When we’re talking about the latest incarnations of “Avengers,” that’s when. After “All-New, All-Different Avengers vol. 2: Family Business” I’m starting to think that having Mark Waid split the team into two groups, with the younger members forming the “Champions” and the older ones going on to form their own Avengers team, may not be such a bad idea as far as soft resets go. While the art from Adam Kubert and Mahmud Asrar (with Alan Davis pitching in on a short featuring the new Wasp) is as slick as you’d expect, the storytelling is still disappointingly conventional. In vol. 2 we get a “Standoff” tie-in as the team heads over to Pleasant Hill and locks horns with the Unity team and a trip out into space as they attempt to find Sam “Nova” Alexander’s dad and wind up in an alien gulag. These stories play out pretty much as you’d expect with no real surprises in the plot. The “Standoff” tie-in is particularly disappointing since the writer doesn’t seem to be on the same page as crossover mastermind Nick Spencer regarding the human Cosmic Cube/plot device Kobik and her personality. Still, there are some nice moments amidst all the familiarity: Vision surprising Kamala “Ms. Marvel” Khan with a VR Avengers experience, using Deadpool’s memories to save the team, the nega-band-switching frenzy at the climax of the second story, and having the new Wasp team up with the old one was pretty neat. These things help raise the title to the level of “not bad” but you expect better from a title that bills itself as “All-New, All-Different.” And from Waid.
Meanwhile, over in “New Avengers: A.I.M. vol. 2 -- Standoff,” writer Al Ewing has that title’s “Standoff’ tie-in arc feature a gamma-powered giant monster known as American Kaiju -- as strong as it is patriotic -- face off against A.I.M.’s giant robot Avenger Five. Even without considering the tricky plotting that has A.I.M. head Roberto DaCosta declaring war on an untrustworthy S.H.I.E.L.D., Rick Jones trying to see if he can trust an A.I.M.-backed Avengers team, and two former Thunderbolts whose loyalties can be described as “rock-solid” and “shifty,” it’s clearly the better of the two. More importantly, writer Al Ewing also manages the always-impressive trick of using a crossover tie-in arc to further the title’s main story. This arc is preceded by a one-off focusing on the White Tiger and her Hand-resurrected predecessor, with the Maker (A.K.A. Ultimate Reed Richards) pulling the strings. It’s kind of a downer that exists mainly to set up future stories, but the final issue sends things out on a high note as Wiccan, Hulkling, Suirrel Girl, Songbird, and Hawkeye take on the Plunderer while most of them go on to form their own team and one is revealed as a triple agent. All of the fun, quirky action in this issue is grounded in the characters’ actions and it winds up being a very entertaining issue as a result. Though the three artists who contributed to this volume -- Marcus To, Gerardo Sandoval, and J. Cassara -- aren’t on the same level as Kubert or Asrar, the stronger writing and sheer inventiveness displayed by Ewing here makes this the “Avengers” book you should be reading.