Since issue #16, Avengers comics that herald new line-ups have always been special, and this one is no exception. But as with most such issues, it is much more than a roll call, culminating in a continuation of the storyline begun in issue #326, focused on new character Rage as well as inter-dimensional shenanigans.
The opening splash is striking—literally and metaphorically—and I can’t shake the feeling I’ve seen it somewhere before, as if it’s an homage to something. (Maybe it’s just the strong Neal Adams vibes coming off the page.)
This leads to the double-page spread below, containing many of the past and current members of both the East Coast and West Coast teams—plus a lot of takeout (or takeaway) food!
If we can tear ourselves away from the food, we can focus in on the most relevant dialogue (after Hercules notes that this meeting has lasted two days already): Cap, Namor, and Quicksilver discussing why this meeting is particularly important. (Not that there could possibly be any evil going on in the world or anything.)
Black Widow suggests that Cap knows something, and we see on the next page that he does… more accurately, someone. And what she’s proposing has a spirit similar to the Sokovia Accords from the film Captain America: Civil War, making the team “assignable” to missions that United Nations deems crucial—and conveniently excluding any situation resulting from the actions of any member nation. (Also, it would seem to codify the team’s focus on global threats, to the exclusion of suffering in their “backyard,” which Rage and others have criticized.)
Amazingly, there is no debate, and what seems to be unanimous support. (I guess they just want the free food to keep flowing.)
I have to wonder: Did Cap and Ms. Bannerjee negotiate this deal ahead of time—in which case, why did this meeting last two days—or was this the UN’s initial offer, and there was simply no pushback whatsoever on the part of the Avengers?
The actual revelation of the new line-up (ahead of the press conference) is anticlimactic, as it closely resembles the team we’ve followed for a while now (with the notable addition of Black Widow).
The new term (“chair” also works) covers Thor and Sersi as well, but sure, Vision, make it all about you.
The next order of business is the reserve team, who have very specific obligations. Some, including Vision, support this dedication to procedure…
…while someone else shows a characteristic lack of patience (and chose a very interesting word to make his point).
As an aside, in a few panels showing local ne’er-do-wells holding their own meeting, the drug dealer Cap and Rage faced in the last issue explains how the Avengers’ new legally-mandated focus on global threats would help their business (if Rage would only keep quiet).
As the inevitable press conference begins—in front of the newly rebuilt Avengers Headquarters, shown for the first time—Cap promises business as usual, but this does not satisfy a critic in the audience.
Cap addresses the formal aspect of the complaint while ignoring the substance (such that it is), which is more than can be said for his teammates. (We don’t know exactly what Cap revealed to the public about the nature of the charter with the UN, but it is reasonable to question how tightly the world’s superheroes are bound to the world’s governments.)
Cap moves on, announcing some of the reserves, and someone in the crowd wants a comment from the “menace” in the group…
…and whether or not that person was J. Jonah Jameson, he and Robbie Robertson are nonetheless busy commenting on Spidey’s word choice (while Cap is beaming at being called an awesome dude).
Another member of the press corps can count, which gives Cap a chance to play game show host as he introduces the two probies…
…including Rage, whom Cap hails for both his service in the last two issues and his activism fighting against what is now the Avengers’ legal mandate.
The real surprise, for the readers at least, is the promotion of the Sandman, whom Cap defends, not by mentioning the proud tradition of the Avengers welcoming reformed criminals (including Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and current member Black Widow), but by comparing him to Richard Nixon. (That’s certainly a choice.)
The gathered reporters don’t even blink at the Nixon call-out, and focus instead on the new Avengers reservist who isn’t a longtime supervillain. Knowing full well why, Rage lashes out at Cap for the undue surprise…
…and Cap doubles down on the unforced error by implying the death of Rage’s beloved Granny Staples. Rage actually takes this in stride, even after he’s pelted with an egg by a person accusing him of selling out.
The scene continues on television, courtesy of the drug dealers seen above, who have since been joined by the demon Ngh, brought to the Avengers’ dimension by the traitorous Xa at the end of the last issue. (This will be important soon, I promise.) As they see, She-Hulk and Cap hold Rage back, not necessarily because of biased expectations, but because a guy who calls himself Rage just got hit by an egg and was accused of being a race traitor.
He reacts well as first, but he has his limits, and in the end he partially validates her complaint (while pointing out that he started it).
Big Monty Python vibes above (“See the violence inherent in the system!”).
In the end, Rage explains why he’s accepting the Avengers’ offer and why his way is more productive than Ms. Lumpen-Parvenu’s. It’s not clear what “methods” Cap is objecting to—perhaps it was Rage’s storming into the crowd at all—but he agrees with his point (while seeing Namor’s earlier “pettifoggery” and raising it with a “gee wilikers”).
In case you thought there was no real superhero action in this issue, the last five pages will reassure you, starting with this welcome interruption to a press conference gone awry.
We’ll ignore the miscolored red star on Cap’s back above (unless it’s a symbolic nod to glasnost) and just recognize his defiant assurance while leading his new team (“Cap’s Sexy Septet”?).
It turns out these glowing guests are upset that Ngh escaped his “dimension of exile” (which the Avengers aren’t even aware of yet), so they abduct them to the strange ominous plane…
…leaving the reservists to fight them until they vanish as well.
Returning to the varsity team, they don’t even know who Ngh is, and the two members responsible for allowing them to pass between dimensions are neutralized. (Well played, Tetrarchs.)
Meanwhile, Ngh pays a visit to Granny Staples… foolishly, given Rage’s esteem for her. As you would expect, we’ll see more in the next two issues…
Avengers (vol. 1) #329, February 1991: Larry Hama (writer), Paul Ryan (pencils), Tom Palmer (inks), Christie Scheele (colors), Bill Oakley (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Collected in: Avengers Epic Collection: The Crossing Line.
PREVIOUS ISSUES: Avengers #327-328, Avengers Spotlight #40, and Thor #427 (December 1990-January 1991)
ALSO THIS MONTH: Captain America #382, Nomad #4, and Namor the Sub-Mariner #11 (February 1991)
NEXT ISSUES: Avengers #330-331, West Coast Avengers #69, and Web of Spider-Man #75-76 (March-May 1991)
All of which begs the question, which substitute Avengers get paired with which first team members? Hercules & Thor is a no brainier but the rest?