Who do we got this month? Spider-Man, Tigra, Hulk, Storm, Ant-Man, and Giant-Girl. They're guest-starring with the eponymous Nick Fury and the Howling Commandos.
Past issues featuring guest stars haven't worked so well. Let's see how it works out this time.
Our story opens in Egypt, 1250 BC, where the Hulk and the Howling Commandos are having a chat.
"Earlier. The Year 1943."
Oh, it's a time-travel story. Dangerous territory, these. But let's see where we're going.
So the Howling Commandos are on leave in (1943) London. Or something like leave – they have a mission of some sort, but Fury and the boys don't take it very seriously. They take in the dance halls and the cafes, chat briefly with an ancient Egyptian priest, and sightsee at the Tower of London. (The Egyptian priest doesn't faze them as much as you might expect it to, but they have other things on their minds.) While strolling the halls of the Tower, they suddenly disappear!
Cut to the 2009 Tower, where the Avengers are tangling with a woolly mammoth. Spidey's webs don't work very well against something that bulky, and neither does Storm's ability to summon a blizzard. I'm not sure why they thought a snowstorm would bother a woolly mammoth, but there you are. Finally, the Hulk ambles over and drops it with a single blow. Problem solved... or is it? Now there are cats everywhere.
"Tigra," Spider-Man asks, "are you doing this?"
"Why does everyone think I can control cats?" she replies. "Can you control spiders?"
Searching for the source of the cats, the Avengers begin exploring the Tower of London, and just like the Howling Commandos did earlier, they vanish! That is, some of them do: Tigra, Ant-Man, Spider-Man, and the Hulk disappear, into the past as it turns out. They begin bouncing through time like a pinball, meeting dinosaurs, Abraham Lincoln, Toulouse-Lautrec, and other notables, before arriving in ancient Egypt. There they meet the Howling Commandos, imprisoned in a cage. The Hulk frees the irritated G.I.s, and just in time, because the whole group is suddenly attacked by Egyptian soldiers wielding ray-guns!
Wielding them like clubs, actually. In an amusing twist for this sort of story, the soldiers have advanced technology, but aren't sure how to use it.
The Avengers probably could win this one without resorting to gimmicks, but a gimmick presents itself: the soldiers finally get a good look at Tigra, and mistake her for Bast, their cat-god. Filled with religious awe, the Egyptians disclose what's going on. It seems that two Egyptian magicians (including the priest who appeared in London earlier) are attempting to make the Pharoah immortal by halting the flow of time around his body. It's not clear whether this approach is successful, but whatever it's doing for Pharoah, it is certainly disrupting the entire timestream.
Enter the two magicians, who begin "summoning" defenders from out of time: sabretooth tigers, soldiers on Segways, etc. More fighting ensues, until the magicians overextend themselves and turn themselves into babies! Problem solved! Better yet, with the magicians disabled, the timestream repairs itself, shunting everything back to its own proper time and place. Or almost everything: we close with a shot of an ancient Egyptian statuette of Tigra, donated to the Tower of London by the Howling Commandos.
As I anticipated back at the beginning, the guest stars didn't work out. There wasn't anything for the Howling Commandos to do, and the story would have worked just as well without them. And the curse of Paul Tobin's poor plotting continues: there are three fight sequences in the issue, and the first two end when the Hulk hits something. The third ends for no reason at all, just because Tobin ran out of page count.
But... it's funny. The Egyptians swinging ray-guns like clubs is funny. The Segways are funny. Tigra giving in and accepting that everyone will always think she can control cats is funny. So props for that.
I enjoyed this one. Lolli's pencils are good as ever – the sorceress on panel 2, page 18, is particularly nice – and while there's no excuse for the plot problems, the funny compensates for it. Keep reaching for that rainbow, Tobin.