The Spider-Man/Avengers team-up trilogy wraps up.
This issue says it starts off at Avenger's Mansion. (Actually it looks like a shallow crater with sheer rock walls set in the middle of New York City, but that's what the caption says.) It seems The Outlaws, being lead by Spider-Man, have set up a parley with The Avengers to hash out their differences.
The Space Phantom is up to his old tricks, however. He switches places with Spidey, without alerting the other members of the group somehow, and charges straight into the Avengers. After setting the heroes against each other again, he quickly changes back to his true form to watch the carnage ensue. Unfortunately, he lingers a little too long, and Puma manages to sniff him out.
Meanwhile, She-Hulk is fighting Spider-Man, who easily dodges her blows thanks to his trusty spider-sense. He quickly jumps away and tries to call a truce before anyone can get hurt in the scuffle. Talking with Captain America, he claims someone impersonated him and he didn't just attack the Avengers. On cue, Puma produces the Space Phantom as proof.
Everybody quickly falls into line, and finally (finally!) the heroes put their heads to try to figure out the mystery. Quasar binds the Space Phantom in some energy rings and we are quickly treated to a flashback explaining how he got involved in the whole mess. He was approached by his mysterious master and told to impersonate She-Hulk in order to draw the heroes together and get them to fight each other. Unfortunately, since his master never filled him in on the big plan, he can't help them figure out how to fight the giant black cloud of death that's still out there somewhere.
Next, everyone shares the info that they had gathered last issue, and we're treated to another flashback relating the story of Ambrose Carpathian, the original owner of the chest that Spidey opened in Spectacular Spider-Man #168. It seems he picked it up in the Amazon basin around the turn of the century and brought it back to his home in New York.
The heroes decide to team-up, naturally, and track the cloud down. They all hop into a Quinjet (which must be awfully roomy to fit 12 people in the cockpit) and are on their way. They pick up the its trail pretty quick, because it seems to be just floating randomly over Manhattan. (Maybe it's stupefied by the stunning buffet of tasty morsels it sees laid out before it. For a carnivorous cloud, it sure seems picky about its victims.)
Anyway, they first try to subdue it with a net, but who ever heard of catching a cloud in a net? So much for Cap being a master strategist. The cloud passes through it and retaliates by ramming the Quinjet, forcing everyone to evacuate.
After everyone's safe on the ground, the cloud coalesces into a roughly humanoid figure and dive bombs them. Thor throws his hammer at it, but again it passes right through it and knocks him away. The Outlaws bunch tries next, with pretty much the same results. Then Quasar steps up and gets his lights punchedt.
It seems our heroes are in big trouble. But wait, Spidey gets an idea! He gets all the heroes to taunt the cloud, zapping it with everything they got to stun it. Then Sandman rises up and completely enfolds it within himself.
Then Spidey punches a hole into him, and the cloud gushes out like pressurized water into the waiting arms of She-Hulk, who just happens to be holding the chest the cloud was originally trapped in. (Don't ask me how.) She slams the lid and Spidey wraps it with webbing before Thor sends it off into outer space where it won't harm anyone ever again.
The threat taken care of, everyone leaves. There is a surprise wrap-up on the last page, but I won't ruin the ending. It basically reveals who the mastermind behind the whole affair was, but it was kinda out of left field anyway so you're not missing much.
Remember that big fight scene I promised last issue? Well, there's only about four panels of action between the rival super-teams. That's all folks. That is followed by about four pages of backstory which really should have been explained in the second part. Then we go right into the team-up and taking down of the big bad villain. It all seems kind of rushed.
Another problem I had with this issue is that Spidey seems like a guest star in his own series. Sure he saves the day in the end, but before that there were just too many characters to keep track of.
Overall, the ending just fell flat. The mystery element was there just to be mysterious, with no clues given to the reader to really figure out what was going on until it was all over.
The Avengers show up next in Amazing Spider-Man #348, with Sandman in tow. They basically have the same line-up, but this time it's a nice little one-shot story beautifully drawn by Erik Larsen.
Next issue kicks off a two-part story that finally concludes the Spider-Man/Puma debt of honor subplot after nearly two years.
The Outlaws, as far as I know, never made another appearance.