By: Rick Remender (story), John Cassaday (art), Laura Martin (colors), and Chris Eliopoulos (letters)

The Story: Cap tries to form a new team embodying Xavier’s dream of co-habitation as Havok pays a visit to his brother, Wanda and Rogue come to blows, and the Red Skull gets up to some really grotesque stuff.

The Review: For those familiar with Rick Remender’s work, this title is very different from anything we’ve seen from him prior.  With John Cassaday’s slick, polished artwork, this is the big, flagship Marvel Comic sort of book.  Rest assured, however, that Remender nonetheless nails it, giving us an issue that almost feels like an issue from an event.  That said, while Remender’s usual weirdness takes a backseat, it’s still very much there, giving the book a real edge to it.

While the “big event” feel to the book certainly lends it some superficial appeal, the real strength to this issue is the dialogue.  Now, I understand that for some, this may not mark a successful first issue, which is often associated with giant explosions and a ripping pace; you don’t really expect the highlight to be the quiet, cerebral conversations.  However, this is what Remender gives us, demonstrating that he is capable of subtlety in  his writing where required.  There are three big scenes here:  Wolverine’s eulogy for Professor X, Havok’s visiting his brother in prison, and Rogue confronting Scarlet Witch over Chuck’s grave.  To put it simply, Remender knocks it out of the park on all three fronts.  All the scenes are sincere, have emotional heft, and feel genuine.  For the eulogy, Logan’s brutal bluntness and lack of sugar-coating is perfect for the character and emphasizes the tragedy.  Havok and Cyclop’s conversation is a great scene where two sides argue but don’t quite seem to connect with one another, leaving for a frustrating dialogue where neither side seems to come out a winner.  As for Rogue and Wanda, well, Rogue basically gives voice to all the people who say that Wanda got off light.  Both Wanda and Rogue get in some epic burns on one another.  Between all three scenes, what’s most impressive is just how uncompromising Remender’s dialogue is – his characters really go for the throat and rip into each other and there words are really biting and really personal.  It’s great stuff.

I will also say that Remender writes Red Skull brilliantly as well.  He sort of takes the Skull in a creepy, eugenics based direction that makes sense while emphasizing the twisted, cerebral nature of the Skull as a villain.

The fact that Remender hides and downplays his trademark weirdness for so long only makes it more effective when said weirdness does show up.  The new bad guys he introduces, for instance, have really cool and inventive powers.  Of course, there’s also that last page which, if you’ve spent ANY time on the comics corner of the internet, you’ve likely already had spoiled for you.  It’s a gigantic wtf moment that comes out of left field straight from the mind of the guy who wrote Fear Agent and Frankencastle.  It’s so gratuitous and over-the-top and downright crazy that it’s hard to believe that Remender actually had the balls to go there.  It’s certainly a cliffhanger, I’ll say that.

As far as Cassaday’s artwork goes, I still can’t say that it’s at the level of his work on Astonishing X-Men.  That being said, it’s also some of the best stuff I’ve seen from him in quite a while.  Aside from feeling super-polished and “big budget,” Cassaday’s work just has a tremendous sense of drama to it.  Given how character-focused this issue is, that’s a definite boon.  Also, Remender does give us one action scene here and Cassaday illustrated action sequences, even fairly simple ones like the one here, are always inherently satisfying to read.

Conclusion: Marvel NOW is off to a rock solid start with this one.  A character-driven, introspective read with a gigantic wtf of a final page.

Grade: B+

– Alex Evans