By Ed Brubaker (writer), Steve Epting (artist), Rick Magyar (ink assists), Frank D’Armata (colors)

I never expected the downfall of the Red Skull’s empire to happen like this, but the theme rings obvious and true. Bad guys cannot be trusted… even amongst themselves. It’s the classic tale of “you reap what you sow” and the Red Skull’s belittlement of his comrades and his daughter has finally come back to bite him in the behind. Now it’s just a matter of the good guys cleaning up the mess. The Skull’s house is crumbling down, but there may still be a surprise or two left.

You know that first page on all of Marvel’s books that catches the reader up with previous events? Great idea. I’m all for it. But unless I’m jumping on a series that I’ve never read, I generally skip that page. In this issue, it’s probably best that you read that opening page before proceeding further, because you might find yourself a bit disoriented with Bucky and the Falcon’s whereabouts. Just an FYI.

From there, the story is bombarded with a stunning turn of events – nothing that’ll make you gasp like previous issues – just the kind of stuff that’ll make you say to yourself, “Wow, I was wondering when this was going to happen.” Well now it happens. I gotta admit though, Dr. Faustus’ scenes makes me wonder what he’s got up his sleeve. He hasn’t hung around this long for nothing.

Steve Epting does great job storytelling wise, slowly building up the tension in the later pages before hitting a grandslam with the last page. However, it still confuses me how his Black Widow has long hair while in the rest of the Marvel Universe her hair is short. This absolutely drives me nuts! Otherwise, this issue does a fantastic job of setting up the conclusion by moving very quickly to put the pieces into play without feeling forced. I can’t wait to see how this finishes.

Bucky betting with Euros. That’s pretty funny. (Grade: A-)

– J. Montes