SPOILER WARNING: This story contains major spoilers for "Avengers: Standoff: Assault on Pleasant Hill Alpha" #1, on sale now.
While the second installment of Marvel Comics' latest multi-title crossover event answered a few questions, it asked even more.
"Avengers: Standoff: Assault on Pleasant Hill Alpha" #1, by Nick Spencer and Jesus Saiz, picks up threads from Spencer's "Sam Wilson: Captain America," ties them together with recent developments in other Marvel series, and starts bringing the picture that will become "Civil War II" into focus.
The issue's first big revelation is the return of Rick Jones. Having recently been "cured" of his Gamma-irradiated lifestyle as A-Bomb, the man responsible for the Avengers' initial formation is revealed to be Whisperer, an Edward Snowden by-way-of DC Comics' Oracle character at the center of Spencer's "Sam Wilson" storylines. He has figured out that Mariah Hill is using shards of a shattered Cosmic Cube for an off-the-books S.H.I.E.L.D. prison filled with body- and mind-changed bad guys.
As for the Cube pieces, at some point, they gained sentience and took on the form of a human girl -- the one we saw on the cover to "Avengers Standoff: Welcome to Pleasant Hill" #1, as a matter of fact. Named Kobik, she's young, friendly and incredibly powerful, not only brainwashing the villainous residents of Pleasant Hill, but providing them with new, different-looking bodies.
And Kobik not only powers Hill's prison, she's also teased as the answer to the question of how Steve Rogers will find himself de-aged this summer. While manipulating the star of Rogers' uniform, Kobik creates an orb of power that appears to find a home inside the former-Captain America's chest. Nothing happens after that, though her nature is described as being able to find the good and pure part of a person, and manifesting that in a physical fashion.
Through all of this, Pleasant Hill's residents are slowly being drafted and awakened by Baron Zemo, who was himself captured and incarcerated in the previous chapter. The final pages find the villain crashing Hill and Rogers' party, with over a dozen supervillains standing at his side -- including several characters from the upcoming "Thunderbolts" series.