Collects Avengers vol. 3 #36–40, 56, Avengers: Ultron Imperative, and Annual 2001

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Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artists: Steve Epting, Al Vey, Alan Davis, Mark Farmer, Yanick Paguette, Ray Snyder, Ivan Reis, Scott Hanna

Issues 36 and 37 have a two issue story where our heroes deal with two threats.
“No Rest for the Weary” starts with Iron Man, Ms. Marvel, and the Vision dealing with the aftermath of Maximum Security, in other words, a high powered alien who is still loose on the Earth. Hank is testing Wonder Man but he can’t find a way to protect Simon from being taken over by Neferia again. Wanda doesn’t like the way that Hank is all cold and scientific about it, and then Jan talks to Hank about the same thing; about how withdrawn Hank has been lately. Also the Triathlon/Triune Understanding subplots are developed. 3-D Man’s wife comes to the Mansion and accuses the Triune of doing something horrible to her husband because Triathlon has the 3-D Man’s powers and uses his symbol. However, Triathlon hasn’t heard about that hero but promises to look into it.

Then both Pagan and Lord Templar attack. Apparently, Lord Templar has turned Pagan into his disciple and is convinced that the Avengers are all that stand on the way of Lord Templar’s plan to bring peace on Earth. Guest stars Photon and Jack of Hearts join the fray. Then Cap calls and says that he needs help in Slorenia. And Yellowjacket Hank kidnaps Giant-Man Hank!

In “Scorched Earth” Cap, Wanda, Simon, Monica, and Tony are trying to figure out to a way to battle the Bloodwraith who is connected to all the dead souls in Slorenia whom Ultron killed in earlier issues. Bloodwraith is in unidentified energy form and he intends to punish the whole world for their deaths. Meanwhile, in New York Pagan and Lord Templar are tearing the Mansion apart while the Wasp, the Vision, Triathlon, Ms. Marvel, and Jack of Hearts are battling them. Giant-Man joins the fight and his mood has improved a lot – of course, because he’s an impostor!

I enjoyed the divided team but there’s so much going on that the latter issue is starting to feel crowded. However, both of the threats are old Avengers business coming to bite them again. Not surprisingly, Cap feels frustrated about the situation in the end.

In “Above and Beyond” the Avengers expand their teams and the way they’ve operated so far. For starters, Cap and the Wasp are now co-leaders. Instead of responding to threats, which they also do of course, they send a team (the Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, Triathlon, Ms. Marvel, and Wonder Man) after the Taskmaster’s training groups. They also have an early warning platform in space which is manned by Quasar and the Living Lighting with Photon popping in every now and then. The Black Knight and Firebird are in Slorenia looking into Bloodwraith’s situation. Carol and Vision go finally on a date. And then the government liaison contacts the Avengers: a horde of Hulks is decimating a small Greek village.

Oh, and Wanda gets a new costume. It’s much more practical than the flowing skirts.

In “Condition: Green” and “Thoom!” the main Avengers team (Cap, Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch, the Wasp, Giant-Man, the Vision, Iron Man, and Ms. Marvel) battle the many Hulks in Greece. Dr. Banner also shows up to help. Meanwhile, the villain responsible for the Hulks, the Wizard, is skulking around near the Avengers’ Mansion and Silverclaw confronts him. Later, Wonder Man and Triathlon help her.

This was just cheesy fun and I really enjoyed these two issues! Silverclaw gets to really shine with her shape shifting abilities against the Wizard and she has a lot of courage to take on such a long-time villain. On the other hand, I didn’t really care for the way that the (fake!) Hank took over leading the Avengers by not telling his plans to the Wasp before executing them. The Wasp is supposed to be the team leader, after all. She was curiously hesitant around him and unfortunately it also felt weird, or should I say dumb, that she didn’t suspect that Hank had been replaced or mind controlled or from another universe or something.

Issue 56 “Lo, there shall be an… accounting” might be worth a few giggles but it’s otherwise quite forgettable. A couple of accountants from the Maria Stark Foundation are quizzing various Avengers about a case they had because the accountants have to know if all the destruction (and so the use of money) was necessary. One of the accountants is new and apparently would prefer for the Avengers to retire and let Kang or Thanos or somebody to rule the world instead. The other one is more experienced, though. Thor, She-Hulk, the Beast, USAgnet, Cap, and Jack of Hearts tell their own sides of the case.

Annual 2001 solves the two Hank Pyms plot line. Yellowjacket-Hank collapses and is turning translucent. The Avengers’ regular doctor, Dr. Foster, can’t do anything about it. Hank tells Jan about the other Hank who is being kept as a prisoner in The Horner Hideaway, right on the Avengers’ front yard. Triathlon suggests that Hank has been split into two (instead of being a doppelganger or alternate universe double or… Good guess!) and that the Triune Understanding’s Tremont can heal them into one man again. Janet is out of options and so she asks Tremont for help. He agrees. We get to see the two Hanks talking through their issues in some sort of mental space.

Meanwhile Photon and Triathlon bond. Triathlon still feels out of place because he’s the new guy while the others are old friends and Photon, who has been the new member once, too, tells him that in time he will fit in just fine. They also talk about being black in a white man’s world.

Photon also finds out that Justice and Firestar aren’t on vacation but undercover at Understanding. They’ve found out that the Understanding is waiting for some great evil to come from space and they are building a spaceship which will either work on brain energy or kill everyone. They are concerned.

The Hank plot line is solved here with three Hanks merging into one. Hopefully, Hank’s behavior will be less erratic in the future.

The annual also had short story “House Cleaning” where Jarvis answers queries from the government (actually from the readers, presumably). The three Tony Starks plot line, which emerged right before Onslaught is explained; apparently, the Tony who killed three women doesn’t really exist anymore even though the current Tony has some memories of the time. Also, Janet turning into a giant insect right before Onslaught but returning as regular Janet was explained; Franklin Richards recreated the heroes from his memories which “fixed” Janet – and Clint’s hearing problems, too.

(Yep, a bit a of cop out for Marvel dropping plots without any awkward consequences.)

The Annual tied up the Hank plot line and I really enjoyed the many Hulks story (in fact, I’ve used it in a table-top role playing game and we had a blast). However, I was less thrilled with the way that Janet, the presumed team leader was sidelined.

The collection is a continuation of previous story line and not a good place to start for new readers.

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