Coming out of the incredible "Ultron Unlimited" storyline, several members of the Avengers had a lot to gain by being members of the team while others had reached a point where their inclusion was no longer necessary. So Kurt Busiek does what's necessary. Gone are Justice and Firestar, who had come of age and really didn't have much more to do beyond that. In are Hank Pym and Wasp who look like a million bucks following Ultron's defeat. Captain America and Thor leave with impact, fed up with public perception of the team. In are Warbird and Triathlon with something to prove.
It's refreshing to see a team revamp this big. Of the roster that battled Ultron, only Scarlet Witch and Iron Man remain... and both have upcoming story reasons for this happening. As Busiek moves forward there is no waste of space, which helps to keep this excellent series flowing forward.
"Avengers Assemble Vol. 3" finds the team in its most tumultuous period to date, defeated later only when they actually started fighting each other. Morale is in the toilet as Avengers Mansion is plastered with protesters who have created a false perception of the team's agenda. Still, the situation raises important questions. Thor snaps at a cameraman, expressing displeasure about not being treated with reverence. But does the team truly deserve to go about their business without people questioning their behaviour? Should their role as protectors change even if the public isn't as receptive as it had been in the past?
While the team struggles with these issues, there are bad guys to fight and oh boy does Busiek dig into the archives. The memorable-yet-justifyingly-sparingly-used Kulan Gath takes over a small part of South America, warping it into his own medieval reality and all who step within' it. That includes the Avengers with the startling transformation of Hank Pym into Yellowjacket. "Avengers Forever" aside, noted YJ fan Busiek had to have been waiting years for that moment to happen.
The villain in the climactic story is a bit more familiar: Count Nefaria, on the verge of turning the entire planet into his own controlled subjects (I'm sensing a theme here.) Sadly, what's a very good story is held back a bit by its crossover, as the narrative shares time with post-Busiek "Thunderbolts." Characters being paranoid about the Avengers finding out about their "real identity" grows tiresome rather quickly, though it is nice to have Hawkeye back in the fold if only for a bit.
Most of the negatives of the crossover, however, are counter-balanced by the final issue, the swan song for George Perez on this series. The oversized chapter is dazzling with one hell of a fight and is the perfect exit for the legendary artist. Perez left some big shoes to fill, providing perhaps the greatest art in Avengers history during his run. This is no exception.
Fortunately, Busiek still had a lot of time left on the title at this point... and Perez' departure does not slow him down in the least.