Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. No matter who is in the group, they stand as a symbol for justice. With the advent of Secret Empire and the rule of Stevil Rogers, standing for what one believes in becomes more important than ever. Even before the shroud of Hydra fell on America, the Avengers questioned who they could truly trust. Would it be Avenger X, rescued(?) from a mysterious coffin in the basement of Avengers Tower? Vision, trapped in his own body? The Odinson, fighting to again be worthy? How about Doctor Doom?
With the wild and fast paced events of Secret Empire, this volume of Avengers deals with four different distinct stories. First, the addition of the infamous Doctor Doom to the Avengers as the replacement for Iron Man. While they have had serious disagreements in the past, Doom’s charm and Wasp’s obsession with him (purely on a OMGSCIENCE+MAGIC level) lead the Avengers to reluctantly trust the dictator from Latveria. His help in confronting teenage witches at the Sue Storm Summer Camp and destroying the unknowable horrors from beyond the veil of time and space helped a bit. The discovery of a mysterious crypt located in the Avengers’ storage closet releases Avenger X, an old enemy of the team. While her inclusion in the story is brief, it showcases Wasp and her dedication to the team. She is willing to sacrifice herself for the greater good, trapping herself and Avenger X in the quantum realm. Luckily for her, Doom is not so willing to sacrifice her in either case.
The next tale, beautifully drawn by Mike del Mundo, gives a look into Thor’s whereabouts mid-Secret Empire. The Goddess of Thunder finds herself stranded on a world without hope, ruled by a creature called Yod. Told much through the point of view of the peon who first happens across Thor rising from the muck fields, it shows the learning curve of the new wielder of Mjolnir as well as her compassion for those weaker than she.
Did I mention Mike del Mundo? While his take on Hercules makes him look a bit like Giant Gonzalez after a full-body wax, it lends itself so well to Thor and Vision especially. The lines and color are gorgeous, showing detail only when necessary, highlighting minor things often lost in other depictions. These issues are full of color and sharp contrasts between the characters. Each seems to shine in their own way exactly where needed.
The final two stories contrast two teams focused on different happenings of Secret Empire. Without the context of the other stories in the Secret Empire series, it’s a bit difficult to put together as stand-alones. We’ve gone from Doctor Doom as an Avenger for a hot minute and Thor trapped off-world to an alt-Avengers team led by Doc Ock in Octo-Spider gear. The only truly redeemable character on the team in the Odinson who seems just confused as to who to trust. I’m not sure why Taskmaster makes the choice he does that results in the death of an apparently peaceful alien species come to Earth by accident, but it all ends in ichor dripping from Odinson’s axe and a lost Pym particle dropped by Yellow Jacket and smuggled away by Spider-Ock.
The final issue leads us back to the crumbling former Baxter/Parker building where the real Avengers come to pick up the pieces of their headquarters as well as their team. In the midst of the chaos, each finds a way to re-engage with another, discovering commonalities and new insights into what true leadership should be.
All-in-all, the book is remarkably pretty but uneven in its storytelling due to the fractured nature of the arcs. I am looking forward to much more from del Mundo in the future. Just stay away from drawn-on abs.