In this issue of Avengers/Invaders we learn who has been conducting the Danse Macabre. The Torch discovers that he has made a fatal error. The Avengers and the perverted Avengers form an alliance. Virtual reality and the delicate threads of time entangle the lost heroes.
The reveal of the manipulator behind the time clashing events comes as a true surprise. I'm impressed at how Ross and Krueger flawlessly meld their fan knowledge to weave a rationale that at once makes sense and indicts the current climate of the Marvel universe. Their skewering of the current treatment of Clint Barton is particularly acute. I didn't know he was operating under another identity and could have sworn he was dead, despite being warned by the time-traveling She-Hulk. You would think that one Pym would be enough.
Identities and the definition of heroism run as a theme in Avengers/Invaders. In previous issues, the valor of the Human Torch fomented the Life Model Decoy revolt. It appeared that these staple characters had evolved sentience. If so, then they have been treated as slaves for as long as they could think and feel.
Krueger and Ross at this point unveil a second puppet master. His scheme suits his nature, and the ploy generates a very effective ghoulish visual that's unexpected and allusive. A transfusion of the Torch's blood twice gave spitfire Jackie Falseworth her super-speed. The Torch's blood seems to be the key to something else in Avengers/Invaders.
The villain's reappearance acts as a genuine twist, but the idea of LMD emancipation as a pretense masking an ulterior motive just isn't as interesting an idea as the LMDs actually seeking freedom and finding a savior in the Torch. The latter would have further questioned the perverted Avengers' actions. The former too easily offers a door through which they can retreat. There's no purpose to that retreat. While some heroes can excuse their behavior as being misguided others, such as Iron Fascist's right hand man Ms. Marvel, are irredeemable.
The switch in artists is more notable in this issue, and the work from both looks a little rushed in places. However, they each offer the reader some outstanding moments. The two villain reveals are rife with detail. The contrast in each is inventive--the occult grotesque and the crackle of science fiction. The final moment where Captain America clashes with his inferior inheritor is something I've been waiting to see, and all the ladies, for which ever side they fight, look lovely. Mind you, when you read the dialogue, they distinguish themselves and not always for the better.
Other problems in Avengers/Invaders arise, but Ross and Krueger are blameless. I cannot fault the writers for my being unable to empathize with Janet Van Dyne as she speaks this mantra, "Be alive, Tony. Be alive. We can't lose both you and Steve."
"Call me Tony" is a complete douche. While I knew he wouldn't die, I couldn't have cared less about him, nor could I root for his rescuers. I cheered for and cared more about Dr. Doom and Batroc Ze Leaper when they threw their lot in with Spider-Man, Vision, the Scarlet Witch and the bona fide Captain America to fight the Dark Rider and Mr. Hyde, respectively. To put it another way, and to paraphrase Crow T. Robot, "No matter how much Marvel insists that Iron Man and his lieutenants are still heroes, I must respectfully disagree."
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