In recent issues Loki, god of mischief, has been creating supervillains to vex the Avengers. Now he decides to take his game to the next level...
We begin with Loki and the Juggernaut, disguised as Captain America and the Hulk (the fiends!) freeing the U-foes from a prison convoy. The Avengers watch footage of the jailbreak on their internal TV system and are concerned: not only does Loki have the Juggernaut and the U-foes at his command, he also has the Wrecker, whom he freed from prison earlier in the day. "Bad enough," observes Banner, when we've got to deal with one psycho bad guy." "Now," chimes in Spider-man, "they're forming unions."
The scene shifts to Irving Forbush Middle School, where Loki has gathered his supercriminal lackeys together. He explains to them that it irritates him to see mere mortals wielding the powers of the gods, and intends to punish the Avengers for their supposed hubris by sponsoring a gang of supervillains to defeat them. This defeat will happen imminently, as he has already used his magic power to launch the middle school into the air, and has sent it on a collision course with Avengers Tower.
The Avengers, meanwhile, are preparing to go out in search of Loki, but their preparations are interrupted by the sudden arrival of a flying school. Understandably concerned that it might be filled with children, the Avengers act quickly, with Giant-girl assuming giant-size and taking hold of the school so it won't fall. Unfortunately for her, the only passengers are the Masters of Evil (let's call them that, shall we?) and they're on the attack. As the Masters pour out of the school, jumping down onto Avengers Tower, X-ray blasts Giant-girl in the face with some kind of energy blast.
As Giant-girl, stunned, begins to fall to earth, Storm flies after her. The male Avengers have their hands full with the Masters: the Wrecker knocks Iron Man down and begins to tangle with Cap, who's paralyzed with horror at the thought of all the children in the school having been killed. "There weren't no kids in there!" exclaims the Wrecker, offended. "Whaddya think we are, monsters?" Cap, energized at the news, begins to fight with renewed vigour.
Meanwhile, Storm saves Giant-girl by bearing her up on columns of air (having first persuaded the groggy adventuress to shrink down to human size). Without their aid, the other Avengers aren't doing so well: the Juggernaut is throwing Wolverine around like a twig, Ironclad is keeping the Hulk occupied, Vector is knocking Spider-man off the wall, and Vapour is filling Iron Man's lungs with poison gas. (X-ray at least is out of the fight, having been absorbed earlier into Iron Man's armour batteries.)
Then the tide begins to turn. Cap uses his knowledge of anatomy and his unbreakable shield to hit the Wrecker where it hurts, taking the supervillain out despite his invulnerability. Iron Man sucks Vapour into his armour's air filters. Cap knocks Vector out with a well-aimed shield toss, and the Hulk uses Ironclad as a club to knock the Juggernaut unconscious.
Loki is enraged. With his magic powers he immobilizes both the Avengers and the Masters of Evil, transforming them into amusing shapes (Wolverine becomes a wolverine, Ironclad a giant iron, Iron Man a replica of the Tin Man, etc.) Only Captain America escapes, but Loki follows him, catching up to him in the main conference room. There, needled by Captain America's bravado, Loki explains how annoyed he is that human beings have usurped not only godlike power, but also the reverence once reserved for the gods. Cap then plays his trump card: it seems he turned on the Avengers' emergency broadcast system when he came in, and Loki's petulance has just been televised in front of millions of Americans. Now, whatever Loki does, he'll be feared but not revered. "We the people," shouts the Captain, "know a bully when we see one."
Loki is even more annoyed now, but also grudgingly impressed. "I, more than anyone, can appreciate a good trick!" Promising that in their next encounter he won't underestimate the Avengers, Loki disappears, taking the Masters of Evil with him. His spells wear off as well, freeing the Avengers from their magical prisons. The Avengers aren't too dismayed, knowing that Loki will mete out worse punishment to his minions than the courts could. They're also seriously impressed with their leader. "Did you just humiliate a deity in front of three hundred potential worshippers?" Cap, pleased, replies that "Anyone falls if you know where to hit them."
A good issue, and a nice finish to Tony Bedard's brief run on the title. Cap's defeat of Loki is clever and plausible (ancient Norse gods, for all their power, would know little of 21st-century technology). The only flaw is inherent in the form: a battle royale between seven supervillains and seven superheroes isn't going to allow much more than a panel for any one character, especially when the bulk of the story has to focus on the two team leaders. Fans like me, who want to see more of Spidey or of the Wrecker, will just have to be disappointed; no way around it, really.
Four webs. Another fast-paced story, with an unexpected but satisfying ending, that manages to begin and end in a single issue. As team books go, this one is the tops.
Instead of a letter column, this issue contains another Mini-Marvels comic by Chris Giarrusso. Amusing!