by Kieron Gillen (writer), Billy Tan, Batt, & Rich Elson (art), Christina Strain & June Chung (colors), and Joe Sabino (letters)

The Story: Loki faces the consequences, Kelda stands and fights, and Volstagg picks himself up.

What’s Good: With Thor not being present this month, several supporting characters pick up the slack.

Kelda, a character I’ve enjoyed since JMS introduced her, still strikes a sympathetic portrait.  Her defending Bill’s parents was touching and it was nice to see them come together.  Of course, it’s always a blast just to see Kelda kick some ass.  She’s one of those characters’ whose potential we’ve never been sure of and I’m glad to see her in a more empowered position this month.

Having a similar “fist-pump” moment this month is Balder, who reminds the world why his name is “Balder the Bright.”  Gillen does his best to make Balder personify the Heroic Age.   When he lights himself up to rally the troops and owns the Hood in a Matrix-like fashion, it’s all kinds of awesome.  Balder has bumbled around quite a bit and it’s nice to see him take up position as the quintessential hero.

Loki’s involvement in this issue will no doubt be a point of division, as the explanation for his involvement with Osborn in Siege, and his sudden change of heart, may strike some as a cop out.  Really though, it’s a rather nice twist; screwing things up is just in Loki’s nature.  It’s actually a fairly thought provoking idea about not just Loki, but all the Asgardians: the extent to which they are all controlled and determined by their basic natures.

What’s Not So Good: This book is a bit of a mess as far as the art goes.  Thus far, I’ve praised the very strategic division of labor between Elson and Tan, who’ve chosen their scenes very carefully.  That’s not the case this month, as both artists feel out of their element.  Elson is taken off of the battlefield and out of Asgard, forced to illustrate the more personal Kelda scenes.  The result is strange.  The faces don’t feel quite right while the environments in general are uncomfortably sparse and empty.

It’s harder to describe what exactly goes wrong with Tan’s work; things just feel off and not to the same standard as Tan’s prior work on the series, or even the Volstagg scenes he draws in this book.  Like Elson, he doesn’t seem to be comfortable with much of what he’s assigned this month.

On Gillen’s end, while this month saw a bunch of good moments, this was all held together by some blander stuff.  On numerous occasions, parts of Gillen’s script seemed phoned in.

For instance, in Kelda’s scene, Bill’s mother’s dialogue is uninspired and expected.  Her words of comfort to Kelda basically wrote themselves.  Even worse, a couple of her lines seem to have been botched, lacking a natural flow or logic.

Tyr feels similarly mailed in.  His dialogue is just typical, chest-puffing “god of war” stuff without nuance or distinction.  After Tyr’s battle with a prophecy and his well-written dialogue last month, it’s disappointing to see Gillen fall back to such “paint by numbers” stuff.

Then there’s the fate of Thor’s clone, who is very glaring in his absence this month.  I suppose Gillen expects us to conclude him crushed by the falling Asgard debris, but we never have a single image to confirm or address this.

Conclusion: There are bright spots, but overall, this issue is just kind of “there.”

Grade: C+

-Alex Evans