This is an ambitious story, and one that I was quite excited about when I saw it solicited. Except then I realized that perhaps the solicits spoiled the story just a little too much. After all, traveling through time and/or dimensions is fun, especially when you meet that much-loved, or just slightly different enough to really hate, version of that hero or villain that you almost kind of like.
Hmm. I think I just time-travelled that last sentence.
My point is this: in a story that involves time travel, one of the benefits is including characters that are idealized, truly hated, or even beloved without reverting the characters to that point and undoing all of the work numerous creators have poured into the development of said characters. For example, in this issue, we get to see the Avengers just as the turmoil was settling in to rock the team to its very foundation. Hank Pym had served his jail time, and the Wasp is leading an Avengers team that counts Captain America, Thor, Hawkeye, She-Hulk, Captain (Monica Rambeau) Marvel, and Starfox among their number. Tony Stark is a seemingly hopeless alcoholic.
That's just the first half of this issue. That story is written by Christos N. Gage. Gage writes the Avengers I want to read, and he does it in a manner that feels like the Avengers I used to read, back when the roster was similar to the one depicted here. I found that tale, and the timeless art by Lee Weeks (with equally timeless Tom Palmer handling the Avengers inking duties as only he can) to be quite refreshing.
The second half of the story seemed a little less refreshing, but nonetheless gave us a chance to read a team-up between Iron Man and Captain Britain. Honestly, I'm not sure I would ever request a pairing of the two, but this story by Rob Williams pits the arrogant and obsessed-with-fixing-the-future Tony Stark against the waffling and strong-armed indecisiveness of Captain Britain. It's an interesting story, but a bit of a downer. Iron Man assures Captain Britain things will get better, but I almost don't believe him as the tale paints Britain (the country and the man) to be besieged with gloom.
Ben Oliver's art in this second tale is beautiful, smooth, and clean. It is quite a departure from the work of Lee Weeks in the first half, but it serves the purpose and the story quite nicely. The difference in art, however, makes this book feel less like one single issue and more like two issues jammed together under one cover. It's quite possibly the way this series may have started out. Both stories bring twenty-two pages to the issue, and the issue is priced accordingly. The upside, however, is that this reads like the double-length issue that it is. Before you commit the coin to this issue, however, ask yourself, would you rather have more expensive, double-stuffed issues that give you the complete story in a shorter amount of time or longer, more drawn out series?
This story - this series - is part "Marvel Team-Up," part "Avengers Forever" and every bit the entertaining type of tale you deserve to find in your summer comics. Of course, if the price point drives you away, or the story itself seems a little too conveniently measured out for you to not wait for the trade, well then it'll still be a great story that you deserve in your whatever-time-of-the-year reading.