Now the Universe is safe (until the next time it's at risk at least), the Avengers are assisting S.H.I.E.L.D. with the day to day issues of Earth. Earth has plenty of existing threats, including ones we've not seen for a little while.
In Avengers World #1, Nightmask, Starbrand, Spider-Woman and Hawkeye were exploring an abandoned town in Italy when they got transported to a City of the Dead (via Starbrand touching a stone monolith). Once there, Starbrand could hear the voices of the dead cry out to him.
The Avengers team are exploring their surroundings, trying to ascertain where they are. Nightmask is concerned for Starbrand and the voices he is hearing. Spider-Woman and Hawkeye are just concerned that Starbrand is cracking up! Suddenly, dark beings rise out of the nearby 'river' and start attacking. The Avengers defend themselves but Starbrand is distracted by a voice calling his name. It's Kelly Overton, a former classmate. He chases after her but finds himself back in his old high school (and scenes from Avengers (Vol. 5) #7).
Back on S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier Iliad, Bruce Banner is criticising Steve Rogers; there are so many Avengers and none of them are magical. Fortunately, Maria Hill has called in Sebastian Druid (formerly one of Nick Fury Sr's secret agents) for magical support. He's astral projecting from Nepal but after discovering the Avengers team is trapped in a city of the dead he recommends a plane be sent for him. He explains that cities of the dead are spirit traps built by the Cult of Entropy; where lost, tormented souls gather, unable to move on to the next realm. However, the power of these cities grew beyond the control of the cult and only those strong in magic have any chance of survival within one.
Back in the city, Kevin discovers that the souls present are the victims of the disaster caused when he got his powers (back in Avengers (Vol. 5) #7). Begging for forgiveness , he is carried before their ruler, Morgan le Fay.
I didn't think much of this issue, truth be told. By no means was it the worst comic I've ever read but if you've read Avengers (Vol. 5) #7, you've pretty much read this one. (You may have seen me refer that issue once or twice!) Having a flashback issue every now and then is fine, especially when you need to remind readers of things long ago or retcon an origin story so it fits in with Marvel's sliding timeline. But, Nightbrand and his origin occurred within a year. Now, I appreciate that Kevin's origin technically occurred in another comic and so new readers may want a recap but did it need to be this in depth? I don't think it helped that the writers did a similar thing with Smasher just two issues ago in Avengers_World #2.
Part of me liked seeing Starbrand interact with the exact scenes we'd previously seen but I think it was overdone a little and took up too many pages. As such the story didn't really move on much. Breaking it down to it's bare elements, what really happened in this comic? The Avengers acknowledged they don't have any magical members, but fortunately S.H.I.E.L.D. do and he has told them that things are bad! That took two pages and the rest was the Avengers battling ghosts and Kevin being remorseful (which Avengers reader would already know). Oh, and from the final page we now know that Morgan le Fay is the big bad. But is she really? I mean it was the Avengers own fault that they are down in the city of the dead, it's not as though the dead came out on the attack to the overworld. Unless we find out that Morgan specifically set the trap in Italy for Starbrand to fall into, but surely she's not that clever or perceptive. It's not like she can time travel or anything...
On a more positive note, I liked how this comic brought back a few faces from Marvel's history and how they weren't just random people but characters apt for the story. I also quite liked Bruce having a go at Steve for his selection of Avengers and how he had no input. Finally, the art is as great as always.
Not my favourite issue, for the reasons outlined above. I'm starting to get concerned about Hickman's strategy to telling 3 or 4 stories at once when none of them are really progressing. If we had 3 issues of the Starbrand story by now I feel we would have gotten somewhere. I just hope the separate stories all tie together at the end to give reason for them being told in this manner.