Future!Natasha: The lesser-machines— less-thinking— don’t know it, but there is a war going on, Natasha. And we are fighting it on two fronts. The past, from which you came, is in constant conflict with our future… an outlier of its romance with change. And the future— just like any future— seeks to erase the stain of old sins. THese are not philosophical musings, but real things. People— and more importantly, ideas— are dying.
Natasha: Any chance of you checking out?
Future!Natasha: Oh, they made me in your image, Natasha— can you imagine any version of you forgetting how to survive? We hedge our bets, don’t we? You and I— we make it through.

This encounter with the bad robot Natasha of the far future stabs at the core of Black Widow’s character. She is, to the end— to this end— a survivor, a mercenary, willing to deal with the enemy and turn sides to ensure her existance. The future Natasha, like the Natasha of the past, yearns for freedom. But the freedom to do what? She has no agenda we see but continuing. Hickman’s dark mirror for Natasha, then, isn’t evil but amorality. It isn’t Natasha’s whites turned to black, but her shades of grey that are switched.

This scene forshadows a lot directly, from the encounter with future Franklin next issue to Tony Stark’s imprisonment in New Avengers #26. But I thinkt he most interesting thing it sets up is that, when the world is ending, when time runs out, our Natasha doesn’t make bargains to survive. She decides to go down with the ship.

From Avengers #31, by Jonathan Hickman and Lenil Yu.

Natasha: It was enough for us to figure out when that meeting happened, and therefore where.
Jessica: Which was just enough breadcrumbs to track your leaving and subsequent movements— and to extrapolate, as well as one could, where you probably ended up.
Tony: Thank god for spies with an itch they can’t scratch. And more importantly… that you’re here to save me.
Jessica: We’ve left Steve because we’re done with his cause— too righteous for the times… but we can’t save you, Tony, unless you know that you need saving.
Tony: This is a cage. I’m perfectly aware that I need saving.
Natasha: I want to let you out of there… but I can’t risk unleashing you back on the world if you can’t see that— in your own way— you’ve been just as wrong as he has. Maybe even worse.
Tony: Wrong? Wrong?

From New Avengers #26, by Jonathan Hickman and Kev Walker.

AVENGERS #23
JONATHAN HICKMAN (W) • LEINIL YU (A/C)
INFINITY TIE-IN – “AVENGERS UNIVERSE: VI”
· The Avengers versus the Black Order.
· The battle for Earth moves planetside.
· Thanos takes center stage.

AVENGERS ASSEMBLE #21
KELLY SUE DECONNICK (W)
MATTEO BUFFAGNI (A) • JORGE MOLINA ©
·Remember all that crazy science from earlier issues?? Here’s where it gets positively INHUMAN!
· When Spider-Girl is in trouble…who does she go to?
· Black Widow, Spider-Girl and Spider-Woman.
· Spider-Woman as a mentor…Who thought this was a good idea?

Some solicits. Anya really goes through these superhero mentors, huh? Carol, then Sue, now Jess? I’m happy to see DeConnick back on the book after the event.

AVENGERS #11
JONATHAN HICKMAN (W) • MIKE DEODATO (A)
COVER BY DUSTIN WEAVER
“WAKE THE DRAGON”
• As Shang-Chi battles an ancient enemy, the Avengers hang out in Hong Kong’s swankiest casino.
• Captain Marvel, Black Widow and Spider-Woman find out it doesn’t pay to gamble in the spy business.
• Cannonball and Sunspot play craps with a bunch of AIM Agents. AND WIN!

After the Bendis event, a Hickman event??

“We’ve said how ‘Nova,’ ‘Thanos Rising,’ ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ and Jonathan Hickman’s ‘Avengers’ are all shaping the future of the Marvel Universe — this image will very specifically answer the question of ‘How?’” Alonso continued. “Our FCBD issue features an all-new story that leads into a huge epic later in the year, along with a heavily demanded reprint of a character’s first solo story and a beautiful new cover by one of our top cover artists.”

It seems like with every event we get new outfits!! Personally, I’ve gone straight past nerdrage and begun rolling around in ridiculous superhero fashion and loving it. Not only are the mutants rocking alien powersource makeovers that have wardrobed them to take over an album cover for Meatloaf, not only is Scott Summers now sporting some sort of crotch boomerang, the Avengers are all wearing a goggle/harness addition. I assume this is protective, but if the Phoenix Force can be combatted with sunglasses, surely Marvel Heroes have been going about this wrong for an awful long time.

Unlettered preview from Avengers vs X-men #6, by Jonathan Hickman and Olivier Coipel.