Well, damn. After last issue's less than stellar performance, the dynamic duo of Rick Remender and Salvador Larroca have delivered the strongest issue in a while. Strap in, it's time for Uncanny Avengers #24. (Spoilers below.)

First things first: Havok is out buying groceries— in uniform no less— and getting weird looks from folk. It's not the uniform. It's the fact that half his face is missing. Kang curb-stomped him a bit before the Avengers got the upper hand, and due to the nature of the wound, plastic surgery's not an option. (For now. C'mon. It's the comics.)

So before Havok can entertain the notion of moving to Gotham and flipping a scarred silver dollar, he's ambushed by the Red Skull's S-Men. Guys are on point. We don't even see the attack, there's no need. The end is a foregone conclusion. (Nice touch, I thought.)

The pacing for the chapter is splendid. We go from ominous attack to… an honestly touching moment between Logan, Anna Marie, and Wanda. If I didn't know better, I'd say someone read my performance review for the Scarlet Witch! Look at her, comforting her comrade! Fostering good team relations!

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Wolverine leaves on the quinjet— probably to go make one of his bajillion other comic appearances this month. Unfortunately, his timing stinks, because the S-Men swing by the Avengers Mansion to collect Rogue and SW. The stones on these guys.

Would you look at that? THAT is how you do a splash page. I've never seen a more beautiful illustration of a naiad, a faun, a genie, and the pissed off avatar for a turtle god. (It's a narrow niche, but still.)

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Once again, the S-Men have strength in numbers, and once again, that's all she wrote. Or drew. You get it.

Rogue wakes up back home in Mississippi. She's greeted by… well. There's no easy way to put this. She's visited by the astral remains of Charles Xavier, complete with missing brains and top-of-head. This… ghost is the leanest sliver of Charles' good will, desperate to warn Rogue of the Red Skull's plans.

Usually, this kind of exposition doesn't strike me as terribly useful. In this case, it's the complete opposite. Charles tells Rogue exactly what she needs to know. He tells her where she is, what she needs to do (and not do), and best of all, how. Hot damn. Spectral quasi-headless headmaster cavalry for the f*cking win.

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Rogue is their ace in the hole— and so are the powers she's still holding on to from Wonder Man. Yowza.

So! Elsewhere, Magneto rots, chained to a wall, tormented by Mzee. Erik was captured in his own series, and the timing here is bloody flawless. This has to be one of the strongest examples of what I believe Marvel NOW is going for: constant storytelling, overlapping accurately across titles.

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Wanda continues to turn around her team performance, by completely owning Mzee with her powers. I cannot overstate how happy I am to see her actually kicking ass. It's about. Bloody. Time. (Naturally, Larroca found a way to include a bit of cheesecake in the form of Wanda's backside, as the turtle god collapses.)

The relationships at play here are intriguing. Magneto addresses Wanda as "My daughter…" Her response is a chilly "Don't call me that." Ouch. The fact that this exchange isn't drawn out— that's elegance. It tells us where they stand in six words.

Maggers wants to stay and fight, despite not feeling his Wheaties. Rogue and SW want to retreat and call in the Avengers— an actual good idea— but Erik refuses to leave innocent mutants in the camp. It makes sense.

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Aaaaaaand then the Red Skull arrives, with Ahab and the S-Men. Shit.

This does make two gorgeous bad guy splash pages in one chapter, though. Grazzi, grazzi. Likewise, please note the (apparent) lack of the Red Skull's right hand. Glad to see they're doing a better job of keeping track of that. I'm aware it may seem pedantic, but screw it. I'm just happy to see consistency in comics.

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The storytelling is tight, the pacing is concise, the characters are stronger on the inside than we've seen 'em in a while, and it still found time to squeeze in an angry turtle god. I love comics.

Things continue to push us closer to the next big 'event' comic, SIXIS er, AXIS. (They might wanna talk to someone about that font.) Regardless. This was one damn good chapter of a comic book. Go pick it up.

See you back here next month!

~

Casey Jones is a VO Artist and the author of All Fall Down. You can see what he's up to at his site, caseyjonescaseyjones.com.