The current "Avengers" storyline is an exercise in frustration, and I'm not talking about the infamous slip-up in the first chapter on which character hid which Infinity Gem. But rather, that for every good moment, there's an equally bad one. If this comic was transformed into a chart, it would be all over the place, and then some. And that's a shame, because the highs really are high. If it just wasn't for those darn lows. . .
For instance, the fight between the Hood and the Red Hulk? It's actually interesting, and I like the idea of how the Red Hulk would be able to go up against someone wielding three of the Infinity Gems. Unfortunately, it's hard to concentrate too much on the scene because there's a lot of purple prose narration being spoken by the Watcher. It's one dialogue disaster after another from poor old Uatu, heading off the deep end on the first page: "But I know that if I ever act on your behalf again, my position will be taken from me, my power will be stripped from me, and I will never be able to look at the magnificence of the human race ever again." When the Watcher's talking about his "love and respect for you," something has gone desperately wrong.
Some parts of the plotting are also better than others. The entire scene involving the Mind Gem feels almost like a throwaway moment, to push the story toward a conclusion, rather than feeling emotionally satisfying. On the other hand, the hiding place of the Soul Gem is one of the more logical parts of this story to date, and the concept of the Gems pulling toward one another is a nice addition to their lore.
As for the art? Well, John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson try to test your patience on the opening page, with a portrait of Uatu the Watcher sporting a double chin and a vacant expression. Seriously, people are going to be talking about Uatu needing to join Weight Watchers for the next month. This issue in general is almost all splash pages, presumably to try and emphasize how powerful the fight between the Hood and the Avengers is, but Romita and Janson only hit the mark about half of the time. Red Hulk smashing the Hood in the face while trying to steal an Infinity Gem? Powerful and dramatic. The following assault after getting temporarily beaten back? It feels like a waste of half a page. For every image that has energy and interest, there are other ones that don't deserve a full splash. And while I understand that Romita is to some degree stuck with whatever the script says, I can't help but feel like he could have brought some more pep to those other pages.
With all but two pages being splashes, this comic feels like it ends before it's even getting started; in general this story has felt slightly rushed, but this issue even more than before. And as for the surprise final page? Well, let's hope that it's at least in part a trick; I'd hate to see the most recent storyline involving that character to be undone so casually. After a strong opening, the current "Avengers" storyline has been running out of steam, and this issue is no exception. I want to like this story, but each new chapter is a little less than the one before.