Rick Remender put the Avengers Unity Squad through a physical and emotional wringer during the “Avenge the Earth” arc, so it’s awfully nice of him to let its members catch their breath for one issue before plunging them into Avengers & X-Men: AXIS. Since this book features members of both teams, it set the whole “Red Skull as Onslaught” thing into motion and Remender is writing AXIS too, we can safely assume that Uncanny Avengers is going to be right in the thick of it.
But first, we get this issue so readers and characters alike can catch their breaths. I wouldn’t call it treading water since finding out how all the heroes are doing — particularly Havok, Sunfire, Rogue and Wolverine — is important, but it’s a pretty large contrast to what we’ve just been through. There’s also a fairly large development in the life of Captain America from his own series that is reflected here for the first time.
Fill-in artist Sanford Greene seems like he’d be better served on a more action-packed tale, as his angular style is a strange match for an issue where so much of the story revolves around emotions and facial expressions. He does draw a suitably creepy Red Skull, though.
I’m not spoiling anything by saying that the final three pages steer the ship directly toward AXIS, and that the Red Skull hasn’t just been sitting around while the Avengers Unity Squad has been tied up with Kang and company. It’s going to be a wild ride, and there’s even one character who helps serve as a direct bridge between the two stories, but to discuss that, we’ve got to do so behind the …
SPOILERS PAST THIS POINT!
Scarlet Witch and Wasp are on their way back to New York after some downtime at Janet’s dad’s cabin, and they’re getting back just in time to see Havok, Sunfire and Rogue come out of stasis, where they’ve been recuperating under the watchful eye of Vision. Oh, and Captain America is now officially an old man, thanks to events in his own book.
Beast delivers the bad news about Havok, saying Alex is going to remain disfigured because his power to absorb energy means that his body rejects skin grafts. Yeah, I don’t get that either, but it works in the context of the story, so whatever.
Sunfire is now an energy being, which doesn’t seem to bother him much. As for Rogue, Wanda is unable to use her powers to get Wonder Man out of her head — one of the rare times a writer shows them unable to do something, so kudos to Remender for that — and she takes the news badly. Several pages are needed to calm her down, and she and Simon have an internal heart-to-heart conversation about their situation as well.
Back at the ranch, Havok and Wasp are visited by the Ghost of Christmas Future … er, Immortus, who tells them they can have Katie back if the conceive her at a specific time. That could get awkward. What if they’re in the middle of a mission?
“Sorry guys, a time-traveling bad guy told us we need to go have sex right now, so … see ya!”
Ahem. Immortus also tells them that the Red Skull needs to be found and stopped right now, which hopefully made Havok (since he’s the team leader) smack himself in the forehead and go, “Red Skull? I forgot all about that guy!”
Speaking of the Red Skull, the final scene shows him sending the S-Men out to get AXIS underway since Marvel needs it for October. Kang has left Ahab behind to help for his own reasons, and the Skull thinks the mutant internment camps from Ahab’s future are a wonderful idea. Also, it appears they are switching enemies a la a cooler version of Acts of Vengeance, with Ahab setting a trap for the Avengers and Red Skull doing the same for the X-Men.
So there we have it folks: AXIS ahoy!
Favorite moment: Sunfire to Wolverine: “Years burning at my hand, as Eimen’s trophy … I admit, I’m surprised to see you sane enough to speak.” Hey, that’s as close as you’re likely to get to an apology plus a compliment from Shiro.
Final thought: I know the Avengers Unity Squad was busy, but couldn’t they have had other Avengers or X-Men working on tracking down Red Skull in the meantime? It could have saved them an awful lot of upcoming grief.