Waiting for the Trade
By Bill Miller
Avengers Assemble Vol. 2
by Kurt Busiek and George Perez
Collects 12-23, 0 and Annual ’99
Why I Bought This – As I mentioned a few times the week of The Avengers movie I purchased several trades. This was first on the list with a bullet as I’d waited literally years to read this since the original hardcover volume has been out of print for some time, and I absolutely loved volume 1. Thankfully the movie caused this to be re-released in soft cover.
The Plot – This is a collection of sequential issues so it doesn’t have one plot, although the Ultron story at the end is what this collection is famous for. Spoilers ahead.
Chapter 1 – The Avengers learn Hawkeye has quit the team to join the Thunderbolts, but seeing as they are the former Masters of Evil some of the team has doubts as to whether he’s being mind-controlled or not. Vision has recovered from his injuries from the Morgan Le Fay arc that started volume 1; and Hank Pym resolves Firestar’s health problems (left over from the New Warriors) as well. Vision learns Wanda and Simon are dating, and decides to keep his own feelings for Wanda to himself. The Avengers then make their way to what will become Thunderbolts mountain, and the two teams have the usual misunderstanding battle until the alien Dominus shows up (originally a Professor X foe, he later switched to the West Coast Avengers—which makes Hawkeye the most familiar with him). Former West Coast Avenger Firebird shows up to help out as well after Dominus sends out a robot that can blow up the planet. The two teams unite and Hawkeye comes up with a plan that enables the Thunderbolts to deactivate the bomb and save the planet, and thus his new team earns the Avengers respect and they all part amicably.
Chapter 2 – We get a flashback from Jarvis’ perspective of the death of the Avengers during the Onslaught crossover; as well as the untold story of why Black Widow was unable to recruit a new Avengers team in the aftermath of the tragedy. In present day four Sentinels made in the image of the founding Avengers attack New York. The Avengers battle them to a stalemate, while Jarvis figures out that Avengers techie Fabian built them from the remains of destroyed Sentinels in the Onslaught story. Fabian had hoped to use them as a heroic strike force that would take the dead Avengers place but as always when humans play with Sentinels tech, it has gone awry and they’ve superseded their programming and are using his brainwaves as a battery until Jarvis can free Fabian which causes the robots to shut down.
Chapter 3 – Justice and Firestar accompany the New Warriors on a mission during their night off from the Avengers. The Warriors run into AIM and new villain Lord Templar and are out of their depth so Justice calls in the Avengers. Templar has energy based powers and can clone himself and thus does very well against both teams until Thor opens up a can of whup-ass; Templar however does manage to escape. Cap was unavailable for this mission due to stuff going on his own book, so Wanda is elected deputy leader. Justice decides he wants to quit the Avengers and go back to the Warriors but before he can tell Angelica, she tells him she wants them to move into the mansion as she’s come to love being an Avenger.
Chapter 4 – Beast stops by the mansion to say hi to longtime best friend Wonder Man. They end up in a bar with Wanda and Vision and we get some more interpersonal drama, while Busiek also cleans up some bad continuity from Wonder Man’s solo-title. A new villain named Pagan attacks the city, and the Avengers are mostly ineffective against him (as he has immensely high level super strength going toe to toe with Thor, Vision and Wonder Man simultaneously at one point). Eventually Pagan calls off his attack and leaves of his own volition.
Chapter 5 – Triathlon is a giving a demonstration of his powers in New York as part of political rally for a quasi-religious/minority rights group called the Triune Understanding, and we learn they gave him his powers. Pagan attacks the Triune rally and the Avengers respond and yet again are ineffective until Templar shows up and aids them against Pagan and wins the day. The Avengers find it fishy that Templar was no match for Thor and yet can defeat Pagan when the team can’t, but the Triune refuses to let them search their building for clues. We learn the head of the Triune is secretly Templar.
Chapter 6 – The Wrecking Crew are teleported to the headquarters of a robot named Doomsday Man (apparently an old foe of Ms. Marvel from her solo title in the 70s). He wants the Wrecking Crew to bring her to him, but they confuse Ms. Marvel with the second Captain Marvel and attack her instead. While normally Captain Marvel should be able to beat the Wrecking Crew in her sleep, apparently Doomsday has also enhanced their powers so they can absorb energy and convert it to physical strength so there isn’t much she can do. She calls in the Avengers for help, and the team along with Black Knight flies down to New Orleans to assist. The Wrecking Crew basically wins the fight giving Justice a concussion and capturing Capt. Marvel but when they call in to Doomsday for a teleport he sees they have the wrong girl and decides to disintegrate them instead; however Wanda’s hex power saves them by inadvertently banishing them to another dimension.
Chapter 7 – Thor tracks the Wrecking Crew and C.M. to Arkon’s dimension and most of the team mounts a rescue operation, while Iron Man treats Justice back at the mansion. The Pyms arrive to inform the team that Doomsday has captured Ms. Marvel (they were with her at the time), but with the rest of the team gone it’s just them and Iron Man to the rescue. We get the obligatory fight scene which ends when Justice arrives; disobeying orders to take medical leave and ends up getting his leg broken by Doomsday although he telekinetically dismantles the robot before passing out. The main team learns the Wrecking Crew has conquered Arkon using C.M as a battery.
Chapter 8 – The Avengers lead a rebellion to free Arkon from the Wrecking Crew. Captain Marvel saves the day by overloading their energy absorption power. Hank Pym is kidnapped from his day job by robots.
Chapter 9 – Wonder Man learns robots have kidnapped his brother Grim Reaper from the mental asylum. The Avengers battle Iron-Man foe Firebrand with Thor banishing him to another dimension to end the fight.
Chapter 10 – Robots raid the Wakandan embassy and Black Panther falls before them. Wasp arrives to inform the team of Hank’s kidnapping just as Black Panther’s distress call comes through. The team arrives and is surprised to find Alkhemia (Ultron’s second bride from WCA), who is now made of Adamantium. A furious battle ensures before Wanda ultimately short circuits her. The Avengers return home to learn Ultron has conquered the fictional European nation of Slorenia.
Chapter 11 – We see every singe person in Slorenia is dead (including some minor superhumans that had appeared in Force Works). Vision, Wanda, Wonder Man and Wasp are searching Hank’s office for clues when all of the prior Ultrons (1-15) attack them and defeat them. Ultron greets them as his family and says he intends to use them (along with Grim Reaper and Hank) to build a new race of robots that will take over the world.
Chapter 12 – Cap, Thor, Iron Man, Panther and Firestar take on Ultron-16 in an epic back and forth battle until finally Thor manages to destroy him. Then just when they think they’ve won hundreds of additional Ultrons reveal themselves.
Chapter 13 – The Avengers battle on and we learn some of the Ultrons are not adamantium–most of them are steel thus Iron Man is able to build a weapon to defeat them. We learn Hank used his own brain patterns to build Ultron and that guilt is what has caused his mental breakdowns over the years. Vision frees himself and tries to come to a truce with his father, but Ultron rebuffs him. Still Vision is able to buy time for Grim Reaper to free the others. Just then Thor and company arrive and another massive battle ensues. Ultron is on the verge victory when Justice arrives with anti-metal that the team confiscated from AIM in chapter 3 and Hank uses it to disintegrate Ultron.
Chapter 14 – Vision and Wonder Man get into a physical fight over their feelings for Wanda and we learn that both men admire the other as being the superior version of themselves. (They both share the same brainwaves for those who don’t know).
Critical Thoughts: It does not get better than this! I loved every single thing about this book. I mean I could quibble and say the new villains (Templar and Pagan) aren’t all that interesting compared to the more classic Avengers foes; but even those chapters are filled with good character subplots, well drawn battles and a nice little conspiracy mystery that hasn’t hit fruition yet.
The Ultron stuff is every bit as excellent as its reputation. This is the simply the greatest Ultron story ever told. And Ultron is the Avengers’ greatest villain, so it would put it high in the running for greatest Avengers story ever told. Thor has pretty much his most bad-ass moment ever in chapter 13 (“Ultron we would have words with Thee”). Firestar, a character I’ve always liked, also has her greatest moment in chapter 10 as she tries to overheat Alkhema’s insides with her microwave powers and is willing to face-down certain death to do it. And the fight scenes in this arc are all excellent. Hell considering how often they top themselves they are beyond excellent.
I also love the constant one-shot appearances of Avengers’ past aiding the main team when they are in the area. Having Firebird show up to help against an old West Coast Avengers foe, or getting to see Black Knight and Captain Marvel on the team again were real highlights for me because I like them better than the others but this would also apply to Beast and Black Panther showing up.
The interpersonal stories are great. The reversal of Justice and Firestar’s opinions on the team in chapter 3 was a highlight as is all of the Wanda-Vision-Simon stuff. Vision gets a great monologue in the last chapter when he tells Simon how he feels. The Jarvis flashbacks in chapter 2 are also a nice emotional beat for a longtime supporting cast member.
Busiek’s writing remains superb. Perez’s art is without peer. And even the chapters not written by Busiek (the Sentinels chapter and three-issue Wrecking Crew arc) don’t miss a beat, flowing seamlessly into the rest of the title.
Grade A+. Nuff Said.