Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artists: George Perez, Dick Giordand, Al Vey, Stuart Immonen

Collects Avengers vol. 3 issues 23-30
Publisher: Marvel
Publication date: 2004

”Showdown”, issue 23, starts the collection with an emotional showdown between Simon and Vision. While the other Avengers are thinking about their reactions to the public and press who are demanding more non-white Avengers and kicking mutants out, Simon and Vision have a brief fight and then talk about their issues. Simon reveals how he’s always been, and still is, insecure and waiting to be punished for all the bad things he’s done in his life. How everything he touches seems to break. And Vision feels like a fake compared to Simon, who is the original. The Vision feels that he has nothing of his own. He leaves. This was a very emotional issue and brought to foreground a lot of things that have been plaguing the characters before.

In ”Harsh Judgments”, the racial issue is still being hotly debated and Vance gets his leg out of the cast. Quicksilver drops in for a visit and promptly finds out that many of the protesters are members of Triune Understanding. The everyone’s surprise, Avengers’ government liaison Freeman reveals that he’s also a member. Just then an alarm sounds and stone city floats above New York. It turns out the be the residence of the Exemplars, each of whom embody a ”god” and wants to tear up the Earth fighting each other. Juggernaut is one of them but he resisted his god and is now hunted down by the other Exemplars. He asks the Avengers for help but before they can act, he’s whisked away.

Vance also gets a new costume. I’m not wild about it. In fact I preferred his earlier costume. For some reason, he just seems hard to clothe. 🙂 Wanda and Pietro are on very cool terms because Pietro is one of Magneto’s ministers and Wanda doesn’t like that.

Dick Giorgano and Al Vey are the inkers in this issue and it changes Perez’s style somewhat.

In ”the Ninth Day” the Exemplars are torturing Juggernaut while the Avenges are looking for a way to get past the flying fortress’ defenses. Meanwhile, Wanda and Pietro talk things through, Cap realizes that he’s suspicious of Freeman because of the Triune connection, and several reserve Avengers arrive to help. When the Avengers finally breach the stone fortress’ defenses the regular members have help: Wonder Man, Gian-Man, the Wasp, Hercules, Quicksilver, Nova, and Spider-Man. The Exemplars are still hugely powerful so they can’t be defeated through physical combat. In the end, they flee and the press counts this as another failure. Cap quits the team saying that they need someone more press savvy to lead them.

The people outside Avengers’ gates are quick to criticize that the Avengers aren’t protecting them well enough. You know, all those white males and mutants, whom the crowd wants out of the group.

Issue 26 is an interlude with Stuart Immonen and Wade von Grawbadger as artists. In “…Under Cover of Night” Captain America recruits Silverclaw, Warbird, and Ant Man (Scott Lang) to investigate the Triune Understanding. Cap says to the trio that the Triune has launched a smear campaign against the Avengers and he wants to get to the bottom of it. Captain Marvel (Genis-Vell) volunteers for the mission and Cap agrees. However, Marvel notices that something strange is going on but his sidekick Rick Jones persuades him to keep quiet about it. Also, Silverclaw has problems with breaking into the Triune building and ends up realizing the Cap isn’t Cap after all but the Taskmaster. Even though the team does well in the fight, they end up again looking humiliated and incompetent in front of the press.

We get to see Triune’s founder Tremont’s secrets who is apparently not human and also gets power from belief, conforming that he is, indeed, a villain. It appears that he’s not literally the new villain Lord Templar but can borrow his power. He’s also behind the smear campaign, just like Avengers thought he was. However, Triathlon has some reservations of his own about his boss but keeps them to himself.

The issue starts with Carol taking responsibility for her previous drunken behavior. I loved that scene. I love Carol and I love Immonen’s art so this was a treat for me. This issue also revealed Tremont’s secrets and believe me, when I first read these stories just one issue a month, the Triune mystery had been going on for over a year so it was great to finally see just what is going on. However, I was a bit disappointed with how easily a former spy like Carol was duped.

Issue 27 was a Monster size magazine and also the next lineup shake up issue. Vance, Angel, and Simon leave the team and Thor leaves in a huff after Freeman says that Thor should apologize to the press for throwing his hammer at them. The Wasp and Goliath (Hank Pym in a new identity) return. Cap has resigned but is still at the Mansion, helping to gather the next lineup. Freeman defends his faith against Avengers’ suspicions and after looking through their reserve members for any non-white people, Wasp admits that the protestators might have a point.

Carol returns. In fact, she’s had to agree to rejoin Avengers in order to duck jail time (Side note: why isn’t every super powered person in the MU taking this deal????). Iron Man is increasingly suspicions of Freeman and everything he does. Tremont and Triathlon arrive to the Mansion – just in time for Triathlon to beat up a gang of anti-mutant terrorists who were going to use their super weapons on the Mansion. Tremont and Cap shake hands in front of the cameras, and Tremont says that any misunderstanding has been forgiven.

And once again, the security liaison forces the Avengers to have a new black member, Triathlon in this case. Triathlon himself isn’t thrilled about the reason he’s accepted into the team but agrees so that he can show the Avengers that the Triunes are the good guys. Poor guy. The last open membership slot goes to the She-Hulk so for once, there are four women and three men in the team (Wasp, Scarlet Witch, She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel, Goliath, Iron Man, and Triathlon). The team leader is Wasp.

Even though Freeman had been portrayed as pretty easygoing and even a fan of Avengers, this time he puts his foot down and acts quite a lot as Gyrich. The issue has mostly set up for things to come.

The original issue had also reprints of four other Avengers issues: 150, 151, Annual 19, and 101.

The next three issues (28-30) feature the return of Kulan Gath. I must admit that I loved the X-Men issues with him where he turned Manhattan into a pseudo Medieval world and the combined X-Men and Avengers teams battled him there. To my frustration, my Avengers subscription ended with issue 29 so I don’t have issue 30.

Issue 28, The Death-Song of Kulan Gath part 1, starts with Kulan himself enjoying the attentions of his slaves in a lavish palace, in a South African jungle. Meanwhile, the Avengers are doing publicity stunts to improve their image. Triathlon is making jokes about being the only black man in the team. Then Silverclaw brings the news that she has been called back to her home village in Costa Verde because of an ancient prophecy about great evil coming from the past. The Avengers agree to help her. On the way, we are treated to Silverclaw’s origin story. Her mother is the volcano goddess Peliali who is thought to be mythological.

When the Avengers get there, they see a great city in the jungle and hawkriders attack them. While Iron Man and Warbird hold them off, the others land the Quinjet into the jungle. It turns out that there is a strong magical field around the city which transforms anyone going into the city. The Wasp is disturbed when Hank turns into the Yellowjacket, his most unstable persona. Kulan Gath sends a vision to them telling them to stay away. Iron Man tries to make peace with Triathlon but he won’t have it. Then, Silverclaw sees a nightmare where Kulan Gath in attempting to imprison Peliali.

In parts two and three, the Avengers investigate the city and fight Kulan Gath himself. Ms. Marvel also confronts Triathlon over the way he’s been behaving and Silverclaw has some serious mother issues. Also, a mysterious person is following the team.

The stories in this collection aren’t as epic as in the previous collection. Most of the time the Avengers deal with continuing story lines such as the demand for non-white members and the mystery with the Triune Understanding. In that respect, this isn’t as good a collection of stories as the previous collection.