While the characters in this title can only marginally lay claim to the "Avengers" brand, Dennis Hopeless and Kev Walker provide plenty of connections to integrate the cast of "Avengers Undercover" #4. This issue includes a visit from S.H.I.E.L.D., a meeting with Baron Zemo and a discussion with Daimon Hellstrom, cementing this disparate cast into the Marvel Universe as they try to find their way out of the evil island nation of Bagalia.
Hopeless has tightened up the cast of characters for this series and "Avengers Undercover" #4 narrows the spotlight tightly on Cammi. Hopeless does give the rest of the cast plenty of moments and lines of dialog to define their character, but Cammi is the point of view for the reader in this issue. Cammi is the one holding the group together and leading them through the chaos that fills the void following the murder of Arcade. Under Hopeless, "Avengers Arena" was a gripping enough read, but it was also a soul-breaking comic book. This series is more about the search for redemption or validation as the characters try to determine what path to take, or if any path is truly open to them.
A character with a complicated backstory of good and evil, service with the Thunderbolts and leader of the Masters of Evil, Baron Zemo is in a position to be either savior or condemner. Hopeless and Walker keep Zemo open to the young characters in his presence, gesturing frequently with beckoning motions. The duo even place food between Zemo and the children, effectively casting Zemo in the role of the serpent in the garden of Eden, even to the point of handing an apple -- the forbidden fruit -- to Hazmat, the slayer of Arcade. The visual metaphors underline the roiling struggles forcing these characters forward.
The visuals are what truly hit "Avengers Undercover" #4 for a home run. While Jason Gorder's inks give Walker's art a distinctively different texture, they also keenly accentuate the artwork, adding wear, tear and grit. Walker stills dictates the flow of the story and masterfully builds the panels and pages. He has crafted these characters as his own and it shines through on every page. Many artists would be severely challenged to make Hazmat, Nico, Cammi and Death Locket unique, one from the other, but Walker does so with apparently little effort. Taking it all one step further, Walker even gives Cammi and her mother similar features, from eye shape to nose contours. He also cooperates nicely with colorist Jean-Francois Beaulieu and letter artist Joe Caramagna. During that scene between Cammi and her mother, as a matter of fact, there are fifteen page-width panels at the center of the book highlighting the collaboration between Walker, Beaulieu and Caramagna. That collaboration is further emphasized when Zemo makes his offer as the book tumbles into reds and oranges, the hues of hellfire, lighting up the devil himself.
Hopeless plays Zemo as a masterful propagandist and truly leaves readers shouting at "Avengers Undercover" #4's final page. Although the cast is small and populated by characters I could care less about, Hopeless scripts in enough humanity to bring me back for the next issue.