I really wanted Remender to stick the landing on this arc, but I'm not sure that he did. Let's get right to it.
First, this issue revolves around Sam trying to disarm the bombs that Zemo has placed on Baron Blood without getting so close to Blood that he can infect him. Remender uses flashbacks to remind us how important having a family is to Sam, and I have to say that it really amps up the tension as the story unfolds. It also makes it all the more heroic when Blood does infect Sam, since Sam had no choice but to get close enough to stop him. This part was totally fine. Remender effectively pulled at the heart strings while Immonen delivered a masterclass in drawing aerial combat.
The problem isn't just that Remender almost immediately undoes this development; the problem is also that the undoing itself makes no sense within the confines of the story. When Ian insisted to Zemo that the Avengers' scientists could undo the sterilization, Zemo tells him that they can't, because the serum actually rewrites the victim's DNA. (I have to say here that Zemo's sarcastic retort -- "If only I had known! The Avengers have scientists!" -- is the issue's obvious highlight.) However, Misty simply injects Sam with the antidote that she swiped off Viper, and Sam is cured. How does that work? Does it re-re-write his DNA? I thought that the whole point of the HYDRA leaders taking the antidote before infecting the rest of the world was to prevent the re-writing of their DNA in the first place. In other words, it didn't work once you were infected, so you had to be immunized against it before exposure. Moreover, I can't imagine how the antidote could retroactively restore Sam's DNA. Even Zemo admitted that it was impossible. Remender might give Sam his happy ending here, but it comes at the cost of undermining his sacrifice in a way that makes no sense.
But, this development isn't the issue's only surprise happy ending. Redwing has apparently survived Blood's attack, though it appears that he's now a vampire? I assume that we're going to learn that the Avengers' scientists have a cure for vampirism lying around the lab. Or, maybe we're just going to ret-con that in "Secret Wars." At least he's not dead?
Second, Remender has to stop killing Ian. Seriously. It's the third time that he's killed him, and the second time in just six issues. It's totally lost its impact. I think he's officially died more than Jean Grey has.
Third, I have to say that I feel like Remender has raised Sam's parents to nearly mythic levels of goodness. When a grieving Sam asks his mother why his father had to intervene in the altercation that ended up killing him, she scolds him with a speech so dripping with earnestness that it defies belief. Remender similarly presented Steve's mother as a saint, constantly reminding us of her exhortation for Steve to always "stand up." But, at some point, someone has to have some human emotions here. Sam's mother can't take a moment to acknowledge why a young Sam would feel the grief that he feels, but then stress the importance of moving past those feelings to honor his father? She just launches into lecturing him about how noble he should be, as if it were that easy (or that they should all just be sacrificing their lives willy-nilly for the greater good? It's a little too much.
Finally, I'm not sure where we're going with Misty. I mean, color me intrigued, definitely. But, if she didn't work for SHIELD (and, as such, SHIELD didn't send her to save Sam), why did she get involved? Or, put another way, how did she know to get involved? The easy answer is that she's HYDRA's mole in the Avengers, but it doesn't really make any sense. She knows that Sam would know that she didn't work for SHIELD the minute that he was debriefed, so it seems unlikely that she would risk getting caught in a lie by claiming that she did. Plus, why would she want Lucas? Does she want to sterilize something? Again, I'm intrigued, but I'm still worried that the answer to the mystery isn't going to make any more sense than the rest of this issue.
** (two of five stars)