SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for "Avengers Standoff: Welcome to Pleasant Hill" #1, on sale now.
Well, we didn't see that twist coming!
The "Avengers Standoff: Assault on Pleasant Hill" event kicked off this week with Nick Spencer and Mark Bagley's "Avengers Standoff: Welcome to Pleasant Hill" #1, and while Marvel had been teasing the story's major implications for its publishing line, the company had kept details as to what it was about rather quiet.
After an intro focusing on Bucky "Winter Soldier" Barnes discovering something rotten at the core of S.H.I.E.L.D., the issue cuts to a young amnesiac waking up on the outskirts of Pleasant Hill. the town appears to be an idyllic middle-America locale, but we quickly learn it has more than its fair share of secrets. There are no pets to be found, everyone has an unnatural fascination with being "happy," the psychiatrist -- Dr. Bruce -- struggles with anger issues (hmm...) and, perhaps the oddest thing of all, the town's mayor is S.H.I.E.L.D. director Maria Hill.
All along, we're led to believe the amnesiac is somehow Bucky, but the final page reveals that's not the case, when, after meeting with what appears the be Tony Stark, we learn the main character is Baron Zemo, Stark is the Fixer, and Pleasant Hill is an advanced, hallucination-inducing prison for super villains.
Fixer and the Winter Soldier are all part of the upcoming "Thunderbolts" series, which is known to launch following the events of "Standoff." Historically, Zemo has been a major part of "Thunderbolts" lore, as the driving force behind the original team. (As an added touch, Bagley was the artist on the initial "Thunderbolts" run in the late '90s.)
But perhaps even more interesting is the possibility that this may be where Bruce Banner disappeared to after the events readers saw in flashback via the first issue of "Totally Awesome Hulk." After all, a quiet, small town atmosphere with no crime, barking dogs or noisy kids is a pretty good place to ensure Banner doesn't Hulk out any more.