The threat of Ex Nihilo’s plan to make the Earth sentient has been foiled and the powerful Starbrand and Nightmask have been dealt with for the time being, so it’s up to the Avengers to address each rogue pod that made it to the planet’s surface. In the last issue of ‘Avengers’, the one that landed in Canada wiped out Department H’s Omega Flight leaving only Validator to relay a message to the team. After some really trippy things happened in that dome, the heroes emerged quite shaken and they didn’t exactly get the results that they had anticipated.

In the new issue, another team is on a mission to find out more about another pod, which was located by A.I.M., who is throwing a little underworld shindig to open bidding on their latest bioweapon. Black Widow, Spider-Woman, Captain Marvel, Shang-Chi, Sunspot, and Cannonball are on the case to infiltrate the gathering and discover what the mad scientists are up to.

This issue was like Jonathan Hickman’s answer to ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ or ‘21’, except I enjoyed this far more. The team goes in undercover at this casino in Macau and they split up with their own separate missions. Complete with debriefing flashbacks, the whole issue reads like a really awesome ensemble heist film.

I could go into excruciating detail about all the little things that I liked about this book, but I think that it’ll suffice to say that I enjoyed everything. From Black Widow’s alternative plan to Shang-Chi’s idea of keeping a low profile to Sunspot and Cannonball’s idea of taking out henchmen. Each of the character’s journeys were separately filled with interesting and engaging bits, and then all the pieces came together at the end flawlessly with a fun wrap up. And all this collected nicely by the very awesome cover by Dustin Weaver and Justin Ponsor. Part of me wishes that the team’s costumes were like that all the time.

Each turn of the page brought an exciting new development. Sometimes when a writer is juggling so many storylines at once, one might lose it’s steam while the others excel, but Hickman managed to refrain from missteps in that department. Similar to what he’s doing with the ‘Avengers’ title as a whole, this issue is a great example of how this writer’s balancing act is something that he’s mastered.

Even if you have no idea what’s going on in this series so far, this book acts like a completely isolated story. It definitely contributes to the overarching story, but if you didn’t know any better, this could have been just a fun one shot featuring Shang-Chi and his teammates being badasses. This is definitely an issue that I’ll be recommending to all my friends whether they’re keeping up with Hickman’s ‘Avengers’ or not, however, I’ll be sure to remind them that they really should be.

Final Score: