By: Kelly Sue DeConnick (story), Scott Hepburn & Gerardo Sandoval (art), Jordie Bellaire & Andy Troy (colors)

The Story: That awkward moment when you realize your foe has been spying on you all along.

The Review: You may recall in my review of Avengers: The Enemy Within #1 the thinly veiled irritation I had over DeConnick pointlessly continuing her Captain Marvel storyline in another title altogether.  For an issue that had Avengers in its name, it really had little to do with the Avengers, and for anyone who wasn’t somewhat intimate with the plot already, much of its significance would have been lost.  So yeah, I wasn’t particularly impressed by the issue.

I was even less so when I came in to buy my comics for the week and discovered, upon opening this latest installment of Captain Marvel, that I was reading the third chapter of the “Enemy Within” storyline, not the second.  When I flipped to Enemy Within #1 again, I was nonplussed to find on its final page an announcement that the storyline would continue in Avengers Assemble #16.*  My running thought was, Really?  Has the situation gotten so out of hand that it’s not an Avengers problem and not just a big Carol problem?

I’ve never read a single issue of Avengers Assemble, so I don’t know how its mission statement makes it different from the half-dozen other Avengers titles out there, but I wasn’t thrilled at DeConnick using them as one big distraction meeting another.  Unlike the Justice League, who became central characters in the similarly multi-series-spanning Throne of Atlantis, the Avengers are really just here so that Carol doesn’t have to handle, say, an entire Brood armada by herself.

Even with the addition of Earth’s mightiest heroes, this issue falls into the same formula as all the ones preceding it: Carol hating her weakness and hating herself for her weakness, another enemy-of-the-day drawn pointedly from her past, defeating said enemy with the help of an Avenger, and a lot of internal showboating (“Try to run from me…try hard.  I will never stop coming for you.”) and external witticisms (“[Rose has] knit 10 hats in two days, though, so, hey—Hulk need a head cozy?  Pretty sure we can hook you up.”) sprinkled throughout.

What’s also frustrating is waiting for everyone else to catch up to your level of knowledge in the story.  We’ve known that Yon-Rogg’s been behind this whole plot for a couple months now, so watching Carol and Co. flounder in trying to discern their enemy’s identity is a little anticlimactic, to say the least.  That’s the double-edged sword of dramatic irony; it’s fun to know a secret the characters don’t, but then it’s hard to muster up the same degree of enthusiasm once the truth comes out.

At any rate, this is an issue aimed largely to entertain, not to scintillate, and in this respect it mostly succeeds.  The enemies are literally disposable and even Yon-Rogg isn’t exactly the most compelling antagonist, given his typically megalomaniacal tendencies.  But at least they provide challenge enough to keep the Avengers occupied, slinging wisecracks as often as punches, even Thor: “It knows Mjolnir and I as threats…so it be more clever than a tin of pickled lutefisk.”

Hepburn’s work is always lively and often pretty (even when Carol’s carrying the absolute worst hairdo possible; it’s like she wants the worst parts of the 80s to come back), but like Filipe Andrade’s art, it’s occasionally a bit too cutesy for the story at hand.  There’s something about the pouty lips and anime-style happy eyes* that makes you not want to take this story seriously—which is kind of a mixed signal, considering Carol has a potentially fatal disease and the whole planet’s in danger.

Conclusion: While there are some poor choices made in structuring the story, the story itself is serviceable enough for a diverting read.

Grade: B-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * Yes, even I was amazed at my own ability to overlook a large, all-caps, bolded-red instruction—which probably means I won’t be doing surgery or running a nuclear reactor any time soon.  In my defense, however, I’ve gotten in the habit of ignoring all the junky text at the end of issues, since they’re almost always overblown teasers for the next issues.  Emphasis on “almost.”

* See ^_^.

– I do love Tracy turning on the charm when Carol claims that she’s most likely to piss Bruce Banner off.  “Mr. Banner, I’m sure Id on’t know what she means.  Would you like to sit?  Can I get you something to drink?  Pizza?”

Jess has the most appropriate response: “Oh, puh-lease.”