Spoiler Filled Thoughts is an old idea of mine I used way back when I first started comic reviews. Mostly it was a way to get extra content on my blog and keep it going. Now I think I could make this a regular thing for books that I have no idea what to talk about without spoiling things. As Avengers Standoff: Welcome to Pleasant Hill #1 has been released for a few days now I figure I can talk more about it now and why I found myself enjoying it. I bought this on a whim, I had no major interest in Avengers Standoff: Welcome to Pleasant Hill but I had been hearing good things so I figured I’d give it a shot. As I read it I realized that I could never really give my thoughts on it without spoiling everything about it. As you read this remember the warning is in the title, there will be spoilers, there will be tons of spoilers. I am straight up going to be spoiling everything including the ending of this comic. You really only have yourself to blame if you read this before reading Avengers Standoff for yourself. If you’ve either already read it or don’t really care to read it and want to hear what happened, here you go here is my spoiler filled thoughts on Avengers Standoff: Welcome to Pleasant Hill #1.
(One extra spoiler warning tag here, this is your last warning.)
Now we can get to the thoughts here as really I have a lot to dive into. Here is the thing about Avengers Standoff, this comic takes a good bit to take off. Nick Spencer does what I call a slow burn and a wonderful sense of misdirection as to how this is going to play out. You have James “Bucky” Barnes infiltrating a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility and starting to figure out something strange is happening. Before he can ponder why a mysterious little girl is somehow seeing him in a recording, he gets attacked by S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. We get a blatant set up of flashbacks to World War II with Captain America and Bucky in battle. I was thinking in my mind, “Subtle.” as I saw that scene in my initial read. From there you get introduced to a man who has no memory of who he is. The man gets helped by the Sheriff of the town and you get introduced to the town of Pleasant Hill. Through our new friend we start to realize that nothing is quite right here. This is where things start to get interesting.
Within the issue you learn that the name of the man is Jim, so you assume it is Bucky in the town. Jim has tried to escape and has seen glimpses of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, the mysterious little girl, and a piece of Stark technology in his adventures in Pleasant Hill. The misdirects in this book are off the charts, as you assume it is Bucky so Spencer is hammering it home that it is Bucky. That’s what you assume so as a reader, that is what you are thinking throughout the issue. Heck I was biding my time for that reveal. Yet, boy does Spencer have a rabbit that he is about to get out of his hat and that completely blew my mind. A fire is set inside a house in Pleasant Hill and that’s where Spencer starts to set the wheels in motion. The man who set the fire is trying to jog Jim’s memory and you get a glimpse of Bucky’s Winter Soldier arm in the midst of the chat. Another misdirection as you also learn that the mayor of the town is Maria Hill. She’s where the red flags start to really kick in as she’s trying to make sure that Jim doesn’t have any memories coming back. Even more signs that there is way more to Pleasant Hill than we ever imagined.
In a meeting Jim attends with the man who started the fire, the man looks like Tony Stark. Yet Tony is still in the main Marvel Universe so why is this guy who looks like Tony Stark here? That’s where you learn that Pleasant Hill is the ultimate S.H.I.E.L.D. prison. The prisoners have their minds altered thanks to Kobik technology and become a completely different person, a functional member of the town/prison of Pleasant Hill. Showing how powerful the technology is when Graviton is the criminal shown as the example of how well this tech works. There’s also a great point in using Graviton as the example here as it relations to our mystery man in the fire and the amnesiac Jim. Our mystery man created a device that somehow restored his memory and then uses it to restore Jim’s memory too and leading to a surprise revelation. The reveal being that Jim is Baron Zemo and the mystery man in the fire is none other than the Fixer. Let the fun begin as I smiled ear to ear at that ending.
Spencer is misdirecting the reader the entire time hammering it into your mind that this Jim is Bucky. Yet our surprise kicks in when Baron Zemo is revealed with the Fixer in tow. Meaning likely most of the Thunderbolts team is imprisoned in Pleasant Hill as a Thunderbolts series is going to come out of this event. Graviton played a role in the Thunderbolts series too, which is why I got a kick out of Spencer using him as the example villain. Even better that Mark Bagley and Scott Hanna were the art team on this as they worked on Thunderbolts as well. You have all these little hints towards who the reveal will be, yet it is so subtle that you don’t even think about it until it happens. I liked that a lot and appreciate the craft that went into this. From an event I had little interest in to one that I am more curious in within one issue, bravo to all that worked on this one.
A short review of this would be that this is worth reading and I am glad I read it just to realize that the Thunderbolts are making their return to the Marvel Universe. I already knew it was happening but this is a great way to kick it off and make this event count. I’m a big fan of the Thunderbolts as Busiek was one of the first creators I followed when I got back into comics. It’s why I formatted this in a way that isn’t a review, just me talking about why I liked this. Avengers Standoff: Welcome to Pleasant Hill is one story that benefits from a second read after the reveals to understand how well this comic was executed. Thanks for joining me for the return of Spoiler Filled Thoughts, take care and thanks for reading!