This book continues to focus on one specific Avenger per issue, and so far, it’s working out really well. After last issue’s insanely brilliant 20-page kung-fu fight with Shang-Chi, this time out it’s the turn of Starbrand as he gets some much needed character spotlight.
Starbrand is, as we last saw in #1, trapped in a creepy underground Italian town alongside Hawkeye, Spider-Woman and Nightmask. They wander around the deserted streets, before coming to the river, but what’s flowing through it isn’t exactly water, and they attacked by weird, inky monsters speaking in Norse runes. In the middle of the fight, Starbrand starts to hear more voices calling his name, and he leaves his teammates to follow them. This leads him to Kelly, a girl from his high-school, but wait, didn’t the White Event destroy his high-school? Yes it did, but somehow, she’s there. Starbrand follows her through a door, which leads to his High School. Kevin wanders these halls, seeing all of the people that were inadvertently killed, but just like before, they all ignore him, including his warnings that they are all about to die. The only person who hears him is Kelly, who then proceeds to berate him about how he killed everyone he knew, as the illusion changes to the charred bones that surrounded poor Kevin after he got his powers. Starbrand freaks out, and is attacked by his dead school-friends and dragged off to see whoever’s in charge.
Elsewhere, Captain America and Bruce Banner are still on the Heli-Carrier, attempting to sort out 5 different crises at once. Banner laments the fact that, even though there are now more Avengers than ever, they don’t have a magic specialist on hand to help work out what happened with Starbrand’s group. Luckily, Maria Hill has brought in a magical consultant, and it’s a character that both Jonathan Hickman and Stefano Caselli are very familiar with… yep, Sebastian Druid is back! I’m a big Secret Warriors fan, and think it’s a shame that a lot of those characters have dropped off the radar, so it’s great that Hickman has brought Sebastian back, if only for a cameo. As soon as Sebastian hears that the team disappeared in Velletri, Italy, he knows what’s up. Velletri is the sight of one of the Cities Of The Dead, and if it’s acting up, someone very powerful has taken control of the restless ghosts who live there. The same ghosts that are messing with Starbrand.
That powerful someone turns out to be none other than Morgan Le Fay, who reveals herself at the end of the issue to Starbrand. Morgan Le Fay was the villain of the first Avengers story I ever read (the first Busiek/Perez arc) so I’ve got a soft spot for here, it’s exciting to see what her plan is. This was another strong issue of this title, I do feel a bit like it’s too spread out, but the character focus is very good, particularly as that’s not a big strength of Hickman in general, and Starbrand really needed it. Plus, when he and Spencer do finally bring this thread together with AIM and Hydra, it should be amazing.
Caselli’s art was excellent as ever, as I mentioned, it was great to see him draw one of the Secret Warriors again, and whilst this wasn’t the action tour-de-force that #3 was, it was still a lovely looking comic.