Avengers Standoff: Welcome To Pleasant Hill #1 Review — A Fun Bait And Switch


Avengers Standoff: Welcome to Pleasant Hill #1 is a work full of misdirection. It’s like the comic book equivalent of an M. Night Shyamalan movie back before the director went to the “What a twist!” well once too often, leading you down paths and toying with your expectations before giving you something else.

More from Reviews

That makes it a difficult book to review in spoiler-free mode, but let’s see how it goes. The issue feels like an absolute must-read if you’re at all interested in the “Avengers Standoff” crossover that will weave through various Marvel titles in March and April, because it’s all about setting the foundation. Why should you care about the sleepy looking town of Pleasant Hill, and what exactly is going on there? You get a definitive answer to that first question and enough crumbs for the second that you’ll want to keep following along.

The one place where Nick Spencer and Mark Bagley lay the cards out in the open is with the initial set-up, which sees the Winter Soldier return from his “Man on the Wall” gig in space due to a threat he was alerted to on Earth. It involves what was shown in the previews, which is a secret program that S.H.I.E.L.D. has running — though Maria Hill denies it — to use fragments of cosmic cubes to make secret changes in the fabric of reality.

That she uses the recent Incursion crisis as a plausible justification is an eerily real life touch to what is otherwise a very comic book and sci-fi story. You’ll see familiar elements from films like Pleasantville and The Truman Show in the impossibly perfect small town, and bits of other stories from the past in how it has much more going on beneath the surface than its citizens would ever suspect.

Because the storytellers don’t reveal the nature of the deception in Pleasant Hill until the last few pages, the final reveal ends up arriving with a lot more heft. Bagley is a pro’s pro, and his skill allows Spencer to have you convinced you’re reading about a certain set of characters … until you’re not. It’s also a great contrast to Spencer’s lighter writing on Astonishing Ant-Man and Captain America: Sam Wilson, as it’s a lot more deadly serious than either of those books.

Marvel’s finest are almost always compelling when trying to solve a problem they can’t just punch and blast their way through, and Avengers Standoff: Welcome to Pleasant Hill #1 constructs a big one. As the cast gets larger over the course of the crossover, the intrigue should only grow.


Three Things to Ponder

  1. If memory wipes outraged a certain famous DC hero, imagine how he’d flip out about reality wipes …
  2. It should be fun trying to guess which of the townspeople is really Bucky, eh?
  3. Admit it, you thought those were Steve Rogers and Tony Stark the whole time, didn’t you?

Bonus: Shouldn’t S.H.I.E.L.D. have good enough security to keep a small girl away from its Cosmic Cube experiments?

Next: Invincible Iron Man #6 Review

Favorite Moment

The last page reveal is the obvious choice on pure drama value, but I really enjoyed this sequence with Bucky blaming himself for letting S.H.I.E.L.D. get the drop on him and then realizing he’s going to lose. Bagley and Scott Hanna are a great combo here, really turning in some tight work throughout.