by Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Mike Deodato & Will Conrad (art), Rain Beredo (colors), and Cory Petit (letters)

The Story: Atlantean terrorists are battled while Norman finally begins to show chinks in his armor.

What’s Good: This comic is becoming increasingly cerebral.  In this issue, the team is perhaps more volatile than ever.  The dialogues between Victoria and Moonstone and later Osborn/Moonstone are key examples of Bendis dialogue at its best, with a quick back and forth that serves as a means for one character to frustrate the other.

The high-point in this issue is once again Norman’s relationship to the Sentry.  I’ve never been a Sentry fan, but the fact that this series has made me interested in him is quite the accomplishment.  Norman/Sentry scenes are always gold, and this month’s is nothing but straight manipulation.  Increasingly, Bob and Norman are paralleled;  there is the Green Goblin and there is the Void, and neither can be suppressed. Speaking of which, seeing “the Void” in action is quite the thrill.

The issue also does a great job throughout its length of showing Norman’s mental fraying at the seams.   Bendis does a great job of subtly making Osborn appear as a man who is fighting a losing battle to maintain control.  And while the issue’s ending is perhaps a tad predictable and a long-time coming, it still manages to have an “oh snap” effect.

Finally, it’s great to see Victoria Hand actually do something in this comic, as she’s felt like a strange non-presence thus far.  I also like Moonstone’s development as the destabilizing element of the team.

Deodato’s art is of course, up to its usual standard.  Marvel fans know what to expect here: a clinic in the super-detailed “modern comic” look.  Of course once again, Deodato makes it look all the better by making the visuals dark and heavily shadowed, which perfectly compiments the  mood of the book.

What’s Not-So-Good: The battle with the Atlantean terrorists is pretty underwhelming and anticlimactic given their cataclysmic entrance last issue.  There isn’t even any real battle and it all just ends up being yet another means of showing how tough the Sentry is.  Even that is barely shown and happens mostly “off-screen,” which is inexcusable considering how many pages are devoted to wordless images of the Sentry traveling to the Atlantean base.  Even worse, despite Norman’s rhetoric of “avenging the innocent bystanders,” I don’t feel that we really got to see enough of the destruction wrought by the Atlanteans to actually give a crap about them.

As a result, though the developments in Norman’s deteriorating psyche are interesting, one gets a sense that as far as physical, real events go, this issue is a little lighter than it should’ve been.  Somehow, despite a major conflict with the Atlanteans and city-wide devastation, it feels like nothing’s happened.

Conclusion: Nothing ground-breaking, but a pretty solid issue nonetheless.  The ending is necessary and potent, though not particularly revealing nor profound.  Still, I like the increasingly psychological turn.

Grade: B-

-Alex Evans