Avengers Standoff: Assault on Pleasant Hill #1
By Nick Spencer, Jesus Saiz, and Clayton Cowles.
This is the second book in a great story revolving around the mysterious Pleasant Hill, a place that’s specific and mysterious purpose was brilliantly revealed in Avengers Standoff: Welcome To Pleasant Hill #1. Marvel is doing a crossover event tying into many titles like Avengers Standoff, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Uncanny Avengers, and Captain America Sam Wilson to name a few. Spencer, Saiz, and Cowles deliver a beautifully structured story here that sets the tone for the upcoming issues and leaves your jaw on the floor with the last page. This issue has a lot to offer readers with great dialogue, character introductions, and more explanation about Pleasant Hill.
This issue focuses on our current Captain America Sam Wilson, and the former Captain American Steve Rogers. This issue does a nice interweaving of their two stories that happen simultaneously as both Wilson and Rogers learn about Pleasant Hill in different ways. Steve Rogers is presently acting as S.H.I.E.L.D. commander Head of Civilian Oversight and he is witnessing The Winter Soldier, his once best friend Bucky Barnes, systematically take down four S.H.I.E.L.D. bases. He confronts Bucky and has to decide if he should listen to his best friend or trust S.H.I.E.L.D., specifically Director Maria Hill. Meanwhile, Sam Wilson is shown having some transition issues since he has assumed the Captain American mantle, and he is getting assistance from an unknown hacker, the Whisperer, who feeds him intelligence around S.H.I.E.L.D. Wilson finally meets up with the Whisperer and you get to see the face behind the phone, and it does not disappoint. As both characters learn about Pleasant Hill and the apparent abuse of power from Maria Hill, it starts to build toward a climatic action sequence with the Avengers and The Winter Soldier taking on S.H.I.E.L.D. with Steve Rogers in the middle, but this issue served as a plot-heavy affair to help establish characters and motives before the big action sequences can happen.
Spencer put in a lot of work around the story in this issue. It feels very heavy in dialogue and narrative. Each page is packed with character dialogue even when there is action happening. The dialogue is supplemented with characters’ inner monologue serving as a narrative for the reader to make sure they are up to date with certain events, or characters. Each page the reader find an abundance of word bubbles, which can be daunting for some readers who were expecting an action packed follow-up to the first issue in this event, Avengers Standoff: Welcome to Pleasant Hill #1. We can assume this served as a device to set all the pieces down on the board for the reader before the real game begins, it appears that Marvel is investing a lot of time and titles toward this event so, it might get a little confusing. Even if this issue was a little wordy, there were some great moments Spencer created between long time friends Steve Rogers and The Winter Soldier. He created a familiarity between the two, but also showed the hesitance Rogers has toward trusting him. Rogers hears him out, but he gets annoyed at Bucky’s cavalier attitude toward destroying S.H.I.E.L.D. bases. Maybe Rogers is entering an old and angry character phase, where he gets to be crotchety and grumpy, but it was fun seeing Spencer play that up with Rogers growing impatience later in the issue with Maria Hill.
The art in this issue is done beautifully with bold lines and primary colors washing over some of our favorite current day characters. Saiz on art and lettering from Cowles was a great combination and they were on full display throughout the issue. The dialogue really narrated a lot of the art in this issue, but it was drawn in an effortless way where you could just look at the panels and still follow the story if you were sick of reading. There are some smart uses of red, white, and blue in the word box colors to play up the Captain America connection between the two lead voices in the issue. Another standout from the art in the issue really comes from the use of shadowing throughout the issue. The result presents some characters looking brooding and others heroic. Also, the close-up panels of Steve Roger’s face as reaction shots are just so fun. It must be a blast as a creative team to tackle Steve Rogers as an old man and imagine what he is like without the super soldier serum, and the look Saiz and Cowles give him with his chiseled lined face, muscular body, and all white hair looks fantastic and a wonderful refresh on this character. The issue ends with a spectacular splash page that will leave you begging for the next issues. Splash pages are always a delightful way to end an issue, especially this one, and the use of colors, shadowing, and lines make the whole scene look even more menacing and scary.
This issue sets up a great new creative story from Marvel that will have people buying each crossover issue to come. Pleasant Hill is a new concept that is involving a lot of characters across various titles. With that in mind, it does make sense for an earlier issue to fill in a lot of voids with heavy narration and dialogue. This word-heavy issue may dissuade some readers, but it is totally worth it for the great old man Steve Rogers dialogue and art throughout and the build-up that beautifully sets up the next issues to come.