by Rick Remender (writer), Renato Guedes (art), Bettie Breitweiser & Matthew Wilson (colors), and Chris Eliopoulos (letters)

The Story: Mar-Vell, Noh-Varr, and Ms. Marvel deliver a beatdown on a Hala gone mad.

The Review: This is an issue where in many respects, the script plays second-fiddle to the art.  Much as was the case last month, Renato Guedes is cranking out some of the best work of his career here.  Seriously, this is miles above the work he put out on Wolverine not too long ago.  It’s clear that Guedes excels at drawing outlandish, alien, science fiction environments and narratives.  His work is incredibly detailed, almost uncomfortably so.  His work on Secret Avengers has felt almost as much a comic as some kind of European sci-fi artbook.  Bettie Breitweiser and Matthew Wilson really do a lot to enhance this feel, with a very unique palette that furthers the European aesthetic.  This is particularly impressive in the case of Breitweiser, who has clearly completely changed up her game for this series.

Unfortunately, unlike last month, this issue feels somewhat forgettable insofar as the plot.  I love the fact that Remender is telling a cosmic story, but I’m sort of non-plussed that we’re ultimately just getting yet another “mind control” story in a comic.  It always feels like an “out” when writers do this, a way to cheat by having heroes double-cross each other or do bad things, without having to deal with the consequences or ramifications, without Marvel actually having to commit to the swerve.  It leads to stories and characterization that doesn’t really have he significance that it would otherwise have.

As a result, when you see Ms. Marvel and Mar-Vell romancing and rekindling a flame and taking their relationship to a new level, should we really care?  What could be a significant moment for the two characters is undercut by the fact that it’s probably not for real and could very well just be part of their being mind controlled.

On the plus side, Remender keeps just enough of his cards close to keep you at least a little intrigued in the story.  We don’t know the who and why of the mass mind control, for instance, though, of course, it likely involves Supremor.

Also, I do really love Remender’s use of the setting.  Hala, also thanks to Guedes’ work, truly feels otherworldly.  Furthermore, with the raving population, Remender does a great job of setting the story in a world that’s clearly gone nuts.  Nowhere is this clearer than in a scene involving a mass execution, unflinchingly portrayed in all of its brutality; it’s clear that we’re dealing here with the same guy who writes Uncanny X-Force.  In that one moment, the suddenly insane world of Hala seems absolutely nightmarish and monstrous.  While the plot may be forgettable, mind-control mediocrity, the setting is certainly an evocative one.

Conclusion: Wonderful art and a wonderful setting clash with a sadly forgettable story that is a substantial drop from the “last stand” awesomeness of last month’s narrative.

Grade: C+

-Alex Evans