During the "Secret Invasion" crossover, Norman Osborn manged to kill the Skrull queen and force the invaders into retreat. For his efforts, he was promoted from leader of the Thunderbolts to Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. replacing Tony Stark, who has since been branded a fugitive.
He has recently met with his secret Cabal: Namor, Emma Frost, Dr. Doom, Loki, and The Hood. Norman stated that he won't come after any of them provided they keep their activities quiet and will perform certain favors when called upon.
In the year 690 A.D. Morganna Le Fay uses her sorcery to spy on Dr. Doom during the meeting of the Cabal. She is not pleased.
Flashback to one week ago: Norman Osborn meets with Victoria Hand. She has been promoted to Deputy Director of his new world peace-keeping organization H.A.M.M.E.R. He gives her a laundry list of tasks: a) create a name for the acronym b) compile a list of all operatives and determine their allegiances c) rebuild Camp Hammond to his specifications d) replace all StarkTech with his weapons systems. Hand leaps at the chance to work for a like-minded person like Osborn. He states that he will pick a new team of Avengers.
Six days ago: Osborn meets with Maria Hill at Thunderbolt headquarters to tell her she is relieved of her duties for complete failure during the Skrull invasion. Hill is already aware of her situation. She made the trip out to Colorado to tell Osborn to his face that she'll be waiting for him when he fails in this role. He later offers Bullseye an opportunity to join his new team of Avengers.
Five days ago: Ms. Marvel resigns from the Avengers when she learns that Osborn is in charge. Stark used S.H.I.E.L.D. funding to rebuild Avengers Tower after the Hulk attacked. The building actually belongs to S.H.I.E.L.D. and since Osborn is in charge of the organization, he claims ownership on the Avengers as well. She is shocked to learn that Ares and Sentry have agreed to stay on. Ares doesn't mind that Osborn is a killer; he is one as well. Sentry claims that Osborn is helping him but won't elaborate. When Osborn threatens to have her arrested for disobeying a direct order, she quickly leaves in tears. Osborn stops Sentry from going after her claiming "She'll come around".
Osborn returns to Thunderbolts' Mountain where he informs Moonstone that she'll be the new Ms. Marvel and provides her a replica of Danver's older costume. Reluctant at first, Osborn reminds her that "Moonstone" is under house arrest in Colorado; "Ms. Marvel" is not restricted. She quickly agrees.
Next Osborn provides Venom (Mac Gargan) with a chemical that allows him to shrink back down to human size and is able to duplicate the black costume version of Spider-Man. Osborn is helping him out based on his performance during the Skrull invasion.
Four days ago: Osborn brings Ares and Victoria Hand to meet with Daken Akihiro in New Orleans. Osborn convinces Daken to join the team to simply annoy his father (Wolverine).
Three days ago: Osborn arranges for Noh-Varr to be released from The Cube and be the new Captain Marvel.
Osborn gathers his team at Avengers Tower and instinctively knows that while all the necessary players are in place, there is one missing element. While trying to determine what is missing he meets with The Ghost at his scheduled time. He convinces him to unlock a secret vault in exchange for a favor and to strike back at Tony Stark. When he opens the vault, they discover that it is a cache of Iron Man armor.
Earlier today: Thunderbolts agents escort Dr. Doom back to Latveria. When the arrive at his castle, they are attacked by Morganna Le Fay in a mystical battle.
Avengers Tower, today: a new roster is revealed to the public. From left to right, Captain Marvel (Noh-Varr). The Sentry. Ms. Marvel (Moonstone). Ares. Wolverine (Daken). Hawkeye (Bullseye), and Spider-Man (Venom). An armored individual identifying himself as the Iron Patriot makes the introductions. The Iron Patriot unmasks revealing that underneath the armor is Norman Osborn.
Ok, I really thought this was a screwy concept at first. "Norman Osborn" and "Avengers" should never appear in the same sentence unless separated by the words "is being arrested by the". Having Osborn lead the Avengers is the summit of Mount Crazy. We all know that this is a bad idea and this will blow up at some point in the future.
With that out of the way the issue flowed very well. I didn't feel that any time was wasted gathering the members of Osborn's Avengers. Each member got a reasonable amount of screen time and a few subplots were established. Will there be another confrontation with Carol Danvers (Ms. Marvel)? Why did Sentry agree to stay on? What are Osborn's true motives for leading an Avengers team? And what does H.A.M.M.E.R stand for? All these questions will hopefully be answered in the coming issues.
4 webs. Basically this issue is the assemble-the-team chapter of the opening arc. Nothing new about that, but I enjoyed it. Bendis did a good job of recapping recent events while advancing the plot. Art-wise Deodato delivers some great work. The only comment I have is that his version of Norman Osborn greatly resembles Tommy Lee Jones.