U.S.Avengers Vol. 2: Cannonball Run features issues #7-12 of the series, which were also its final installments before rolling over into Avengers: No Surrender. Besides giving the characters some final time to shine before the switch, these issues also had to work around being Secret Empire tie-ins. Oh, and there’s an Archie parody mini-arc with a lot to say about toxic fandom. There’s a lot going on here, but how is it handled? Is U.S.Avengers Vol. 2 good?
As previously mentioned, this volume ties into the Secret Empire event. It’s often easy for books on the peripherals of events to feel hindered by them, but that’s not the case here. Writer Al Ewing incorporates the Hydra takeover into the plot so well that one might reasonably believe it didn’t disrupt his plans for the title at all. This is largely due to the way he converts Secret Empire’s base plot points into a backdrop for character development.
Take, for instance, Dr. Toni Ho. The exploration of her grief following the death of her father is great, as is watching her formulate a plan on how to break Citizen V and herself out of Hydra custody. Without spoiling anything, I’ll just say she has a crowning moment of awesome that makes the volume’s Secret Empire elements feel like worthy vehicles for storytelling rather than just narrative hurdles to be rushed through.
Of course, no comic books review is complete without referencing the artists. The first arc is illustrated by Paco Medina (pencils), Alex Arizmendi (pencils and inks), Juan Vlasco (inks), Jesus Aburtov (colors), and Rachelle Rosenberg (colors). They all deliver good work, particularly when it comes to rendering characters’ emotions, and the action is pretty well laid out as well. My main complaint with the art style in the first half is just that it doesn’t feel particularly distinctive. With that said, it’s still more than serviceable and matches the fun tone of the book very well.
As good as its first half is, the true holy grail of U.S.Avengers Vol. 2 is the Archie parody arc it ends with. The team must save Cannonball from a group of aliens who go about their days roleplaying expies of Riverdale’s various inhabitants. This elaborate set-up is forced upon the town by the Archie expy himself (“Ritchie Redwood”), who is obsessed with fantasies sticking to his narrow definition of acceptability rather than opening more room up for people different from himself. This segment of the volume says a lot about the most toxic aspects of fandom culture, and it handles that subject matter exceptionally well. The art team for these issues–Paco Diaz (pencils and inks) and Jesus Aburtov (colors)–also does an excellent job replicating the look and feel of Riverdale.
Overall, U.S.Avengers Vol. 2: Cannonball Run is the kind of fun, unpredictable mesh of various comic book tropes that often only feels possible when creators are given a cast of non-big name characters and (mostly) free reign to take the story wherever they wish. Even though this volume ties into Secret Empire, it makes the event feel like a contextual backdrop rather than an intrusive mandate. My only real qualms with the volume are that Ewing occasionally delivers clunky expositional dialogue and the first half’s art could use a bit more unique flair. Nonetheless, this volume has it all–character development, social commentary, and just plain fun. U.S.Avengers goes out with a bang.
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