A writer, historian, and geek through and through. I focus on fantasy, science fiction and whatever comes my way. I am writing and drawing a webcomic called Booger Balls Inc, and I'm working on two graphic novels as well.
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The Avengers: Standoff series has begun with a blast, and ComiConverse Contributor, Seth Frederiksen, is here to cover the first issue.
Aboard the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier, several agents sneak into the central command room to watch something of vital importance, NFL Sunday Ticket. Before the men can fully enjoy the game, the Winter Soldier, AKA Bucky Barnes, blasts his way into the room and forces the hacker of the group to access certain files within the S.H.I.E.L.D. database.
This is the testimony given to Steve Rogers, who is now working in S.H.I.E.L.D. and trying to figure out what his old friend is up to. We are then told that Bucky has been attacking S.H.I.E.L.D. bases in search of some unknown information.
Meanwhile, the current Captain America, Sam Wilson, AKA the Falcon, has defeated a recent scheme of the Green Skull’s (yes, there is a Green Skull) However, when touching down to hand the criminal to the authorities, he is greeted by a hostile crowd.
Before the crowd grows wild, Captain America is contacted by a hacker calling himself The Whisper. This hacker, and Wilson’s approach to being Captain America, has led to a rift between him and the former Captain America, Steve Rogers.
Returning to Rogers, we find him arriving at one of his old hangouts, a place he would meet with Bucky before his friend became the Winter Soldier. It is not long before Barnes comes into the scene, cooking some eggs and wearing an apron.
Sam Wilson arrives to discover that The Whisper is none other than Rick Jones. Long story short, as a result being A-Bomb for some time, he developed the ability to learn complex skills in unprecedented time. One of these skills was computer hacking.
At this point there is a juxtaposition between the two conversations as Rick Jones and Winter Soldier tell their respective Captain’s about the Kobik Program, a S.H.I.E.L.D. program designated to use the cosmic cube to alter reality for the sake of security.
Though the program was supposed to end, it never did. Before more can be discussed, S.H.I.E.L.D. agents arrive to the Captains’ respective locations causing Barnes to teleport from the scene and Rick Jones to make his own fast escape.
Sam Wilson calls in the Avengers to back him up, ensuring their involvement in the coming fight. Rogers, meanwhile, is led by S.H.I.E.L.D. director, Maria Hill, to the result of the supposedly defunct Kobik Project; the town of Pleasant Hill.
During the tour of the town, Steve Rogers is stunned to find its citizens made up primarily of former villains, none of whom look or act like their former selves. The town it is revealed, is a prison where brainwashed criminals live out lives as seen fit by the S.H.I.E.L.D. agency. Unnerved by what he sees, Rogers demands to know how exactly this town came into being.
Hill escorts Rogers to a daycare center where he meets a young girl named Kobik. After a brief explanation of the cosmic cube and further elaboration of the events covered in the prologue by Dr. Selvig, it is revealed that Kobik is the literal child of several cosmic cube fragments coming together and creating a new life.
As Rogers, Selvig and Hill debate the risk of what is happening, several “reformed” villains meet to plan their assault from within, led by Baron Zemo. The initial attack is swift and brutal, Rogers and Hill are both injured and Rogers immediately calls the Avengers Unity Squad for back up, playing into the villains plans.
As the first part of a Marvel Event, this wasn’t a bad start. There could have been more emphasis on exposition for the heroes, and a much of the information relayed during the story was in the prologue, but overall it was a solid story. One of the elements I enjoyed was the ethical debate about the use of great power to ensure public safety.
This has been an increasingly heated real world debate and the tension between individual freedom and the demand for enforced stability, becomes as much a part of the story as the building action. S.H.I.E.L.D. director Maria Hill is in a terrible situation, trying to keep super villains from destroying society, and doing so within the limitations of national and international law. As this comic shows, hers is a far tougher job than most would imagine.
I empathize with Hill. She has the most to gain and the most to lose at the end of the story. If she is lucky, this will be a contained fight, not spreading to nearby towns and cities. But I seriously doubt that.
It is obvious that she is trying to play down the seriousness of the situation with Rogers, who is obviously unhappy when he learns of Pleasant Hill. She knows what she is doing might not be considered right, but she also feels she does not have many viable options. Most villains either break out of prison or are released, with few truly reforming at all. Millions of dollars of damages result from the fights between heroes and villains, with many innocent people maimed or killed during these brawls.
I am not saying that Hill is right in what she is doing ethically or morally, but I can see her side of the argument clearly at this point; a testament to the writing in this story.
This story plays with setting the stage for the upcoming Civil War II event, with the heroes fighting it out over the morality of using an Inhuman who can predict the future. Though not every hero has been a member of the Avengers, what happens to this group has profound repercussions throughout the Marvel Universe.
Nick Spencer’s writing works well in this story, though it did not have the twist ending that made the prologue stand out. I think the overall story arc will put greater importance on how the Avenger squads will fare once the dust has settled.
The artwork by Jesus Saiz holds it owns brilliantly in the scenes of Pleasant Hill, and there is Norman Rockwellesque feel to the view of America presented in some scenes. This visual style added to the impact of the eventual collapse of the Kobik Project and Pleasant Hill.
It took awhile for the action to get going, especially since much of the information was known to the reader last month. But, I think this story will reveal its full strength in upcoming issues.
Seth Frederiksen is a ComiConverse Contributor. Follow him on twitter @sensiseth
While lacking in action, the issue does offer clear ethical debates within the story that makes it more than a star-studded melee.