It's taken a while to find its voice, but the last issue of "Uncanny Avengers" finally started to feel like the book it was supposed to be from the start. It's a bit of a shame, then, that "Uncanny Avengers" #6 by Rick Remender and Daniel Acuna is more of a step sideways than a step forward.
Given that issue #5's cliffhanger ending was so genuinely shocking, it's hard not to be disappointed that this issue doesn't directly follow it up. Instead, readers are treated to a flashback story in which the bulk of the team doesn't appear, focusing on a meeting between Apocalypse and Thor in their early years, with a probable Wolverine ancestor thrown in for good measure and Kang as an antagonist.
It's a good story, which plays well off the combination of all things X-Men and Avengers. The early career of Apocalypse is an interesting place to mine material (he's still working for the Celestials at this point) and it makes a change to see Kang's manipulations going at least partly to plan.
The downside, of course, is that it's all setup with no pay off. At this point, it's too early to say how this relates to the current ongoing thread of "Uncanny Avengers." Maybe it's going to interweave a story of the past and present; maybe it's just being used to set up a relationship between Apocalypse and Thor -- but it's a good story that keeps the issue's central idea at its heart, even if the main characters are nowhere to be seen. The issue is the most like "Uncanny X-Force" Remender's writing has been since "Uncanny Avengers" began, and that can't be a bad thing. Even the omniscient captions work, with Remender having found the right point between exposition and Claremontian flamboyance.
Acuna's art, for its part in the issue, is probably the best thing to happen to the series so far. The aesthetic is markedly different from Cassaday, but far more continuous with Remender's writing. It no longer feels as though the art is at cross purposes with the narrative, as it did when the former penciller's polished, realistic style was asked to depict Remender's weirder ideas. Acuna's almost ethereal visuals can handle whatever Remender throws at them without breaking stride.
Personally, when the series was announced, I was expecting something much more along the lines of issue #5 (which felt like a classic team book) but "Uncanny Avengers" #6 is perhaps a better example of what the series should be like: unusual yet engaging, bold but not unwieldy. It doesn't tick all the boxes, but a few more issues like this and the series could still regain the momentum it managed to lose over its first arc. If you jumped off any time in the last few months, it's worth coming back for a re-appraisal.