Writers: Kurt Busiek and Fabien Nicieza
Artists: George Perez, Dick Giordand, Al Vey, Mark Bagley, Al Milgrom
Collects Avengers vol. 3 #31–34, Thunderbolts #42–44
Publication date: 2004
This collection deals with Madame Masque and her father Count Nefaria who is one of the Avengers’ most powerful enemies. It deals with a lot of back story for Iron Man and his relationship with Madame Masque so it’s not a good starting place for new readers, at all. Busiek’s stories often use Avengers’ rich history but these issues use it even more. Furthermore, all of the issues also continue story lines from both Thunderbolts and Avengers so unfortunately the collection doesn’t really work on its own.
Avengers issue 31 starts with the Vision’s return. He’s been absent from the Avengers for several issues. The Vision asks the team to help with Maggia because his “brother” the Grim Reaper is involved with it and the team agrees. During the battle, Madame Masque’s head seems to explode but Iron Man is convinced that she isn’t dead. He’s right, of course.
Meanwhile, Hank Pym is going through tests because his Giant-Man powers were in a flux in the previous adventure. They seem to be okay now but Iron Man is concerned over Hank’s mental health. We’re also shown who is the mysterious figure who has been following the Avengers: Yellowjacket alias Hank Pym! The Avengers’ main computer also recognizes him as Hank. He’s shown in later issue just having fun (drinking and brawling which is very unHank like behavior) and plotting something but that isn’t resolved in this collection.
In the Thunderbolts 42, Simon attacks the ionic powered Thunderbolt Atlas. However, most of the issue deals with Dallas Riordan whose mystery has been confusing the Thunderbolts for quite a while. Unfortunately, this is pretty irrelevant to anyone not already familiar with the comic.
The rest of the collection reveals Madame Masque’s secrets and the Thunderbolts (minus Moonstone who is having her own issues in a subplot) and the Avengers (together with reservists She-Hulk, the Black Widow, and Cap) unite against Count Nefaria and his pawns Wonder Man and Atlas. The two teams part as grudging allies which isn’t a huge surprise.
Unfortunately, this collection feels disjointed with various unresolved subplots from two different comics and lot of back story from Iron Man. Starting with Avengers 32, Paul Vey’s style is taking over the art and George Perez left the book with Avengers 34. He’s a great artist and I’ll miss his style.