Avengers fans certainly won't want to miss this issue. Our friendly neighborhood wall-crawler encounters not one, not two, but three future Avengers this time around. Can you pick them out?
We begin the show with Peter Parker making up with Betty Brant, presumably due the events at the end of the last issue. Peter barely manages to bury the hatchet before he spies a silhouette of an archer swinging across the rooftops. Quickly ditching Betty, Peter changes into his Spidey costume, and swings up to encounter Hawkeye the archer! (Future Avenger #1)
Spider-man knows that Hawkeye recently attacked Iron Man, so he expects the worst. Hawkeye doesn't appear to be out for blood, though. He has a lot on his mind, and he shares most of it with the webhead during their battle. The story goes something like this:
Hawkeye was a carnival archer when he just happened to see Iron Man. Inspired, he decided to put together a costume and trick arrows to start his own career as a super hero. His first night out, he scared off a jewel thief, but the police thought that he was a criminal. Spidey certainly understands that type of thing.
It turns out that Hawkeye was rescued by Natasha, the Black Widow (Future Avenger #2), and became somewhat wrapped around her finger. As a result of his involvement with Natasha, Hawkeye ended up invading Stark Enterprises and tangling with Iron Man, an encounter that left Natasha wounded. Now, as Hawkeye puts it, "There's no going back!"
Spidey plays possum and lets Hawkeye escape, but not before hitting him with a spider-tracer. Unfortunately, our hero left his tracking unit at home, so he can't resume the chase immediately.
We switch to a penthouse uptown where Natasha is briefing her foreign allies via teleconference of her failure at the hands of Iron Man. Hawkeye stumbles in and accuses her of being a spy. Natasha obviously knows what strings to pull with her archer friend, because she plays on his guilt to win him back, much to the amusement of an eavesdropping wall-crawler who has just arrived.
The Black Widow is not a solo act. Several of her goons mix it up with Spider-man before he has a chance to interfere. Having no success attacking him directly, they fire a rocket launcher at a crowded theater across the street, leaving Spidey no choice but to go save lives. Our hero soon saves the day, but only to find that Hawkeye, the Widow, and her goon squad have all flown the coop.
We next see Peter the following morning. His pictures of the theater were not surprisingly turned into anti-Spider-man propaganda by JJJ. Peter should know better by now. He cleverly and innocently manages to hit up Aunt May for advice in how to deal with Hawkeye. Aunt May explains that Uncle Ben had to deal with similar situations and that he thought that everyone deserved a chance for the good in them to come out, but in the end the choice must be their own. Peter couldn't agree more.
In the meantime, Natasha has managed to convince Hawkeye to do another job for her. His task this time is to steal a missile component from Williams Innovations. Thanks to the handy-dandy spider-tracer, Spider-man is there waiting for him.
Spidey exchanges blows with Hawkeye while trying to talk some sense into him. Hawkeye doesn't want to hear it, so he really unloads on the wallcrawler, nearly taking out a man in a white labcoat who happened to walk into the warzone. Spidey swings the newcomer out of harm's way and finds out that the fellow is Simon Williams, head of the company (and our third future Avenger -- soon-to-be Wonder Man).
Determined to end the battle quickly, Spidey steals Hawkeye's quiver, but not the last arrow which was already in the archer's hand. That arrow just happens to be an exploding arrow, which Hawkeye quickly uses to threaten the life of Mr. Williams. Spidey now gives Hawkeye the choice to be a hero or "someone's errand boy". As we might suspect, Hawkeye chooses the hero's path. He uses the explosive arrow to cover his exit and disappears, conveniently losing the spider-tracer at the scene of the battle.
All in all, this was a very good issue. The storyline was a nostalgia-buff's dream, and the art was excellent. It was a treat to see Spidey play a critical part in Hawkeye's choosing of his path. It was also a treat to see the Black Widow back in her Mata Hari days. Kurt probably had a lot of fun writing this one.
The Simon Williams cameo came as a bit of a surprise. It makes sense that he would have been building up his rivalry with Stark during this time, though.
I particularly liked Peter's brief musing that he should rig his spider-tracers so that he can follow them with his spider sense. That was always one of those cosmic leaps that seemed to remain unexplained. It's nice to see Kurt put some mortar between those bricks.
I enjoyed this issue. The early appearances of future heroes were superb, and the portrayal of Peter/Spidey was right on the money, as usual. Four webs.