by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Alessandro Vitti (art), IFS (colors), and David Lanphear (letters)

The Story: Nick Fury and the Secret Warriors try to make good their escape from a soon-to-explode Gehenna.

What’s Good: I’ve made it no secret that the Night arc has been dismal thus far and a low-point for the series as a whole.  It made me question whether Hickman had let the series get too unwieldy for him to control and I couldn’t help but worry that we were heading to an unsatisfying, possibly haphazard ending.  Thankfully, Hickman does his very best to right the ship this month and ends up churning out a very good issue of Secret Warriors, one that’s probably better than it had any right to be.

Hickman makes the wise decision of letting his character’s emotions take center-stage over the fighting and running.  What results is a comic that steers far clear of the mediocrity that it could have fallen into.  Instead, we have a book that’s sincere and, for the team, traumatic.  Daisy and Nick’s reactions to Alexander’s death last month are simply expressed, but effective and the bonds between these kids are emphasized even under these hectic circumstances.

What really steals the show this month, however, is an event that is absolutely shocking, perhaps one of the biggest jaw-droppers in a series that’s been full of them.  I won’t even hint at what it is, but suffice it to say that Hickman writes a very tense scene and conversation that leads us one way, before dropping us in the complete opposite direction.  Nick Fury has never been more of an ice-cold badass and Jonathan Hickman has balls of steel.  This was the most shocking moment of any comic I’ve read this month, and I’ll leave it at that.

But it’s not just this one scene that carries the comic; much like his new issue of Fantastic Four, Hickman actually gets a lot done this month, story-wise and at a perhaps uncharacteristic speed.  JT’s betrayal of the team reaches its head and, perhaps, its resolution and the fate of Gehenna is decided.  Meanwhile, very interesting new plots are opened up: Daisy is placed in a very tough emotional situation and a power struggle for HYDRA’s top spot looks to begin, as Baron Strucker takes a stiff left hook.

The issue’s ending is also brilliant, functioning as a fond farewell for Phobos.  It also puts an emotionally satisfying endpoint to Phobos and Ares’ tense father-son relationship that really is a feel-good moment, despite the tragedy.  It certainly doesn’t hurt that this scene is the most gorgeously illustrated in the book.

What’s Not So Good: Alessandro Vitti takes over art duties once again and, certainly, that should come as a gigantic sigh of relief from Secret Warriors’ readership after Mirko Colak’s ugly work on the series.  That said, compared to Hickman’s excellent script, Vitti’s art is the weak link here.

That’s not to say that it’s bad, only that it doesn’t quite match up to his previous standard.  His work here looks a little more rushed overall, and there are a few problem areas that crop up.  Some faces seem a bit off, for example, and Vitti also seems to really struggle when it comes to depicting his characters running.  Their gait looks unnatural, at times absurd.  The issue feels like quicker, rougher work from Vitti.

Conclusion: Surprisingly good, Hickman does quite a bit to restore hope for this series.

Grade: B+

-Alex Evans