After several issues dealing with Builders, Origin bombs or the system, it’s time for a bit of a break and a trip for the Avengers to Macau.
The Avengers have been sent to Macau on the down-low, specifically to a casino to get some intel on the latest weaponry (called S7) A.I.M. has been developing and is planning to sell. The team split into four: Captain Marvel targets the lead negotiator (Dr Deeds) hoping to secure the weapon, Sunspot and Cannonball try to infiltrate the A.I.M. agents, Spider-Woman and Black Widow are to identify potential buyers whilst Shang Chi isn’t really given a task. The four stories are interwoven throughout the issue, but I’ll review them as a whole instead of jotting back and forth.
Spider-Woman and Black Widow are schmoozing the potential buyers. Widow made it clear earlier that she’d sooner torture the info out of them but Jess wants to play it cool. This doesn’t last long though as we later see the buyers all with a bullet in their head courtesy of Natasha. Jess isn’t happy; they have four bodies and no information.
Cap M is playing Dr Deeds at Texas Hold 'em and is doing very well, until the Dr uses his X-ray specs to cheat and know the cards poor Carol is holding. As she’s about to lose Dr Deeds offers a truce and they each get to ask the other a question. Cap M asks who they are going to sell S7 to. Dr Deeds tells her – no one, they’re here to buy not sell. Dr Deeds asks Cap M if she is lonely, this really angers Carol who announces he’s just made the top of her hit list!
Sunspot and Cannonball are playing craps when three A.I.M. agents turn up. The Avengers say they could fight but why not have a truce for one evening and just have fun at the casino. The agents agree (well 2 out of 3 do) and a wild night ensues. The agents confirm that they aren’t there to sell and are there to buy, though they don’t know what. Bobby uses his wealth to hire the 2 cooperative agents to be double agents, leaving them with the problem as to what to do with the third, loyal agent!
Shang Chi spends his time this issue fighting ninjas, who are part of a new group from Hong Kong called Chimera, led by a Samurai with a demon-esque helmet. Whilst he is doing well, there are a lot of them so he breaks out some hi-tech nunchucks that Tony Stark has provided him (a nod back to the second issue of this book) to even the score .
Later the Avengers (without Shang Chi – did he survive?) are boarding their plane to take them home, disappointed that they have no information about S7. However, Shang Chi is waiting for them onboard (phew!), the helmet of the Chimera leader sat on the table in front of him. He calmly tells them he knows exactly what A.I.M. was here for; they want to buy an army of assassins. It seems A.I.M. is gearing up for a war.
A couple of movies seemed to influence this issue, surprising Avengers Assemble wasn’t one of them! The whole casino thing and splitting into teams had a real Ocean’s 11 vibe to it, whilst the Shang Chi fight scenes were very Enter the Dragon.
As I have said in previous reviews, I want to see a bit of the Avengers in missions that aren’t just “destroy the villains”. Whilst I’m not opposed to action in comics, a change is as good as a rest. I therefore liked the concept of the issue, a more discreet and almost diplomatic mission. It was also nice to have a break from the Builders and the “system is broken” stories. I liked the back and forth between the four plots, it worked well (though I grouped them together here as it was easier). There were a few silly things with this issue though.
First off, it was nice to see Spider-Woman using a few of her espionage skills to try and get the information they require. Unfortunately, Black Widow also got to use her assassin skills and executed the buyers. Each corpse is featured with a caption saying the bad things they had done and how many deaths they were responsible for, I suppose to justify their murder. I guess these bad men had it coming but it doesn’t seem to fit in with the “keep a low profile” order Captain America gave the team and Jess was clearly annoyed at Natasha for taking this action. It did seem a bit of a "loose cannon" move, but I doubt we're hear anything more about it. Also seems a bit hypocritical for someone who offered Spidey councelling in Superior Spider-Man #8, though we don't know when this story was set in regard to the Spidey one.
The next odd thing was the A.I.M. agents playing craps with Bobby and Sam. They were in tuxedos but still wearing their distinctive A.I.M. beekeeper helmets. I appreciate that whilst they now have U.N. status, A.I.M. is still semi-covert so they were protecting their identities but in a world with image inducers and magic did they really need the helmets. Unless it was just to help the reader identify them as A.I.M. but then some simple dialogue could have done that, or maybe give them yellow tuxedos! The helmets looked very out of place and weird. However, I did enjoy the classic plot device of undervalued guys working for the villains, but not being bad and wanting to defect. Will these two turn up later down the line? Only time will tell.
The final thing that I found odd (maybe even wrong) was the confusion over Eastern cultures. The story was set in Macau, part of China. Chimera came from Hong Kong, also part of China. Shang Chi is Chinese. Then why was everything Japanese? Ninja warriors – Japanese, Samurai warriors – Japanese, even the front cover is a homage to Manga – Japanese. Was this just a mistake made by the writer/artist/editors? In this day and age, is it okay to confuse Japan and China as being one and the same and interchangeable? Would confusing Canada and America be okay? Why not just set the story in Japan if they couldn't think of any Chinese imagery?
There were a few unanswered things in this issue (and not just things left hanging to set up a later story arc). What happened to the bodies of the buyers? What happened to the loyal A.I.M. agent? The Avengers all just got on the plane at the end as if nothing had happened and they had left nothing behind. Seemed a bit of a rushed ending.
Once again the art was nice in the issue, great mix between the casino scenes and the fight scenes. I did find the cover a little odd. Whilst I liked the nod to the style of Manga (however misplaced as mentioned above), it seemed a bit out of place and more like a variant cover then the first print. No harm in it, just a little odd I thought.
I was going to give this 4 webs as it was an enjoyable story with nice art, good mix of action and plot with only a few silly things present. But as I was writing it up I realised the whole China vs. Japan thing annoyed me more than I originally thought so I took a half off for sloppiness!