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...Thats the basic premise of Acts of Vengenace - a mysterious stranger approaches the Marvel Universes greatest villains (Red Skull, Dr Doom, Kingpin, Manderin etc), highlighting that their many failiures are a result of always challenging the same heroes who have become accustomed to their tactics, and so are able to defeat them time and again. The solution offered by the stranger? Simple - swap enemies.

What follows in this volume is a dozen or so skirmishes where the villains and their lackeys go up against heroes who have never faced them before, and so do not readily know how to defeat them. Its a classic idea based on the question which has fascinated fans for generations - who could theoretically beat who in a fight in the Marvel Universe? So you have battles between Spidey and Gravaton, Captain America and Magneto, Quasar and the Absorbing Man, The Wrecking Crew and Ironman, The New Warriors and Juggarnaut, and many many others.

But does it work?

The answer is: 'Not quite'.

The various issues in this volume are generally entertaining enough in their own right, but I have several problems with the story overall, the first of these being that the bad guys never really quite win. Each battle tends to end in a similar way, not with the villain winning as such, but with the hero unable to quite defeat the villain. This theme becomes clear quite early on, and this means that the entire idea falls somewhat flat from the word go.

Secondly, whilst the story is based upon a masterplan by a council of the worlds greatest villains, really nothing but lip service is paid to the shady manipulations which form the basis of the entire story. Its almost an afterthought, and what the reader is left with is something that literally looks like a dozen of so unrelated skirmishes between lower level heroes and villains. I was never quite convinced of the supposed genius behind the whole thing, and the fist fights alone - many of which are not of the caliber dreamt of by the average fan (I mean, who really gets excited about the idea of Spider-man v's Paste Pot Pete?) - werent enough to carry the book.

Talking about Spidey - that brings me to my third complaint. Now I quite like the web slinger, but its repeatedly established in this story that the plan is primarily one to take down the Avengers. The problem with this is that almost an entire third of the book is occupied with Spider-man (who would not be a full member of the Avengers for many years yet), and those issues primarily deal with Spidey inheriting the power of Captain Universe and inadvertedly smashing every foe that goes up against him to a pulp, which takes me back to my last complaint about how the villains never really win anything.

Finally, theres the issue of cost. This volume bought in a comic shop would cost you a massive £75. Its much cheaper when purchased off Amazon - £48 - but this is still really too much for what is a fairly middling story, composed of thirty odd issues that in and of themselves are not especially rare or expensive to collect. I would wager that should you feel inclined that you could probably purchase each of the 34 issues that make up this volume for similar to, or less than the cover price.

So, in short, Acts of Vengeance is a really great idea that falls sadly quite short of this fans expectations. It just never quite convinces you that there really is something at stake for the heroes, or that the villains really might win the day, so whilst there are a number of entertaining bouts of superpowered fisticuffs to enjoy, it ultimately fails as a story.
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