Scurrilous Skrulls and Fractured Fraternities (U.S. Avengers #12 Comic Review)

The final part of the Cannonball Run finds the team on Kral X stuck between two warring factions of Skrulls and with Sam held captive his rescuers aren’t faring much better. In the lead up to Avengers: No Surrender with Red Hulks health in a questionable state and Toni Ho no longer in  her Iron Patriot armour will everyone make it out alive? When the dust settles who will be left standing to pick up the pieces?

U.S.AVENGERS #12
Writer: Al Ewing
Artist: Paco Diaz
Colorist: Jesus Aburtov
Publisher: Marvel Comics

What You Need to Know:
Sam Guthrie AKA Cannonball is discovered to be alive and well by his partner Izzy Kane (the human member of the Shi’ar Imperial Guard, Smasher) and she has enlisted the help of Roberto Da Costa and the rest of the U.S. Avengers in the task of saving him from the clutches of an unknown enemy on the far distant planet, Kral X. As they head off to the rescue and encounter a gang of space-faring mobsters Sam has himself found himself the slave of Ritchie Redwood who, it has just been discovered, is not only the leader of a group of Skrulls but also a huge fan of the Glenbrook TV show. So much so he has patterned the whole planet and its inhabitants on the dated show and imprisoned anyone who opposes him, which amounts to a small group of Skrulls led by his enemy Bugface Brown.

What You’ll Find Out:
It’s the final installment of the Cannonball Run AND the final issue of the series before the Avengers: No Surrender Event and Sam is being educated on the background and history of his captor. It seems Bugface and Ritchie Redwood are brothers, sons of the leader of Kral X, Don Scarpone. The planet was set aside for the study of Earth culture, specifically that of gangster movies and inhabited by those who didn’t fit into the grander scheme of the Skrull Empire. After discovering a fifty year old signal broadcasting the Ritchie Redwood Show the elder brother used two Power Skrulls from the failed Secret Invasion and assigned to Kral X to help him overthrow his father and exiled him and persuaded Bugface to help him rebuild the planet in his newfound image making Redwoodism the natural state for all inhabitants, but it all went wrong. Sam surveying his condition is forced to agree.

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Meanwhile, Ritchie is in the midst of an argument with some of his followers, who think it might have been a good idea to check Sam for Shi’ar tech in case of tracking devices and Ritchie is none too pleased to be hearing people break character again. His displeasure is soon interrupted and compounded with the arrival of Sam’s allies in the shape of his partner Smasher and the U.S. Avengers on a Shi’ar craft. Somehow “I told you so” doesn’t cover it as he sends for his Power Skrulls and Sam’s rescuers rally to the cause.

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From above their heads, Red Hulk leaps into action sure he has at least twenty minutes of Hulk Time left, much to his teammate’s concern who can do little but watch in shock as he reverts to human form apparently the victim of a heart attack. Mimicking Mavericks recklessness Roberto leaps from the airlock to save him after probing Toni as to the extent of his powers due to the headband he has been fitted with, musing now wouldn’t be a good time to find out he can’t fly.

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Speaking of falls, Bugface is recounting to Sam the dissolution of the fraternal bond between himself and Ritchie, caused by his discovery of an updated broadcast thirty years more advanced than Ritchie’s canceled show. His stories of new characters and love interests, as well as that of one of the characters coming out, fills him with ideas of updating the format at home and the possibility of new plots but Ritchie isn’t so keen. Sam thinks he can see where things went wrong and says this must have been where Ritchie snapped but Bugface insists he tried. His other friends aren’t so convinced and point out Ritchie only seemed to go along with the ideas, whereupon Bugface confesses his own idea of re-imagining himself closer to his real heritage and suggesting, he recast himself as an alien from the future was the final straw and Ritchie promptly imprisoned any troublemakers, without food or water. Bugface intimates that there used to be more of them in the prison, leaving us to decide for ourselves what happened to the rest. Sam has had enough and battered and bruised as he appears, he’s far from beaten and decides it’s time to leave. The others ask how this is possible, reminding him they are just a bunch of teenagers and Sam reveals as a student of Ororo Munroe he was taught to pick locks and removes his chains and prepares to make a hasty exit, Cannonball style.

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General Maverick comes round to find himself being carried safely to the ground by Citizen V, who seems about to tell him he should retire when he is interrupted by the arrival of Ritchie, Biff Bison and Mr. Waspwind, both Power Skrulls exhibiting the appearance of various X-Men. Roberto is unimpressed and attacks prompting some corny retort from Waspwind who launches a Gambit style report card at him. Just in time, the battle is joined by Smasher, Squirrel-Girl, Enigma and Toni Ho, sporting a flying rig and a force field generator which she uses to full effect. The fight is short and sweet as Ritchie realizes his two Power Skrulls are not enough and his other allies are unable to help. It seems he’s spent so long getting them to commit to the part his downfall has come from them finally accepting the state. Cannonball and crew arrive to deal the final blow to his reign and Ritchie screams that none of them belong. Bugface points out that this breaks character as its something Ritchie Redwood simply wouldn’t say and Ritchie is crestfallen. Soon enough the Shi’ar arrive to take him and the Power Skrulls into custody and Sam interrupts Smashers welcome kiss long enough to ask Roberto what’s going on with the team. Da Costa reveals he is broke, an enemy of the Government and Toni Ho is in control of A.I.M. Cannonball has doubts that things could get worse and Roberto reassures him things are far from over, but we flash forward to the not too distant future to find he couldn’t be more wrong. At an observation station, Toni is calling for all hands to help as her crew is either badly beaten or unconscious at the hands of an unseen, unknown assailant. We will have to wait until Avengers #675 and their inclusion into the Legacy format to see what happens and how we got here.

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What Just Happened:
The use of song titles to introduce each player in the drama is an interesting one, especially Cannonball (Rocket Man-Elton John…inspired) and Red Hulk (America: What Time Is Love-KLF…though I don’t know what was wrong with the original, I’m a purist I suppose) Al Ewing clearly has great and varied musical taste. Loved the nod to Sam’s origins here as well, having him reveal he actually learned something under the watchful eye of Storm, a very nice touch. Interesting to see that Red Hulk is facing some consequences of overuse of his powers and it could be reflected he is overcompensating due to being the oldest member by far on the team. Similarly, it was good to see Toni make herself battle ready despite not wearing her armor and put some tech to good (and amusing) use. Any excuse to see Da Costa go full on Sunspot is always a pleasure as well. Although Squirrel-Girl taking out Biff with just one well-placed kick is a little disconcerting considering this same Power Skrull dealt with Cannonball in short order last issue. Those keeping score may now think it’s safe to assume she can go to go toe-to-toe against Gladiator. Speaking of which I feel that not enough was done with the Power Skrulls, there were some great visuals by Paco Diaz backed up admirably by Jesus Aburtovs colors, as always, but few and far between and hardly a mention of what happens to the planet now the dictator has been removed. Who is going to fill the power vacuum left by the arrest of Ritchie Redwood and his henchmen? The ending here was a little underwhelming given the great build up last issue. It maybe came off a bit rushed to shoehorn things into place to get us to Avengers: No Surrender. However, it makes up for it with a great splash page leading into the big event in January. No doubt there will be a fill-in on how we get there and it’s nice to see former nemesis A.I.M. is still being utilized as a force for good.

Rating: 7.5/10

Final Thoughts: Casting Ritchie as the villain unable to ‘move with the times’ makes me wonder if there is a hidden message in there for fans from Ewing. Recent criticism for ignoring past continuity, characters origins and making established characters come out were all used to great effect here. Could this be a tongue-in-cheek way of them telling us to ‘get with the times’ and not be so down on changes? If so it was very cleverly done, in what could be the final issue of a fun series and a great mix of characters.

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