Episode #21 - Hail, Hydra!
Original Airdate - May 22nd, 2011
Hydra and AIM are waging war against one another in the streets of New York, and only one person knows why… the Black Widow. She knows that AIM has created the ultimate weapon for Hydra, a weapon so powerful that MODOC wants it for himself. It’s called the Cosmic Cube, and to touch it is to change the world. But the Avengers have another problem… they’ve just been grounded by SHIELD, now under the control of Maria Hill.

Written by Kevin Burke & Chris Wyatt
Directed by Vinton Heuck
Review by RoyalRubble
Media by Marvel Animation

Following the events from "The Widow's Sting", this episode sees Baron Von Strucker and Hydra launching an all-out war on AIM, trying to obtain the Cosmic Cube, a powerful weapon MODOC has created which has the power to change reality itself. All one has to do is touch the Cube, and it will alter the world as its "master" desires. The war takes place on the streets of New York City, and neither opponents would care less about victims or the city being destroyed. It is up to the Avengers to stop them, aided by the Black Widow, who has returned and set the record straight about her past actions that made her seem a traitor. Whether she was telling the truth or not, the Avengers find themselves forced to work together in order to save the world. Another great continuity nod is the Hulk mentioning he remembers the Widow attacking him in the desert (see "Hulk Versus the World", where Hawkeye also attacked him, but he later befriended "Cupid" so all is forgiven).

To make things even more interesting, SHIELD agent Maria Hill has been promoted to director during Nick Fury's absence. She plans to force the Avengers to join SHIELD or, if they refuse, to shut the team down. When Iron Man refuses, SHIELD attacks him and the other Avengers, to show how serious they are. Despite all this, Iron Man still proves himself to be a hero, and together with the others manages to save the day (and the SHIELD Helicarrier), but Hill mentions nothing has changed and is determined to continue her plans concerning their team. Also interesting to note is that nobody knows where Nick Fury has disappeared to; probably another consequence to the ending of "The Widow's Sting", where he was last seen. Black Widow mentioned that if he really is missing, then something terrible has happened. Hopefully we'll see what this is all about soon. All we know so far is that it has something to do with the Skrulls. Speaking of absentees, Thor and Black Panther were absent for most of this episode (and once they do show up they don't do much), but that didn't bother me, and didn't stop me from enjoying the episode.

Captain America is the Avenger who gets to be in the spotlight this time, and we get not only a big fight between him and Baron Strucker, but also some great moments with him interacting with his teammates, especially with Hawkeye and the Hulk. Notice how in the beginning of the episode he is the only one who believes Hawkeye is capable of performing a near-impossible trick-shot (which he will "upgrade" and perform later during the episode). But I thought the moment Cap and Hulk shared was better. Cap has known Hulk for a while now and has come to realize what he is able to do, and has earned his respect as a hero. It's a great little moment that adds some more depth to these characters on the show. All the fight scenes seen this episode were great, with some amazing choreography, probably some of the best we've seen on this show so far ("Come the Conqueror" would be next in line in terms of fight scenes), especially the battle in the abandoned warehouse, once the Avengers arrive. Cap's fight with Von Strucker was awesome, and had an unexpected ending when both of them touch the Cosmic Cube at once. And... I'm not sure what exactly happened. At first I thought that when both Cap and Von Strucker touched the Cube, they cancelled each others wish. That would have made sense, if it wasn't for the last scene showing Bucky opening his eyes while underwater, meaning he has survived. It could be possible that the Cube granted Cap's greatest desire, without him having to wish for anything out loud. But if it worked for Cap, it might have worked for Von Strucker as well. This might also be what Kang mentioned in his story arc, about Cap being responsible for the 'end of the world". I guess only time will tell.

So, to summarize, this episode was awesome. We get to see the end of both Hydra and AIM (at least for now; I wouldn't be surprised if they will return in future episodes) and we get some form of confirmation that Black Widow isn't a traitor. While we do get some answers, this episode also raises a few questions (most notably what exactly happened to Bucky). Can't wait to see what will happen next; this show hasn't disappointed me yet.