end the guest star calvacade and get back to telling stories about the core Avengers, okay? The removal of the focus from the team to these one-shot wonders is hurting the book. The best issues of this title, by far, have featured the team against a worthy foe: the Wrecker, Ego the Living Planet, or MODOC, and that's just off the top of my head. You can't develop a worthy foe if your page count is devoted to some flavour-of-the-month team-up.
Not fun to read, and not memorable in any way, either. But it's not actively bad, so it gets two webs.
Looks like Ty Templeton will be on this book for a while. Experience says that Ty Templeton can bring the funny—see his independent work if you don't believe me—so why isn't he bringing it here, I wonder?