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Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes #5

It never ceases to amaze me what Yost can do in ten pages.

The first story, "The Serpent Crown", is a very straightforward setup in that the story picks up as the Avengers face off against the Serpent Society, mid-story; Madame Viper has obtained and donned the Serpent Crown. In the AEMH universe, the Serpent Crown is a prison for the demon Set, who takes the form of multiple snake bodies and heads, similar to the classical Greek Hydra - and like the Hydra, when you destroy one of its heads another forms to attack. Madame Viper is not strong enough to command the demon. It attacks her, and Captain America saves her (again). As the Avengers fight Set on the one hand and the other Serpent Society members. The crown is retrieved by King Cobra, who tries his hand at commanding the demon; he is also not strong enough. Finally, Captain America takes the crown, setting himself as the next target for Set - who is returned to his prison.

The Vision, Yellowjacket, and Ms. Marvel place this story firmly in the last half of the Second Season; this makes sense, as I suspect that this is one of the threads that Yost might have planned for a third season of AEMH, with its "magic" theme. We get a nice Captain America/Viper moment, where Cap learns more about what makes the Viper do what she does, and once more shows Viper that her assumptions about the Avengers, and heroes in general, are wrong.

Its a shame that we won't get Yost being able to develop Viper in more episodes; she's an ideal foil for Captain America, with her worldview essentially diametrically opposed to his. While not overt, I do get the same kind of feeling between AEMH's Captain America and Viper that Mark Gruenwald explored in his now-classic Captain America comic run'; as the two of them clash, perhaps some romantic chemistry would have formed between the two of them. In his characterization of Madame Viper, Yost is humanizing her more effectively than ever happened in the MU-616, and I find this incarnation a much more interesting character.

The second story, written by Howard Chaykin, is a solo Captain America story, putting him up against Batroc The Leaper and featuring the first appearance of the Porcupine (who had, in the mainstream Marvel Universe, been a part of one of the incarnations of "Batroc's Brigade"). A few words here about Todd Nauck's art on the story - its clear, dynamic, the storytelling and pacing is dead-on, and while its done in the AEMH style, his Captain America looks much better than his usual depiction. The plot, while entertaining enough, is only notable for introducing the Porcupine to the AEMH universe, and for having Captain America make a lame, cheesy joke at the end.