Last issue left off on a gloriously built-up cliffhanger with Maria Hill unilaterally activating her S.H.I.E.L.D. team’s subliminal activation code after an unauthorized black op went catastrophically wrong. But this decision made the entire team forget that Mockingbird was still on A.I.M. Island and even made her forget how she got there in the first place, so now Nick Spencer picks up directly where he left off: Bobbi using a holographic disguise and Taskmaster possibly reactivated as a sleeper agent. The entire issue centers around her and the gradual comings and goings of those on the Island, most especially the higher-ups who, of course, have designs and plans of their own, some political and some personal. I always like when a great writer gives us an inside look at how the “other side” lives and this peek at how the sausage is made on A.I.M. Island is a great example of how to do it right. They’re obviously not JUST power-hungry psychopaths, but they’re DEFINITELY villains and they’re not even terribly sympathetic, but they don’t need to be. Every villain should be well-established and have a good motivation, but they don’t all need to be misunderstood or abandoned by society. And, of course, it wouldn’t be a villainous headquarters without one or two perplexing, and frightening, mysteries.
Luke Ross and Matthew Wilson are back on linework and colors respectively and they, as always, get the job done admirably. The sheer level of detail they put into the close-ups of every character is something to be beheld. I mean these are artists who can get Taskmaster’s unmoving, rictus grin of a mask to seem emotive and expressive by virtue of subtle details and body language. There’s next to no action, but the various comings and goings of the agents are more than enough with art this good behind them and it’s nice to get an issue that takes its time and is here to establish the threats that have been revealed throughout the series.
There are a few panels that are unclear on whether they’re internal monologue or actually happening, one in particular where that distinction makes an incredible world of difference. The first three pages are used to recap who Mockingbird is (and that’s in addition to the proper recap page), which seems redundant as we’ve heard her backstory repeatedly in previous issues AND there’s already a recap page. They’re well-written and very well-drawn, they’re just also superfluous.
While the galaxy goes mad and the Earth is invaded across multiple Marvel books, it’s nice to have a book that’s still focused solidly on a smaller, more personal story. Bobbi Morse has gotten very short-shrift since making her comeback in Secret Invasion (her reveal was treated like one of the biggest of the book), so I’m glad to see someone scooped her up and is putting her back in the spotlight. She’s an interesting character with a great, modern design and I really didn’t want to just see her in Avengers team shots. Nick Spencer is also the master of the well-earned cliffhanger as this issue ends on a great one just like the last issue and the one before and on and on!