Avengers Standoff: Welcome to Pleasant Hill #1: Review

Feb 2016
Nick Spencer, Mark Bagley

Story Name:

(no title given)

Review & Comments

4 stars

Avengers Standoff: Welcome to Pleasant Hill #1 Review by (February 26, 2016)
The cover shows the little girl cradling a cosmic cube with tortured faces inside. So is Pleasant Hill actually a reality inside the cube?

Captain America's WWII partner Bucky Barnes was turned into the Soviet assassin Winter Soldier (kept in suspended animation when not needed for a job) after the drone incident that led to Steve Rogers' own suspended animation. He took over as the Man On The Wall from Nick Fury in Original Sin.

The Whisperer leaked info on Kobik and other stuff in Captain America: Sam Wilson #2.

The doctor's name Erik Selvig has of course been nicked from the Thor movies. And is Dr Bruce supposed to be Bruce Banner (who isn't a psychiatric doctor as he points out at the end of Iron Man 3)?

The Vault prison was introduced in Avengers Annual #15 and ended with a mass breakout in Heroes For Hire #1. The Raft was a high-security section of Ryker's Island debuting in Alias #26. It had a mass breakout which kicked off the New Avengers. The Negative Zone Prison 42 was built to house prisoners during Civil War, and suffered a mass breakout at the end of that Event.

Graviton supposedly committed suicide in Iron Man (2005) #23. But it didn't take and he's been been seen since as part of AIM in issues of Secret Avengers and Avengers World.

Fixer and Baron Zemo have a convoluted history in the Thunderbolts.

This issue contains misleading and confusing clues. The opening pages are meant to make us think Jim is Bucky Barnes. The flashbacks to Bucky and Winter Soldier are difficult to explain any other way. (A Baron Zemo was of course present at the drone incident that put Cap and Bucky into suspended animation - but not *this* Zemo. The current Zemo did cross swords with Bucky, but as the replacement Captain America not Winter Soldier.) But Maria Hill's comments about Jim's past could apply to either Winter Soldier or Zemo. And the little girl could have been going to call him Bucky or Baron.

I suspect I'm not the only 1 who was suckered into thinking Phil was Tony Stark.

I remain confused about Bucky/Zemo.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Avengers Standoff: Welcome to Pleasant Hill #1 Synopsis by Rob Johnson
Bucky Barnes has returned from space where he's taken over from Nick Fury as the Man On The Wall watching out for cosmic threats. He's here because his system detected such a threat on Earth itself. And here is a SHIELD base.

Bucky uses Steve Rogers' password to gain access to the base computer system. He reviews a holographic recording from the helicarrier Theseus showing an experiment going wrong. Director Maria Hill wanted results so the scientists took risks. And the experiment explodes, killing them all. Except Barnes sees a little girl unharmed amidst of the debris. And even though it''s a recording she seems to know he's there, and tells him "Want to be safe. Just want to be happy."

At this point a bunch of SHIELD Agents find him and shoot him and we fade to black.

The credits page has Maria Hill giving a press statement 6 months ago. The hacker Whisperer has leaked details of a plan called Kobik for the government to use pieces of a cosmic cube to alter reality as it sees fit. She denies Kobik is more than a proposal, and if it did exist it would be right to use it to combat things like the (pre-Secret Wars) Incursions. So the Whisperer is a criminal and will be hunted down.

Fade from black via a memory of Captain America fighting German soldiers in WWII while Bucky is tied up and then there's an explosion.

A man wakes in a forest with no memories and no identification. He's found by Sheriff Eva who takes him to Pleasant Hill to see a doctor named Erik Selvig. Who can't find anything physically wrong with him, but thinks it's not safe to send him to a hospital some way away.

The man overhears a strange conversation between the doc and Nurse Vicki. She's worried about his lack of memory and wants to report it. Selvig thinks the memories will surface eventually - "the program is working". Vicki suggests that this time "your girl was acting strangely".

When they realise the man has overheard they sound an alarm. He runs away but is brought down by SHIELD Agents.

He wakes up on day 2 in a bed in Dorothy Bixby's Bed & Breakfast. She sends him out for some fresh air. As he wanders through the town he hears the local radio station broadcasting Prisoner-style about how to be happy, and to stay indoors after curfew, and not to worry about missing pets.

Panicked he steals a car and tries to escape. The police give chase and he crashes. But he stumbles away from the car until he runs into a force-field, with a box bearing the Stark logo nearby. Then it's the SHIELD Agents again - plain clothes this time.

He awakes on the 3rd day to find himself strapped down to his bed. The doctor and nurse tell him it's only until he calms down.

On day 19 he's adopted the name Jim. He's seeing psychiatrist Dr Bruce (who used to have anger issues). He's doing odd jobs for Dorothy Bixby. He's joined the softball team. And he's stopped trying to escape. (We see flashbacks to attempts on days 4, 7 and 12.)

Then Jim relates another flashback to the day things changed. He's walking in the woods when he meets a little girl with a dead bird. She says it's just waiting for its purpose in life.  She tells Jim he used to be hung up on the past, so she took his memories to free him. That's what this place is for, for people to find their real purpose. Then they can leave. She touches the dead bird and it flies away, joining a lot of other birds.

The girl starts to call him by name, starting with a B. But they're interrupted by a man who's been looking for her. She explains she had something to fix - which is what she's supposed to do.

Ever since then he's thought of Pleasant Hill as his home.

Skip to day 36. Jim is doing some work on the roof when he sees a neighbour's house on fire. He runs over and finds Patricia safe outside, but she says her baby's inside. Jim rushes into the burning building and rescues the baby, but while inside he hears a voice. So he goes back in to find this other person.

In the kitchen there's a man standing nonchalantly with a kerchief over his nose and mouth. But he doesn't seem to be troubled by the smoke so maybe it's to hide his identity. The man claims to have started the fire. There was no danger to the baby because there was no baby. There are no babies in Pleasant Hill. This place is a lie, and it's inhabitants have been given false pasts.

But Jim is different because he doesn't remember anything. (But we see a flash of memory of Winter Soldier's metal arm.) Jim protests, but the man says that if Jim is who he thinks he is then he won't be content to remain a prisoner. The mystery man says there's a tunnel behind the boiler in the B&B. At 4 AM the surveillance system takes 3 minutes to reboot.

Jim doesn't follow up on this, and on day 39 he's given a medal for bravery. And he gets to meet Mayor Maria Hill. She makes small talk about his life in the town. But then springs a question on him. Who else was in the house when he rescued the baby? Jim says he was mistaken - there was no-one there.

Hill tells Jim he reminds her of someone who had a chequered past and a trail of dead bodies. This man claimed to have become a good guy now, but she didn't trust such conversions. And her scepticism makes her suspect his account of the fire. She wants Jim to think about it overnight and she's sure next morning he'll be able to tell her who he saw in the house.

But instead at 4 AM next day Jim takes the tunnel behind the boiler to a secret lair where the mystery man (who looks rather like Tony Stark) is tinkering with some machinery. He expected Jim today after his meeting with the Mayor. He alludes to a shared past, not always amicable, and says he 'knew' Jim would be their saviour.

The mystery man says that here he's known as Phil, and they gave him a job as a motor mechanic. But he found himself making other stuff in his spare time, and eventually built a device which awoke his real memories. He promises to use it on Jim too, but 1st he wants to show him something else.

Phil turns on a training video by SHIELD Director Maria Hill explaining that Pleasant Hill is a new kind of prison for supervillains. They've always managed to escape from places like the Vault, the Raft and the Negative Zone. But now using Kobik they have another solution.

She demonstrates on Graviton, currently held by restraints and a power dampener. Suddenly as the the costumed villain is replaced by a a suited gentleman named Howie Howardson who is going to open a French Fusion restaurant in Pleasant Hill.

Hill then briefly describes the roles SHIELD personnel take in the town. And continues with a warning to report any sightings of the little girl. But Jim tells Phil he doesn't want to see any more. He just wants to know the truth.

So Phil turns his device on Jim, and suddenly they stand in full costume revealed as ... Fixer and Baron Zemo.

Mark Bagley
Scott Hanna
Paul Mounts
Daniel Acuna (Cover Penciler)
Daniel Acuna (Cover Inker)
Daniel Acuna (Cover Colorist)


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Captain America
Captain America

(Steve Rogers)

(Franklin Hall)
Iron Man
Iron Man

(Tony Stark)

> Avengers Standoff: Welcome to Pleasant Hill: Book info and issue index

Share This Page