At Mantis' prompting, the Avengers go to Vietnam to lay the Swordsman to rest at the Temple of Pama, and then roam the streets of Saigon trying to find out if her memories of growing up there are reliable.
They aren't, and it's becoming increasingly clear that Libra's version of her origin was true.
But the Avengers have more immediate problems.
Thinking the group are there to arrest him, a villain called the Slasher decides to set the Titanium Man, Crimson Dynamo and Radioactive Man on them, telling them the Avengers have tried to frame him for a diamond theft. The trio are now working for the communist government and don't appreciate the Western heroes flinging their weight around on their turf. Needless to say it all leads to a punch-up.
But oh dear, the Avengers are not in a happy place - and I don't just mean Vietnam - what with Mantis still not knowing who or what she is, the Vision convinced his recent tendency to freeze under pressure means he's going mad, the Scarlet Witch still jealous of Mantis, Thor and Iron Man coming to blows over the difference between justice and revenge, and the Swordsman dead.
Admittedly, the Swordsman's problem's somewhat bigger than those of the other Avengers but at least he gets a nice send-off.
I said that Thor gives both Iron Man and Titanium a bashing for their impertinence in taking him on - and he does but more important is that he's effectively the peace-maker of the day, looking for rational solutions to conflict where others just want to solve everything with a smack in the kisser. It's at times like this that his superiority over mere mortals really shows through.
One of the images that leaps out at me reading this issue is Agatha Harkness sitting in on an Avengers meeting; bringing to mind all those tales of Yoko Ono sitting in on Beatles recording sessions and annoying the other members by eating their biscuits. I sincerely hope Aggie's not in the habit of nibbling on Thor's Garibaldis.
|The Titanic Three? I hope there're no icebergs in Saigon.|
Whether Radio, Crimso and Tit, as I don't like to know them, are still villains is open to question. As you'd expect from their background, they certainly don't come across as the nicest people on Earth, but they do seem to be operating to a moral code that's been previously alien to them, punishing a man who's killed his wife, and wanting nothing to do with the Slasher once they discover he's a thief.
You have to say the Slasher's a genuinely nasty piece of work, leaving a trail of battered and hacked up people behind him. The sight of blood flying from innocent bystanders as he attacks them is genuinely unpleasant and, for some of us, feels like too real a level of violence to belong in what's mostly an escapist comic.
But just why is the Slasher referred to as "Buzzsaw" at one point? Is that his civilian identity's nickname, or did Steve Englehart just get confused? Maybe it's just me but "Buzzsaw" - bearing in mind the potential double meaning of his more usual title - would've been a better name for him than "the Slasher".
But then what do I know? Apart from that time I was wounded by shrapnel in Vietnam and had to fight my way out, I've never even worn a suit of armour.