AXIS is over. Everyone (bar a few) are back to how they were before. However, Luke Cage is using his former money hungry persona to go undercover at Cortex. Cortex are on to him though.
Gideon Mace, the man who killed White Tiger's family, has been murdered (taken by an “upgraded” Quickfire under the direction of Cortex CEO Jason Quantrell) and his heart removed. Power Man and White Tiger are investigating this crime. Quickfire has used the heart to make a monster.
The Blue Marvel has two sons, Kevin and Max. Kevin was lost in the Neutral Zone and his father couldn't get him back. This upset the younger son who left and found funding with the terrorist organisation W.E.S.P.E. to “research” the Neutral Zone for them (but really he just wants his brother back). Kevin and his dad aren't really on speaking terms and clashed the last time they met.
The comic is split into three concurrent stories but I'll review each as a whole for ease (and to save on paragraphs!).
The Blue Marvel is searching the Neutral Zone in his specially designed armour. He talks a lot of technobabble to basically tell us that the zone is pretty nasty (as even he needs armour for protection) and he's is amazed his son has survived in it for a decade.
On returning to his underwater science fortress (a sentence that is always a joy to write), he checks up on Spider-Man and Spectrum who are running some experiments on Monica's lightform. Spectrum can change her appearance at will and with no effort (including taking the form of a naked Dr Brashear!). Adam is impressed with Spidey's findings and with his abilities as a scientist. Spider-Man takes his leave as he has a class to take at the Jean Grey School. Blue Marvel shows concern at the development in Spectrum's powers (foreshadowing she may not be too human anymore). Suddenly, Spider-Man reappears being blasted into the room by Doc Positron (Max Brashear).
Spidey and Max battle for a bit (both arguing they were acting in defence) before Spectrum stops them by upping the light levels and temporarily blinding them (a la a Solar Flare, for any Dragonball fans out there). This leads to a nice cup of cocoa and a family catch up. Max has found Kevin's location in the Neutral Zone and needs his Dad's help retrieving him. He also has a sound feed which broadcasts a warning “Warn everyone, warn the world, from beyond, they are from beyond.”
Elsewhere, Power Man and White Tiger have tracked Mace's chi down to an abandoned refinery. Soon after, they discover the monster that once was Mace's heart and battle ensues. The demon-like creature that was once Quickfire bides her time before stabbing Ava in the back with her claws, which begins a transformation. Victor puts out an APB to his fellow Avengers, summoning She-Hulk, Kaluu and Captain America to the scene. They arrive in time to find the two bad guys and two demonised Avengers.
Meanwhile at Cortex HQ, Jessica Jones is having chat with her husband's new boss. Jason explains that he wants to have an Avengers team sponsored by Cortex as it's what all the big companies are doing nowadays (Parker Industries has Spider-Man and Serval Industries has X-Factor) and with an Avengers team he could really make some changes to the world. Abruptly, he drops his act, revealing he isn't really Jason Quantrell, though he still screams inside him sometimes (yikes!). Cortex Incorporated is just a mask and has been taken over by the Beyond Corporation. “Jason” removes his face to reveal a seemingly bottomless hole!
Nice to see Mighty Avengers telling its own tale once more and actually using the AXIS event as a way into it by having “evil” Luke go undercover.
Also nice to see Spidey being used properly. I (and my fellow reviewers) have said endlessly how all to often Peter Parker is used as the comic relief, especially in team titles and guest appearances. Whilst it annoys me, I can understand this use in guest appearances as non-Spidey readers will tend to think of him as mainly banter and so expect to see that. Here though we get to see some of the genius side of Dr Parker; a side that Dr Brashear acknowledges as well. These scenes also set up a potential change in Spectrum too and we'll have to see how that plays out. The only thing that didn't play too well with me about the Marvel/ Spectrum/ Spidey scenes was just how quickly young Max went from all out attack to having a sit down with a hot beverage. Fair enough Spidey attacked him first (given how Max broke into the Blue Marvel's base in full Doc Positron gear, you can't really blame Peter) and maybe he was there to chat all along but it seemed a bit of a leap in behaviour towards his father from when we last met Max.
Elsewhere in the comic, they nicely explain how Cortex seems to have gotten quite powerful quite quickly and things aren't looking too good for the Cages. Furthermore, there are some lovely scenes between Victor and Ava, cementing their blossoming relationship. Not sure how I feel about the demonised (or "debased" as Quickfire refers to it) versions of Power Man and White Tiger. Sure, upgrade some bad guys to make them more of a threat but turning good guys bad, so close to AXIS? Not sure. Been done so many times before as well. However, I'm happy enough to let it play out for now. One more thing, whilst I'm still a fan a the yellow “gag” caption boxes, the blue “inner monologue” boxes I thought were overdone a little this time. I understand the need for them expositionally, especially when Quickfire apparently doesn't talk anymore, but a few too many for me.
Finally the art, and I'm a fan. Good range of scenes, from exploring a new world to dialogue to battle scenes. All done well.
Good to have a non-event storyline and lovely art. Some concerns at repeating motifs but not enough to score it down.
Love the way that scientists are always seen wearing a whitecoat whenever they are doing work. As a scientist, you only wear them for protection when needed – not to enter “Science mode!” Ahh! Comic books!