By: Rick Remender (writer), Matteo Scalera (art), Matthew Wilson (colors), and Clayton Cowles (letters)

The Story:  The Secret Avengers chase Taskmaster through the streets of an underground super-villain haven.

The Review:  There’s A LOT of action in this issue.  In fact, a substantial amount of the issue is spent on a high-speed chase sequence.  As such, the book flies by and it certainly keeps you reading.  Remender does a fantastic job plotting the action, which always feels big and blisteringly fast, with Scalera delivering on every panel, delivering a strong sense of speed.  In this sense, it’s an exciting issue.   What makes the chase even enjoyable is that Scalera and Wilson are doing a fantastic job illustrating the setting of this issue.  This sprawling super-villain hang-out feels like what would happen to the Grid from Tron Legacy if the seedy denizens of Blade Runner had decided to make it their hang out.  It’s epic, glowing, gritty sci-fi excellence.  As a result, Scalera’s backgrounds are really fantastic and they add a great deal to the chase, serving to make a more immersive and less derivative experience, something that issues largely spent on action scenes often fall prey to.

That said, while action is great and all, for an issue to be truly good, I do generally like to see some real character work and major developments.  While this issue is unfortunately pretty light on the former, things really do get going for the latter in the closing portions of the issue.  That’s when shit truly hits the fan.  I absolutely LOVED the big twist the story takes in the final pages, which really comes out of left field.  Suffice it to say, if you thought that Taskmaster was going to be a “villain of the month” type character, Remender has thrown you a real curveball here.  I suppose the brilliant part is that with so much of the issue spent on action scenes with Taskmaster, Remender really does get you thinking that he’s just a guest-star villain and so the big swerve the plot takes ends up being really effective.  Said swerve also leaves Max Fury in a very interesting position, one that’s much more nuanced than just “big bad.”

All told, while it’s a little light on character work, this really is a high octane issue with lots of action.  Furthermore, Remenders ideas – this super-villain hang-out and the Masters of Evil as an organization numbering in the hundreds – remain strong, fresh, and pretty nutty.  While this issue was fun, there’s still a lot of potential here to be further explored.

Conclusion:  The big swerve is great and while it doesn’t truly break the mould, this was definitely a fun ride.

Grade: B

– Alex Evans