It’s all come down to this. With the U.S.Avengers team divided across the globe, and Hydra puppet masters pulling all the strings (in Red Hulk’s case, quite literally) they are facing annihilation. Could this be the end of Roberto da Costa’s U.S.Avengers program? Could it be the end of Roberto da Costa? Get ready, cause this one’s a wild ride.
The book opens at Hydra’s “Schoolhouse” re-education center. With Toni’s homemade device in place, Roberto’s powers aren’t slowly killing him anymore (though as Toni points out it is literally held together with bubblegum). With his mutant powers working again, Roberto makes quick work of breaking them out of their cell and facing down their Hydra goon captors.
The only slight hiccup (okay, major hiccup) in their escape is the Red Hulk. He’s still under Hydra’s nanobot control. With two Hydra goons controlling him (funnily enough, with an actual video game controller), it looks like Roberto and Toni might not get away so easily.
Meanwhile, partway around the world in France, Hydra is flexing its muscle. This isn’t just a takeover of America, the Secret Empire is a global operation. In Paris, Hydra maintains a stranglehold on the public with a War of the Worlds style tentacled helicarrier. From there, they can wipe out any uprising with relative ease and keep superheroes in a power-dampening holding cell.
They haven’t rounded up all the heroes yet though, and the displaced U.S.Avengers team has joined forces with some European heroes to fight back. With Hydra’s own stolen battle mechs, Squirrel Girl leads the charge.
Turning the Tide
Back at the Schoolhouse, Roberto and Red Hulk duke it out. Hydra controls his body, but his voice is still his own. Through his muzzle, Red Hulk manages to communicate to Roberto that he’s being controlled by nanotech. Roberto’s mutant powers are well-equipped to deal with the microscopic threat, and he quickly burns them out. Sensing their peril from a now freed and angry Red Hulk, the Hydra goons turn tail and run, but not before Red Hulk KO’s them with a patented Hulk sonic clap.
In France, the assault on Hydra’s helicarrier is in full swing, looking like something out of Empire Strikes Back. After a series of precise strikes to their communications and engines, Hydra’s main instrument of maintaining control is crashed into the Seine. This leaves the captured heroes inside free to route the Hydra forces while the rest of the team cleans up Paris.
Toni congratulates Aikku, having been on the communicator during the battle. Toni updates her on their escape and Hydra’s vulnerability. Hydra isn’t as strong as they think they are, and the heroes have a good chance to win the war. Then Toni and Aikku reconcile their little disagreement from a few issues ago, and all is well. (Marvel better not kill off one of these two or we will rise up and storm their offices).
Finally, the last page updates us on the new mutant Sam “Cannonball” Guthrie who is also part of the team, but has been AWOL for some time. Just where in the heck is he?
What a Ride
Despite the Empire Strikes Back comparison made earlier, this issue as a whole felt more like the climax of Return of the Jedi. We got to see both sides of the divided U.S. Avengers team rise from their darkest hour and win the day. It was fun and exciting and maintained the level of sillyness and banter that I’ve come to love in this book.
Roberto da Costa is snarky and arrogant, but in a fun way. After having him out of commission for a number of issues, it’s great to have him back in control. Similarly, seeing the Red Hulk and the rest of the team in France give Hydra their much-needed comeuppance is cathartic, especially given recent current events in the real world. Despite all of that good stuff though, it pales in comparison to Aikku and Toni’s reconciliation.
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These two pages alone are worth the cover price, as Toni admits her weakness to Aikku. She was right to call her out on building so many weapons. Toni admits she has a problem and promises not to let it get the better of her. The two profess their love from half a world away, and damned if it isn’t the sweetest thing. Al Ewing has been building the relationship between these two over two comic titles now, and all that groundwork is paying off in spades. Marvel’s editorial team just better not do anything to screw it up.
The art is well done this issue. With so much going on, and so much action, it never gets confusing. Some dynamic panel layouts keep the issue feeling kinetic and fast-paced even when characters are just bantering. Medina and Vlasco make all the Hydra goons look as buffoonish and comical as they make our heroes look powerful and epic. Once again, the only complaint I have art-wise is that Squirrel Girl doesn’t look anything like in her solo book, and as a reader and fan of her solo title, it’s a little weird.
The only other thing is that the Hydra goons seem totally incompetent. It’s all played for a laugh, and that’s fine, but there isn’t any real feeling of menace from these guys as they fail at everything and surrender like a bunch of clowns. After all their secret plans and machinations had the U.S.Avengers splintered and hopeless, they really didn’t put up much of a fight at the end. That doesn’t make it any less fun seeing them get their butts kicked, and is a fitting end to the U.S.Avengers’ Secret Empire tie-in run.
This book has quickly become one of my favorites at Marvel, and between this, Rocket, and Ultimates, Al Ewing is probably my favorite writer currently writing for Marvel. I can’t wait to see what’s next as the search for Cannonball gets started next month. I’ll be here to tell you how it went.
Fanfinites Rating: 9.5/10
U.S.Avengers #9: Let’s Pretend We Won a War
Writer: Al Ewing
Artists: Paco Medina & Juan Vlasco with Alex Arizmendi
Color Artists: Jesus Aburtov with Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna