Morally and Intellectually Awkward
I can't look at this cover and not laugh out loud, or at least giggle. We've been given a somewhat gritty war setting, especially when it comes to The Leader, and yet here he looks like a street corner crack dealer shouting "Yo dawg, I got yo' high right here namean?" I can't even.... it's just so goofy. And yet, still better than the last two covers somehow.
Maybe it's just been a while since I read the last issue, but a good bit here seems to come out of left field, or at least show up rather suddenly. I know we saw Mercy in the beginning, and subtly alluded to her previously, but when did she get free to go out and about and do what she wants? And who the hell IS she? Like The Leader, Way seems to assume I completely understand these seemingly complex-in-concept characters, which is made all the more frustrating when it's the two of them who engage in conversation. They talk about all these lofty things that are already way over Leader's now-adled brain, with barely an explanation as to how the hell he's still alive, and I want to have even the tiniest semblance of an idea what the hell they're talking about, but alas, I do not. Except that it has something to do with Madman and Hulk having basically the same powers, and Leader does too except it's just his brain that Hulks out. Or something like that. I have no idea and even a little hint would be nice.
There's a scene here with some soldiers under Awa that tries to be deep, but just comes off as morally awkward. One guy decides that, even if they worked under coercion, they deserve to be killed like the loyal soldiers. Upon which point a loyal or maybe just equally evil soldier shoots him in the face and calls him a coward, and the soldier the first guy was talking to agrees with..... someone. Or still wants to be a good guy and pities the loyal or greedy or... I don't even know. AGAIN.
Once again, because it's Daniel Way I guess, Deadpool steals the show, at least when it comes to interesting morality. His ramblings hold a surprising complex depth to them, barely hidden, as he surrenders the kill rights of Madman to the trodden-upon people. Of course this is mostly melted away by the weird last page, but the point still mostly stands.
Who is honestly still working for who anymore? The team is so scattered, and not by choice, and yet each of the seems to be sticking quite rigidly to implied ulterior motives that tend to contradict each other, and the supposed leader Rulk is still unconscious the entire issue. Venom especially seems to be so spot on to finding the right things and knowing who to take that it just has me baffled. He DOES stumble upon what is perhaps the first truly interesting plot thread in this series thus far, but it'll have to be pretty compelling to justify all the bland crap we've had to trudge through. And then Punisher and Electra just seem to be reveling in the violence, further degrading the amazing Rucka Punisher run.
In Conclusion: 2.5/5
At this point, I'm really just holding out to see if the second arc might be interesting, or if the blandness might be a little more okay once Phil Noto's on art duties. Honestly, Steve Dillon sucks here. The art is Lifeld levels of repetitive, cluttered panels, and painfully uber-macho. Which is amazing in how utterly terrible and boring the fight scenes are when the art seems entirely focused on being hyper-masculine to the point of ulcer-inducing. But I have to give an extra half-star simply because Venom stumbles upon something with genuine potential. Not a whole lot yet, but definitely some.