By: Jeff Lemire (writer), Alberto Ponticelli (penciller), Walden Wong (inker), Jose Villarrubia (colorist)

The Story: Someone needs to teach these humanids a thing or two about labor unions.

The Review: Someone—I don’t remember who—made a point about this some months back, when Justice League #3 came out.  In that issue, there’s a scene where Superman, in his battle against a bunch of Parademons, uses a car to bat them aside and then a car tire to cut a couple them in two.  I distinctly recall a person remarking how funny it is we don’t think twice about reactionary, gratuitous violence the less human things look.

Perhaps I’ve been a bit indifferent myself, considering how long it took me to realize it, but so far this series has been a long string of monsters slaying monsters, wily-nily, rarely taking a pause to consider their next bloody move.  The agents of S.H.A.D.E. have somewhat lucked out in their choice of enemies, as the creatures of Monster Planet were essentially parasites and the head-shot of Colonel Quantum was something of a mercy kill.

But how do we rationalize the death doled out to the humanids, who are aware and conscious, however rudimentarily?  Or the recently unsealed, former Creature Commandos, who continue to call Nina their “mother”?  Can the agents continue to get away simply by thinking it’s killed or be killed?  Obviously not; Lemire’s too canny a writer to overlook the borderline hypocrisy happening here, which is probably why he throws in at the end of the issue a new problem that none of the agents, not even Frankenstein, can just kill off.

This is some tough stuff to chew on, but actually the issue has plenty of the unapologetically adventurous spirit as issues prior.  No matter how much angst may come out of this series, Velcoro and Griffith will always keep the humor and gonzo alive.  Here, they slowly develop—let’s not overstate things by calling it friendship, but, shall we say, mutual points of interest, primarily in big, cutting-edge weaponry (admittedly with less subtlety than what the D.E.O. has to offer: “It’s called the exploding sword,” Griffith enthuses).

And there’s something to be said for S.H.A.D.E.’s never-say-die attitude.  Despite nearly impossible odds, you’ll never hear admissions of defeat from Lady Frankenstein, Father Time (who, quite badassedly, beheads a humanid with one swift flying kick, the sight of which is just about the best thing ever), or Ray Palmer.  Yes, it’s true: the Atom lives!  Or, at least, Ray has his shrink powers intact and can use it with extreme prejudice, impressing the hell out of you in just two panels, a feat he never managed during any of his story arcs for the last ten years.  Let’s hope this translates to active field-agent status in the future.

The addition of Wong as inker has made a huge difference to the look of the series.  While Ponticelli’s rough, loose style works very well with the kind of rough and loose characters he’s drawing, it was at times difficult to parse through the fog of messiness his pages sometimes turned into.  Wong cleans up Ponticelli’s lines something beautiful, making fine details pop out, and big close-ups that much more dramatic.  True, the fight sequences get sapped of a little agility, but that’s a minor cost compared to the overall improvement of the book.

Conclusion: Yet another title that promises pure, never-ending action, but so well-crafted that it elevates itself to art.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – I haven’t paid enough attention to J.G. Jones’ covers, but this one is particularly epic, particularly in its composition: the humanids lined up in the foreground, the figure of Frankenstein towering behind them, his gun cocked, his eyes dead in that “don’t mess around with me” kind of way.  Someone needs to make a movie of this series, so we can use the cover as a poster.