(p) John Cassaday
Well it's been long enough! Eight weeks after it's debut, Uncanny Avengers is back with it's second issue, and this one's a doozie. Rick Remender and John Cassaday aren't making any compromises with this series, as evidenced by the repeated delays for this issue so Cassaday could make sure the art was up to his high standards. Uncanny Avengers #2 is split into three 'acts' to better convey the large amount of new information being presented. And while this format can feel a tad disjointed from time to time, it all goes toward Remender's bigger picture.
First up are Captain America, Wolverine, and Thor helping with the relief effort in Manhattan after the devastating attack by Avalanche in the first issue. While Avalanche's attack wasn't even close to being the real focal point of UA #1, the ramifications of a mutant attack resulting in hundreds of dead humans are terrifying. Basically, 'Act I' sets the stage for why Uncanny Avengers have come together -- now that Charles Xavier is dead, it seems that his dream of peaceful co-habitation between humans and mutants is slowly dying as well. It's a poignant scene that shows two sides of a desperate situation. Captain America sees this as crucial time frame for the human race to establish a better relationship with the mutant community. For Wolverine, Steve Rogers' "mutant community" doesn't exist and having Havok -- a mutant and brother to international criminal Cyclops -- lead an Avengers response to mutant attacks is a terrible idea. Both perspectives have their merits, but a small, two-panel sequence between a thankful man and Havok himself is enough to prove the Uncanny Avengers are needed now more than ever.
The second part of the issue focuses on Rogue and the Scarlet Witch being held prisoner by the maniacal Red Skull, while 'Act III' brings these two ladies together to close out the issue. While Red Skull did appear at the very end of Uncanny Avengers #1, there wasn't much information regarding his motives or master plan. Here, we get a much more fleshed out Red Skull who explains himself without sounding like he's lecturing 150 bored college freshmen in a beginner's biology class. It's simple, really. Red Skull had his consciousness preserved and downloaded into a cloned body -- circa 1942 -- so he could reawaken 70 years later when "the world had forgotten me and my perceived atrocities." Now, seeing the state of the world with mutants running around, Red Skull has taken the Nazi idealism of purity and strength and applied it to humanity at large which means "mutants are the ultimate invading foreigners." I'm actually surprised no one has ever taken this direction with the Red Skull, but that's kind of what 'Marvel NOW!' is all about, right? Before, most of the dealings of the Avengers stayed relatively separate from the world of the X-Men. But now, classic Avengers villains are getting in on X-Men territory, and the results are bone-chillingly awesome.
In the end, Uncanny Avengers #2 is a more compelling issue than the first, and that's extremely hard to do in the modern comic landscape. Red Skull has always been a rather menacing character, but it's usually at arms length -- he's generally reserved for flashback issues or as a totem for other villains. Fortunately, Rick Remender takes Red Skull to frightening new heights, making him not only one of the most formidable villains in years, but also one of the most powerful in the Marvel Universe. The team itself is slow to actually getting together, but that's what an opening arc is all about, right?