WRITERS: JEPH LOEB, ROB LIEFIELD, WALTER SIMONSON
ARTISTS: IAN CHURCHILL, MICHAEL RYAN
The midpoint of Heroes Reborn saw Rob Liefield effectively booted off the titles due to a combination of a difficulty in keeping deadlines, disappointing sales and vitriolic critical reaction. The Avengers and Captain America were instead transferred across to Wildstorm. There was still some overhang - Avengers #7 featured a Liefield cover and storyline and was pencilled by Ian Churchill; the artistic improvement was immense while the script continued on from the Industrial Revolution, featuring the Avengers moving into a mansion provided by Tony Stark, who has also joined the team as Iron Man (though no-one knows who's inside the armour). It ends with the arrival of the Lethal Legion, joined by the previously-missing Scarlet Witch.
This was only a temporary fill-in through and the remaining issues were penned by good ol' Walt Simonson. Y'know, good old Walt. Like Scott Lobdell, Walt's no visionary but he's a reliable pair of hands, always good for 22 pages of solid superhero capers. Which makes it all the more baffling that the result is a disaster, an absolute mess that's probably the worst segment of Heroes Reborn. Naturally a prominent thread for Thor and Loki is to the expected from Simonson; what actually happens is the Thor we've been reading about for seven issues is revealed to not be 'our' Thor, who appears within the reactor on the ruins of Avengers Island.
The previous Thor is revealed to be the 'real' Thor from this world rather than ours or something and quickly becomes a bad guy, battles our Thor and then finds redemption and neatly dies. Loki meanwhile bombards Avengers Mansion with a succession of bad guys (the Lethal Legion and the Masters of Evil) all orchestrated as some batty plan by Loki, who swallows up the plot threads previously in place with the Enchantress, Ultron and Kang. There's a general neatening as Ant-Man returns; despite the fact Hank had used his shrinking particles for the first time and promptly gone missing inside the Vision his wife Jan immediately takes some and becomes the Wasp just to make things nice and neat, Wanda's rapidly revealed to have been a witless dupe and Hellcat gets tricked by Loki and trapped in a mirror for not being central cast.
While Loeb & Liefield's stint was far, far from good at least it had a coherent central core plot; this second half of the title is just a mess, a disorientating stream of redesigned characters, nonsensical twists and schizophrenic characterisation. Michael Ryan's art is capable enough with some interesting takes on classic characters (though his rapid conversion of Hellcat to a more conventional Tigra-esque look is perhaps a shame) but with this script it's all for nothing. A complete bloody shambles.