The second arc of the fifth volume of Avengers has wrapped, still plenty of things hanging story wise. This issue addresses one of the other Origin bombs sent to Earth.
The opening page has Agent Maria Hill (who I believe is currently acting Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and another agent retrieving something from a corpse. I only mention this as the majority of the story is told in flashback, 8 hours prior to this point.
An Avengers team has been called by Department H of Canada to aid in the quarantined zone of one of the Origin bombs (the evolution one for those keeping score from Avengers (Vol. 5) #9). A month ago the Canadians sent in Omega Flight to assess the site and their record logs show how they all got wiped out; apart from Validator whose last message was to destroy the site and not to go there as this place is death. Hence Department H summoning the Avengers as it seems they are quite happy to risk a team of Americans! (Well Americans plus a Canadian and an Australian.) That and they couldn’t get back into the site as it closed up after Omega Flight entered. Basically, they need Manifold’s powers to get them back in and after a lot of political gesturing, how this is still a Canadian issue and the Avengers are merely guests, they go to the site along with Agent Michaud from Department H. (This chap is the corpse from the opening page so we already know this mission is going to turn out just fine for him!)
Inside the zone they discover a ruined city with overgrown flora and some weird looking fauna flying around. Bruce Banner makes contact with some of the locals (yellow imp like creatures, presumably evolved from the Origin bomb) who take them to Validator. She too has been evolved as she now speaks Builders’ code and reveals that Agent Michaud is her father. It fades to black, and the Avengers are now outside of the zone, about to be picked up by a Quinjet. They saw something, something no one should know, so much so that Agent Michaud takes his own life – bringing us back to the first page of the issue.
Later: S.H.I.E.L.D. and Department H are comparing notes as to what they have managed to piece together as what went on inside the zone. The Avengers claim they can’t remember much, but Department H have retrieved the video implant from Agent Michaud and have discovered 327 hours of footage (the mission itself was just under an hour). The footage shows each team member over a number of years: different Smashers, Hulk becoming Maestro, Falcon evolving into a bird-like form and some costume changes for Wolverine, Manifold and Captain America. It ended with Validator hugging her father, but as it was only a video feed they couldn’t hear what she told him. We cut to the Avengers returning home. Smasher and Manifold want to talk about what happened, but Wolverine cuts them off. What happened was a secret so important that Agent Michaud took his own life to protect it. The reader gets to see Agent Michaud's last moments with his daughter, when Validator tells him that within the zone something has been made, something bigger then they could imagine and she must protect it: The system is now online…
This reminded me a lot of Avengers (Vol. 5) #4, in that we’ve just finished a three part arc and this is the clean up issue – not quiet stand alone, but equally not part of the arc. I liked the idea of the Avengers being called in to help out with an investigation and not just destroy the villain of the week. I liked the setup: bit of political gesturing by the two government agencies, Department H using the Avengers for Manifold’s powers, but the Avengers wanting to see inside the quarantined zone so not doing it entirely selflessly, it fits together nicely.
So great set up, but then (for me at least) nothing really happens. They go into the zone, find the locals have been mutated and that Validator is in charge, she sends them back and her father kills himself. Due to the disjointed way the story was told, we find out that a little more happened within the zone but bar one sentence (which I’ll come back too) its nothing really significant. Due to the power of the Origin bomb we see possible evolutions of each Avenger. This too started well as three of these are quiet nice: We see the next or maybe previous incarnations of the Smasher, we have a nod to the Bruce Banner’s history (or rather possible future) with him becoming Maestro and we have Falcon’s bird powers evolve with him growing wings. Then we have three costume changes! Wow, really? That’s the best you could do? Here’s your possible future guys – new outfits! There have been plenty of old-man Wolverine stories, couldn’t you have used that? or a nod to the feral state Wolverine when he had his adamantium removed? We could have had a wimpy Steve Rogers pre-super soldier serum. Just seemed a bit of a waste, especially following three cool ones showing different "evolutionary" states of an Avenger.
There were other issues I had too. We meet a new Omega Flight team who are then promptly killed. As they were new, we felt nothing when they were lost – we weren’t invested in the characters so they were effectively some red shirts sent in to show us the quarantined zone was bad. As they were new we also didn’t know their powers which made it a bit confusing. I’m guessing Kingdom could make multiple copies of himself, explaining why there were two of him in one panel (it would also explain the use of the phrase “Kingdom Prime” in a caption). The only slight pang we maybe feel is due to the father/daughter relationship that is set up between Agent Michaud/Validator, but that was brief.
There’s also quite a silly bit at the end where they say how the recording implant in Agent Michaud takes data from both eyes and because of that they can map the entire environment and pull back and look around. What? So because I can see with both eyes I have a 360° view of my entire surroundings? No. Just seemed a silly way of explaining why the illustrator had drawn a wide shot instead of one from Agent Michaud’s point of view. There was no need, just a waste of a dialogue box; we readers understand we often see views of scenes that wouldn’t necessarily be possible, you don’t have to explain!
My final issue is really anal I’m afraid, and is probably just me, and is one of maths. The Origin bombs were hurled at Earth during the first arc of this comic, at which time Adam was also “born”. In the last issue, we find out that Adam is 47 days old, so the first arc is set about 7 weeks ago. This issue we find out that Department H sent Omega Flight into the Quarantined Zone a month ago. So either Department H waited 3 weeks to investigate the site (unlikely) or this story is set somewhere after the first arc but before the second (again unlikely as a scene from this issue was teased in the last, a scene incidentally where Omega Flight are wearing different outfits – yay continuity!). Now when characters appear in multiple core titles it’s understandable that timelines get confused and people wonder where stories fit in with each other, but this is the same comic by the same writer! All that had to be said was the Omega Flight mission was 6 weeks ago or Adam was 27 days old and it would have been fine. I realise most readers won't even notice/care about such a minor thing, but for me it just seems like a simple thing to get “wrong”.
Above I mentioned that one sentence occurred that was significant. That sentence: The system is now online. For 10 issues now we’ve heard many times that the system is broken, the machine is broken or the Universe is broken. Finally it seems that we get some pay off to all of that, or at least a set up to the pay off. It's been 10 issues can we please address this system thing a little bit more?
On a more positive light, the art in this issue was good as it has been throughout this book.
Whilst I've spent a lot of time nick picking this issue wasn't all bad but definitely below average for me.