We left off on one of the biggest cliffhangers in recent memory, and I remember saying that however it played out, particularly regarding a twist or two, would affect this issue’s score significantly. Those stars and this paragraph here means everything worked out juuuuuuuuust fine. Creative-wise, the characters are in absolute ruin. They went with the explanation I thought they would, they kept another big twist ambiguous, but it doesn’t harm the plot and, in fact, helps future storylines by giving them another thread to explore. Nothing feels left out in the cold, and that feels very much intentional on the parts of Nick Spencer and Ales Kot. Not everything is solved, but not everything needed to be. We even get a great out for having a totally shaken-up roster in the coming issues. As always, a book like this needs its characters to have their own distinct voices, and this one absolutely delivers on that. I haven’t mentioned it before, but I absolutely love M.O.D.O.K. in this book because of how not-grandiose he is. He’s PATHETIC, but because of what he knows, he’s afforded a level of autonomy and power, but he’s resorted to bargaining for bacon and eggs as part of his demands. It’s not that he lacks gravitas or power, it’s that he lacks dignity. And he’s a giant, malevolent head with tiny arms and legs, that actually sounds about right!
I have been trumpeting Luke Ross from the rooftops for awhile now because of this title and this issue gives me reason to continue doing so. This is a much more staid, subdued issue, with one EXTREMELY notable exception across a few pages, but it’s all still so INTERESTING to look at and watch unfold. It’s almost all characters talking, hell one large part of it is a character’s LETTER, but it’s all so completely fascinating to watch and experience. There’s a griminess to the visuals and it’s perfect for a story like this one. No one looks as glamorous as they usually do in superhero stories and, considering they’ve spent the last 16 issues wading through the muck, that’s for the better. Matthew Wilson’s colors are, likewise, muted and muddy, but in a way that perfectly suits the tone of the book. The colors are never boring, but neither are they filled with the joyful brightness that accompanies most superhero books.
There’s quite a bit of this book that feels like it was left on the cutting room floor. The final part of the squad’s escape is left to be described over a phonecall, and I would have liked to have seen it. Another character, likewise, gets off of A.I.M. Island with very little explanation and there’s a scene in a diner that jumps in after the dust has already settled. I get that this book was never going to be an oversized one, but I would’ve liked to have seen a few more scenes that were in progress rather than already resolved.
This was one of the most intriguing, dynamic storylines of the past year and it even had the decency to resolve itself in a satisfactory, satisfying way. The characters are hardly unscathed, but most of them may never remember exactly how they were scathed, as it were. There’s an amazing image of Maria Hill near the end of this issue where she gets a closeup that sums up so very much of this title. She knows what she has to do, but she hates that she has to do it. That’s the thinking that permeated the entire run.