This story takes place immediately following the events of Dark Reign The List: Avengers, so if you'd prefer a more complete introduction to this story please read that review.
In short, after being attacked by the Hood's Syndicate back in New Avengers #50, Clint Barton (formerly Hawkeye now operating as Ronin) publicly outed Norman Osborn as the villainous Green Goblin. His rant accomplished very little with the exception of earning him a spot on Norman's sh@# list. Barton had finally had enough after the hearing the media refer to the X-Men (and all the other inhabitants on their island Utopia) as threats to the American public, so he resolves to kill Norman Osborn. But he failed, and at the conclusion of Dark Reign The List: Avengers, he was Osborn's prisoner.
The story begins with Clint Barton slowly regaining consciousness while restrained in one of H.A.M.M.E.R.'s detention cells. What's the first thing Barton sees when he awakes? How about the entire roster of the Dark Avengers. Norman wastes no time to begin his interrogation of Barton, he wants to know the location of the New Avenger's hideout. But Barton does not willingly give up that information despite being in the presence of numerous villains chomping at the bit to get a piece of him (since Venom is in that room I'll say both puns intended).
This brings us over to the aforementioned Avengers hideout, where Mockingbird (aka Barbara 'Bobbi' Morse) is just waking up from a good night's sleep. Unfortunately for her, she finds the note left behind by Barton in which he says that he went alone to kill Osborn and that she should not follow him. Mockingbird then sees that all of Ronin's weaponry is gone and after she runs out on to the rooftop she falls to her knees, sobbing at the thought of losing Clint again. Ms. Marvel (the real Ms. Marvel, Carol Danvers) and Spider-Woman (aka Jessica Drew) find Mockingbird on the rooftop and she tells them what Clint has done. Ms. Marvel immediately takes off toward Avengers Tower and finds the H.A.M.M.E.R. Helicarrier as well as a swarm of agents circling the building, an intimidating view.
Back over to the H.A.M.M.E.R. Helicarrier, where the interrogation of Clint Barton continues. After Clint refuses to give up any information, Norman tells Venom to have 'just a nibble' (see, chomping at the bit was the appropriate pun!). Venom takes a bite out of Clint's right shoulder, but Clint fights back and he headbutts Venom and they both fall to the ground. Barton (with hands restrained mind you) even gets a shot in on Hawkeye (err...Bullseye) before the Sentry finally steps in and knocks Barton out with one punch.
Returning to the Avengers hideout, Bobbi is now fully garbed as Mockingbird and has resolved to go after Clint despite Spider-Woman's advice against it. Mockingbird is looking for help from Captain America or Spider-Man, but neither are around, an unfortunate aspect of the New Avengers open door policy. Ms. Marvel returns, confirming that Clint is being held on the Helicarrier and that attacking that ship is an impossibility with only the three of them. Enter Jessica Jones. After the group apprises Jessica of the situation, she immediately gets a baby-sitter for her child and offers her services to the trio. Ms. Marvel warns that Clint is probably already dead, but Spider-Woman thinks differently and the quartet devises a plan.
Norman has had enough of trying to strong arm the information from Barton, so he employs the villain Mentallo (aka Marvin Flumm) to extract the information directly from the prisoner's brain. Mentallo is successful and soon Norman and his team are in flight toward the Avenger's secret hideout. After Norman commands the Sentry to rip the side of the building off, the Dark Avengers soon realize the hideout has been recently abandoned. The Iron Patriot and his team had been duped, because the quartet of ladies were now kicking ass on the Helicarrier in search of Clint Barton. They eventually reach Clint just in time to stop Mentallo from finding out the civilian ID's of the New Avengers team. Norman and his team (especially Norman) collectively swallow their pride as the concede defeat.
Some time later, after the Dark Avengers had left the former hideout of the New Avengers, Spider-Man arrives unaware that the group had abandoned it. H.A.M.M.E.R. agents immediately engage Spidey, but he's able to escape and make it safely back to the group's 'Plan B' hideout. Barton apologizes to the group for his actions and then, to the entire group's surprise, they are greeted by none other than the original Captain America, Mr. Steve Rogers. The story concludes with this quote from Steve, "...the world has gone to hell. But thank God the Avengers are here to do something about it. And we are. You ready?"
Not too bad...I'll try to keep my commentary brief on this one, since I may have been a bit verbose in the story overview...
Girl Power!! I actually really enjoyed that aspect of the story and I didn't feel like it was forced either since it is logical that a group this loosely bound would experience numerous occasions when 'the guys' were just not around. Spidey is everywhere (in his adventures and other those of other heroes) and Captain America is as well to a lesser extent. And since Clint was the one detained, that leaves only the ladies left behind to fend for the team. So this worked really well and kudos to the females for developing a nice plan to fool Norman. They knew it was only a matter of time before Norman got the info he needed, so they used that against him, baiting him to the hideout they quickly abandoned. Once the entire Dark Avengers team vacated the Helicarrier, they knew they could rescue Clint or at the very least they'd have a better shot at it. Nice work ladies! But I did have to scratch my head on two facets of their rescue mission. First, I'm not quite sure how Ms. Marvel confirmed Barton's presence on the Helicarrier without ever boarding the ship. That was a little too coincidental in my opinion. Second, once they got on the Helicarrier, they had no idea where Clint was exactly, so their plan was to...yell his name?? Seriously, that's what they did and, again, a little too coincidental for them to find him as quickly as they did.
But shame on you Norman Osborn, you seem to have everyone in the entire universe fearing your capabilities but when it comes down to it, you're pretty easily fooled (and you're a bad planner!). So I'm beginning to wonder why everyone fears you so, it seems unjustified. For one, why keep Barton in the easily accessible Helicarrier and not a hidden, fortified prison somewhere below Avengers Tower? That was just asking for trouble if you ask me. If he's such a valuable bargaining chip, you'd think you'd want him in a location where no one (except you) can get to him. Secondly, once Norman realized he was duped, why didn't he send the Sentry back over to the Helicarrier to thwart the Avenger's rescue mission? That would've taken seconds to get done and it was at least worth a shot, rather than sulking on your way back to the Tower. A very poor performance from our very Dark Avengers.
The last thing I have to comment on is the ending, specifically Clint's apologies to his team. Here's a guy who, 24 hours prior, was fighting tooth-and-nail with the team in complete disagreement with them. He goes off on his own, nearly dies and nearly gets his whole team killed as well. His apology came off very insincere and hollow, and he even goes on to say that he would never put the team (including Jessica's baby) in harms way. But YOU did!! Big Time!! At least own up to it dude and stop hiding behind the excuse, 'Osborn pushed you too far'. Osborn wasn't even in your face, you totally over-reacted and went after him. Really weak performance by Clint, good thing I didn't have much respect for him as a character going in to this story.
For those of us paying attention to the Spiderverse, you'll recall that Mike Mayhew was the artist behind a handful of covers from The Pulse arc, Thin Air. Those covers were tremendous and I'm not just saying that as a Green Goblin fan. So imagine my enjoyment when I realized Mayhew's art was gonna be featured throughout this entire book, and I was not disappointed. He's one of the few artists who can really make Norman Osborn look like a scumbag and not badass (or lunatic) with corn rows. Close-up panels on Norman's eyes and mouth add a level of distinction to his villainy that only a handful of artists can provide. Nice work Mayhew!
This story was an exciting and fast-paced read that shined a light on some of the 'less famous' Avengers. But because of the plot holes (pointed out in the previous section) and the hunky-dorey ending for Clint Barton there was something left to be desired from this tale. They weren't complete show stoppers, but still only 3 webs, average work out of Bendis.