In a Nutshell
The West Coast Avengers realize the team is under attack and heads east while the eastern Avengers deal with the fallout of the sinking of Avengers Island.
Amazing Spider-Man #327 by David Michelinie & Erik Larsen
Avengers #312 by John Byrne, Paul Ryan & Tom Palmer
Avengers Spotlight #27 (second story) by Dwane McDuffie & Dwayne Turner
Avengers West Coast #53 by John Byrne
Captain America #365 by Mark Gruendwald & Kieron Dwyer
The Mutant Misadventures of Cloak and Dagger #9 by Terry Austijn & Mike Vosburg
Thor #412 by Tom DeFalco, Ron Frenz & Joe Sinnott
Thor #412: Working with the New Warriors, Thor is able to defeat Juggernaut by transporting him to another dimension. Cloak & Dagger #9: As the Avengers hold a public forum to discuss the Superhero Registration Act, they're attacked by a group of villains led by the Jester. Amazing Spider-Man #327: Testing out his new, increased powers, Spider-Man is attacked by Magneto, believing the powers may be an indication that Spider-Man is a mutant. But he breaks off his attack when he realizes the sheer breath of Spider-Man's abilities mean he cannot be a mutant, and Magneto leaves hoping to find another way to utilize Spider-Man's powers for the betterment of mutants. Captain America #365: The Red Skull is offered a place with the Prime Movers, and while he stews on the offer, his agent Crossbones enlists the Controller in setting Namor the Sub-Mariner against Captain America. Dealing with the loss of Avengers Mansion, Captain America is attacked by Namor. During the fight, he manages to damage the Controller's control disc, knocking Namor out but leaving the disc attached. Meanwhile, the Red Skull decides to join the Prime Movers.
Avengers West Coast #53: The Avengers are debating what to do about the nearly catatonic Scarlet Witch when they're attacked by the U-Foes. Dr. Pym is able to snap Scarlet Witch out of her fugue state by telling her the Vision is in danger, and she turns the tide against their foes. Having reached out to the east coast Avengers and received no response, Dr. Pym splits up the team, sending Wonder Man and Iron Man to pursue the U-Foes while everyone else heads East. Avengers Spotlight #27: Investigating the underwater wreckage of Avengers Island, Stingray is attacked by the Mad Thinker's Awesome Android. Reaching the surface, the Awesome Android attacks the Avengers helping the salvage operation. Black Widow radios for backup, but with most of the Avengers caught up in fights of their own, only Captain Marvel responds. Together, the Avengers shutdown the android, but Black Widow worries what's happening to the rest of their teammates. Avengers #312: Working out of the mansion's old subbasement, the detatched West Coast Avengers and Falcon are attacked by Blob, Pyro and Avalanche. When the battle goes against the villains, they attempt to use their status as Federal agents to turn the gathering crowd against the Avengers, but when Captain America arrives and announces that the Freedom Force members are acting on their own, without authority, they flee, leaving the Avengers angry they still don't what's going on.
Firsts and Other Notables
Spider-Man spends most of "Acts of Vengeance" with new cosmic powers granted him by Captain Universe, a cosmic being which bonds with different hosts, providing them with increased abilities to help them protect Eternity. "Cosmic Spider-Man", as this iteration of the character is known, was immortalized in the first set of Marvel Universe trading cards.
Kingpin (who is ENORMOUS in the issue) is shown to be one of the Prime Movers in Amazing Spider-Man #327, as is Magneto, though he's less concerned with vengeance and more with preparing for the upcoming war involving mutantkind.
The Red Skull is offered a place amongst the Prime Movers in Captain America #365, which he accepts by issue's end.
This leads to tension between him (a Nazi) and Magneto (hater of Nazis) in Avengers #312, tension that will be followed up on in later issues of Captain America.
Namor is also offered a place amongst the Prime Movers, but he declines it, having long ago forsook his war on the surface world.
The Vision, having been dismantled and rebuilt sans emotions in John Byrne's first Avengers West Coast storyline, is sporting the "all white" look he'll have throughout the early 90s (this is how I first encountered the character, making me think A. He was all-white a lot longer than he actually was and B. That his far more traditional red-and-green look was weird). He announces in issue #54 that he's going to relocate to the team's East Coast branch for the sake of Scarlet Witch, his ex-wife.
Scarlet Witch, meanwhile, is nearly catatonic at the start of Avengers West Coast #53, having recently had her husband effectively destroyed and her children revealed to be magical constructs created via pieces of a demonic soul. She comes to her senses in the course of the issue, but isn't really right in the head, and her breakdown will continue post-"Acts of Vengeance".
Hank Pym tries to contact the east coast team but is unable to do so (because Avengers Mansion is underwater), prompting a trip east and the presence of Hank, Wasp and Scarlet Witch, as well as Vision, in Avengers #312.
Stingray, the marine biologist-turned-Avenger from whom the Avengers leased Hydro-Base, discovers the "Heavy Metal" robots to be missing following the sinking of the mansion, a reference to Roger Stern's last Avengers story in issues #286-290, in which the Avengers battle a conglomerate of robotic foes, including the Mad Thinker's Awesome Android. It's actually an underrated little story, marred a bit by the fact that Stern was fired from the title after plotting it but before he could script it.
Cloak and Dagger #9 deals with the Avengers response to the proposed Superhero Registration Act, a piece of legislation intended to build on the Mutant Registration Act (which is still technically in effect, even if no one really talks about it anymore) by requiring superheroes to register their identities with the government. The bulk of that subplot is dealt with in the "Acts" issues of Fantastic Four (where Mr. Fantastic successfully talks the government out of implementing it), but it does pop up in a few issues we'll be covering.
Fenris, whom the X-Men battled in Uncanny X-Men #200, are amongst the villains attacking the gathering of heroes in Cloak and Dagger.
Meanwhile, Blob, Pyro and Avalanche, following their appearance in Uncanny X-Men #255, pop up in Avengers #312 basically just looking to pick a fight. They are said to be acting on their own as free agents (and not Federal agents) and it's implied that they are no longer part of Freedom Force and that Freedom Force itself might be disbanded, but later stories will show neither of those implications to be true, and Incredible Hulk #369 will follow up specifically the events of this issue.
Scarlet Witch refers to the ersatz Freedom Forcers as "fellow mutants" and suggest she'd rather not harm them as a result, more setup for her post-"Acts" story arc in Avengers West Coast featuring Magneto.
A Work in Progress
Thor #412, the first extended appearance of the New Warriors, ends with them declaring their superheroic raison d'être.
Spider-Man's cosmic powers include increase strength, flight, mental manipulation of his webbing, and the ability to generate blasts of energy.
Believing Spider-Man's new powers could be the result of a late-hitting mutation, Magneto notes that his own mutant abilities didn't manifest until later in his life.
He ultimately decides Spider-Man isn't a mutant, due to the wide variety of new powers he displays, saying mutants only get one power, which isn't quite true even in 1990 and certainly has been contradicted by the later idea of Secondary Mutations.
Magneto is able to control Spider-Man via the "magnetic salts" in his body, a different take on the old "iron in the blood" trick.
In Avengers West Coast, Byrne draws Magneto in the "M"-emblem costume from New Mutants #75, though Larsen draws his traditional attire in Spider-Man.
In discussing the Superhero Registration Act, one bystander points out the high insurance rates in New York caused by the constant super powered battles.
At the end of Avengers Spotlight #27, the few Avengers on hand to defeat the Awesome Android ominously note how few Avengers were able to respond to their call for help.
Captain America learns of the sinking of Avengers Island in Captain America #365, which is also where the idea of using the former subbasement of Avengers Mansion as a temporary headquarters is suggested.
As of Avengers #312, the team is operating out of that subbasement, though in that issue, it is being staffed mostly by West Coasters having temporarily come east.
Mystique is noted to be grieving following the death of Destiny (allowing Blob, Avalanche and Pyro to wander off on their own), while Avalanche's injuries at the hands of the Reavers is noted.
The Avengers mention that if the X-Men weren't dead, they'd contact them for tips in dealing with Freedom Force. The Avengers come out okay, but that's a possible unintended side effect of the whole "fake our deaths" thing.
It's said that Avalanche's power doesn't work on living tissue, which I don't think has ever been established before. He is able to affect the inorganic parts of Vision though, in a somewhat disturbing panel (though Vision quickly gets better).
Blob is able to manipulate his mass, which I also don't think is entirely accurate (he's just really fat and can't be moved unless he wants to be, but I don't think he's able to, say, make himself lighter or heavier at will).
In a nice touch, when Dr. Pym shrinks Blob down, his density forces him to sink through the ground.
I Love the 80s
New Warrior Night Thrasher has a skateboard as part of his costume, because of course he does.
Spider-Man notes that he doesn't know what he'd do without Mary Jane's strength, a clear indication that he'd never possibly sell that marriage to some kind of devilish figure.
Though the narrative spine of the crossover remains as half-formed and ethereal as ever, this batch of issues makes"Acts of Vengeance" feel like more of a traditional crossover, with references to specific events allowing a chronology of sorts to be formed, while Avengers and Avengers West Coast begin to read like chapters in the same story (ie in the latter, a detachment of West Coast Avengers head east, and they then appear in the former). Things are still a bit loose, as it's unclear where the reserve Avengers from Avengers Spotlight are when Freedom Force attacks, or where Falcon came from, but the narrative continuity is definitely tighter. Plus, these issues also introduce (to us) the idea of the Superhero Registration Act, a subplot that runs throughout "Acts of Vengeance" which deals with the heroes reaction to the idea of being registered by the government.
If that sounds an awful lot like Marvel's 2004 event, "Civil War" (which is, in turn, serving as the inspiration for the third Captain America film) it should; it's pretty much the same thing. Only here, almost all the heroes are routinely opposed to it, even the staunchest supporters (like Iron Man and Mr. Richards) of the later act. Which, if feeling charitable, can be handwaved away as characters' opinions changing over time. But it still rankles that in the entire course of "Civil War", the fact that Marvel had already done the exact same story already is never once brought up. "Acts of Vengeance" may not be the most tightly-constructed or Earth-shattering of Marvel events, but that's still a pretty glaring oversight for a narrative universe that draws so heavily on its own history.
Tomorrow, Excalibur #17 and Friday, Wolverine #19. Next week, Wolverine meets the new Psylocke in Uncanny X-Men #257.