Marvel Vengeance: The End
The Breaking Strain by John Byrne is the final part of the main Acts of Vengeance story as the Avengers (Captain America, Falcon, Hank Pym, Hawkeye, Iron Man, Mockingbird, Thor, Vision and Wasp) battle against the mastermind of of the Cabal and the onslaught of attacks. Meanwhile, U.S.Agent and Wonder Man attempt to save the Scarlet Witch from the hands of her father.
I will get the negative out of the way first: the Red Skull! Again, the Red Skull appears among the Cabal until the bitter end of the battle with the Avengers despite him being buried alive earlier in the crossover. This type of bad continuity is expected from current day Marvel, but is inexcusable for a classic Avengers crossover with Mark Gruenwald involved! In fact, it was Gruenwald who later attempted to pacify this glaring mistake by revealing the Red Skull in this issue and the one before was in fact a robot.
In terms of the story though, this is a good conclusion to the Acts of Vengeance saga with the Avengers facing off against Loki. I enjoyed Loki losing his cool when he realized his plan was screwed and the Kingpin's tactical retreat from the Cabal. The battle itself is a tad abrupt and the rest of the Cabal are quickly shuffled away and almost ultimately irrelevant but conclusions to crossovers always struggle to tie everything neatly up and considering some of the clunkers of finales to crossovers we've had, this is a welcome treat. The issue ends with some apt speeches from Thor and later Hank Pym, and I particularly felt the one from Pym was a nice closing thought.
Then there's the Magneto plot which I enjoy a lot. It's great to see the basis of the U.S.Agent/Wonder Man "friendship" formed here over their mutual concern for Wanda and it's also a good showing for U.S.Agent who is the more grounded and logical of the two. The sub-plot ends with the Wasp arriving to find a badly injured U.S.Agent warning her to get away only to end on a splash page of the Scarlet Witch proclaiming her true power has finally been unleashed! This obviously continues on in the pages of Avengers even though the Acts of Vengeance are over.
This is a decent finale to the crossover and on the second read I found myself appreciating it a lot more than I did the first time. The problems I initially had with it (it's quick wrap-up, it's short fight), didn't appear so prominent this time around. The only real problem with the issue is that it ends on such a cliffhanger that leads into the next story (or wraps up a sub-plot from the crossover, depending how you look at it) which means that - while you get a sense of closure from the story, he don't actually receive a proper end to the piece. But as I said, as far as finales go, this is definitely one of the better ones.