Cannonball Run Part 1: Hey, Bugface, Where are You? (U.S.Avengers #11 Comic Review)

It’s all “Pleasantville” in Glenbrook as Sam is sold into slavery and must come to terms with the prospect he will be trapped there forever. Meanwhile his teammates are mounting a rescue mission despite their own problems, in bickering and personal issues.

U.S.AVENGERS #11
Writer: Al Ewing
Artist: Paco Diaz
Cover Artist: David Nakayama
Colorist: Jesus Aburtov
Publisher: Marvel Comics

What You Need to Know:

The Secret Empire is over, and although Cannonball is MIA, considered dead after a Chitauri Dragon exploded near him while helping defend the space-bound heroes during the Planetary Defence Shield fiasco. Meanwhile back on Earth AIM has elected a new Supreme Leader and it isn’t Roberto DaCosta, General Robert Maverick is facing some serious health implications caused by continued overuse of his Red Hulk abilities, Toni Ho has given up her armour and can no longer fight as Iron Patriot and the whole team have to discover where they are destined to go when the dust settles. On top of which super guardian Smasher of the Shi’ar Imperium arrives to announce she has discovered Sam Guthrie is alive but seemingly stranded on a far distant planet. What none of them yet know is that he has been sold into slavery.

What You’ll Find Out:

Sam has finally shown up in Glenbrook, just your good old average American small town, with one tiny difference, it’s way out in the Andromeda Galaxy. Walking down the charming side-walk with his new guide Howard Mason assuring him he is being warmly welcomed into his new home, you’d be forgiven for thinking he’s stepped into Riverdale or Pleasantville. If not for the cuffs and power dampening collar it could almost be a nice respite from all the space battles and exploding Chitauri Dragons. But no after Mason has bought him at a slave auction it seems he is now a prisoner of this far off world. Expressing his discomfort and worry about his family on K’rii-Six and friends back on Earth, Sam at least gets his manacles and collar removed, but Mason still tries to convince Sam he’s in a better place and both Earth and the Shi’ar Empire are no places for him with their changeable cultures all moving about and mixing and that with Glenbrook you know where you stand and Sam could do worse than be an example to all those around him as a study case so they can all observe how he moves, walks and talks. Enter Ritchie Redwood, another seeming all American with an underlying menace that scares even Mason who immediately lets slip and refers to him as “your Majesty”. Redwood gives an undeniable low-level threat, warning him to get into character or face the same fate as Bugface Brown. Mason obliges and acts the part of the patriarchal adversary and the two act out for Sam’s benefit, who isn’t fooled.

Meanwhile back on a Shi’ar diplomatic vessel, Izzy and Berto are rocketing their way to his location on a rescue mission thanks to a medical implant that is monitoring his life signs and discussing the situation with the rest of the U.S.Avengers sat in the passenger lounge. While Squirrel Girl (ever the voice of reason) wonders about the use of personal space invasion tech, Smasher assures them all its as innocuous as a smartwatch. Things get decidedly political as General Maverick, the One Hour Red Hulk, sneers at the Shi’ar and how much help they were during the Planetary Defence shield incident and Smasher reminds them all that general Galactic rule of thumb for destroying Earth is to leave it to its own devices and simply watch it destroy itself. As if to prove her point Toni Ho and the General begin chastising each other. With Iron Patriot doubting Maverick can even be of any use on the mission due in part to his many health issues putting him at risk if he transforms again, coupled with the fact he was fired from duty, he in turn counters with her lack of weaponry and armor. The situation is further worsened when Enigma joins in the argument backing up the General. Toni assures them she can do her job without armor and also reminds them Sam is her friend, ALL of their friend in fact and they need to act. Just as the team seems to finally be in agreement the ship is forced out of warp, attacked and hailed by what must surely be tech of the highest order…only to be faced with Prohibition-era gangsters in flash cars brandishing Tommy guns. In the outer reaches of space.

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Back in Glenbrook seemingly in far more peril is Cannonball. As if facing the distinct fashion crisis of elbow patches wasn’t enough (come back flight goggles I say) and the prospect of being a geography teacher, Sam unsuccessfully probes Ritchie about his true whereabouts and only just gleans the prospect of his being there for the rest of his life when Masons daughter Vanessa arrives with friends, Becky, Biff and Gerry in tow and like father like daughter she slips out of character and has to be reminded by her friends that they aren’t meant to know who Sam is. Similarly, Gerry makes a nervous joke when Sam says he’s from Earth and things get decidedly uncomfortable. While Vanessa not only again slips out of character and annoys Ritchie some more she also comments on how they only know human behaviour through “old episodes” prompting Ritchie to inform her she can be replaced and join “subversives” like Bugface and impresses on everyone that they can study Sam in class as he will be there until he dies!! Sam balks at this and insists he’s had enough, he wants to see his family and ever the hot head, blasts off. Ritchie is surprised to see Sam has rocket legs and after complaining it ruins suspension of disbelief and admonishing the others for not telling him, tells Biff he can finally break character and go and retrieve him. It’s Sam’s turn to be shocked whilst making his escape as Biff appears in front of him mid-flight, looking for all the world like Mimic formed of Cyclops, Archangel, Colossus, and Nightcrawler in a trademark brimstone BAMF and exclaims he’s got carte blanche to really hurt him….things are beginning to look a lot more “familiarly” alien, though Sam is clearly confused.

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He’s not the only one. His best friend back on the Shi’ar rescue ship is similarly confused as the troupe face being boarded by shock troops using Mafioso lingo and tie and fedora wearing robots of Mr. Fixit proportions (no spats thankfully). Watching from the lounge Toni instructs Maverick to stay put and realizing she is talking to thin air, wonders if he’s gone for a comfort break as she looks up to see Big Red right in the thick of it. Enigma and Squirrel Girl quickly join the fray as Toni stays behind wondering if medical assistance will be needed soon. The battle is joined by Citizen V and Smasher who informs them all they don’t have the luxury of dealing with the Lavender Hill Mob as Sam’s stats show he’s now unconscious. (Biff seems to have held to his promise of really hurting Sam) When Rico of the raiding party realizes where our heroes are destined he reveals that he knows some info they might just need. Much as it’s against his better nature to snitch he says he’d be happy to let his new adversaries loose on the inhabitants of Glenbrook, which he declares he knows as Kral X.

Back on Glenbrook…sorry Kral X, Sam has awoken to find himself attached to a ball and chain and it isn’t Izzy. He discovers he isn’t alone in his cell and is startled by the voice of someone nearby who informs him that as there are no prisons in Glenbrook he is now a guest in the dungeon of the castle of the teen sorceress known as Sabine. The identity of the one who recounts this shocking piece of information? None other than the aforementioned Bugface Brown, wearing a crown in typical Jughead fashion and surrounded by other inmates, who startles Sam not because of who he is…but more what he is. A Skrull. Things are falling into place finally.

What Just Happened:

At the mention of the Andromeda galaxy from the outset it may have given it away to longtime fans and contemporary readers that the Skrulls would be playing a part in this adventure, so it wasn’t a great shock or even a stretch of the imagination to understand the quirky nature of the world these people were inhabiting. I’m not hating the Archie/Jughead/Sabrina the Teenage Witchery of it all as it pays homage to current TV lore. And as soon as we learned the Kral worlds were involved the Skrulls were maybe a given (the ten planets of the Kral system were set aside by Skrulls for amusement and as a resort centre for the idle rich) and it’s clear these Skrulls have been a bit behind the times in this part of the Andromeda galaxy. What with the mafia mob and the Archie-ness making this so quirky it’s a wonder they’ve lasted this long. I had slight skepticism that Sam was so long to act, as he has been in scenarios before where he is trapped alone at the mercy of others and although as usual, he doesn’t take it lying down, he does, however, seem to take the back foot for a rather long time. Given what I’ve seen of the hotheaded Kentucky boy before it was like waiting for him to pick up on the script and take his cue. When he does act though it isn’t a disappointment. His being taken out off-panel by a Super Skrull similar to those of the Secret Invasion X-Men miniseries seems a little hard to swallow given this man has, in younger years, taken on the likes of Gladiator…and won. However, this can be forgiven as it was a fun read and the back and forth between his plight and that of his would-be rescuers is well paced as well as the dialogue between the traveling heroes. Ewing definitely delivers on the interplay between allies on the Shi’ar front involving a little bit of snapping and a lot of co-operation when it counts as well as some deeper backstory work for which he is well known, never disappointing in his knowledge of the past and ability to bring it screaming into the twenty-first century. Similarly, the story is complimented greatly by Diaz and Arburtov who’s art and colors show off the story and make it pop in a way most suitable to not only the space portion of the battle but the heartwarming disarming nature of the Twilight Zone-esque community Sam initially finds himself stuck in. And an added bonus as per all Legacy titles we get a look back at the origin of the Avengers and their rogue’s gallery of villains and the final splash page of some of the finest Avengers to ever Assemble.

Rating: 7/10.

Final Thoughts: Whereas before this series has been focussed on the rest of the team during Secret Empire it’s finally coming to light what has befallen Cannonball in a story that is centered around him and the Cannonball Run is a welcome change of pace. It’s not only a shout out to current TV show Riverdale and the heady days of Archie and Jughead comics but also a tongue in cheek reference to Fantastic Four #91 involving Skrulls when Ben Grimm was sold into slavery on Kral IV, a planet where the inhabitants are obsessed with mob culture. Also the Star Trek episode “A Piece Of The Action” of the same era when the crew of the Starship Enterprise met up with a culture obsessed with prohibition era gangsters.

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