By: Jonathan Hickman (Writer), Steve Epting, Rick Magyar (Artists), Frank D’Armata (Colorist)

The Story: The Illuminati gathers in the dead city of Wakanda to discuss a particular threat to their universe discovered by Black Panther.

The Review: Double-shipping on books can be both a blessing and a curse. It permits people to get the complete stories by the authors that much faster, but it has a cost that goes beyond the pockets of the customers. Sometimes, it makes the artist or the author much too rushed in their work, creating small missteps in the writing or the art. It can also lower the general quality of a book and the appreciation of the customers when such things happen, especially when the only reason that can be perceived by them is to get more money out of them. However, there are some exceptions, as sometimes it is to create momentum and give a general idea of what the series will be about in a quicker fashion than usual.

This issue is of the latter category, as close to every single thing that were confusing about the first issue are explained here and are explored in further details. The machine, the other dimension, the strange woman, everything is put in context and it gives us readers quite a lot of material. When Jonathan Hickman told us that this title would be the darker part of his work, he was not lying or undermining anything. The tension in the room the Illuminati are in is palpable as nothing more than the fate of their universe and the entire multiverse is at stake.

The tension can be also seen in the characters and their dialogue, as Hickman writes them all very well, finding their voice and their roles almost instantly in this series. We already know that he can write Reed Richards and T’Challa, but he also shows that he gets Captain America, Namor, Doctor Strange and Tony Stark down to the tiniest details. Their interactions are wonderful, be it Namor with Black Panther or Captain America with Tony Stark. Those are people with an ugly mission that needs to be done, putting them on edge for they have a decision to take that cannot be easy, which is a fact that Hickman truly put to the forefront of the issue.

I keep talking of tension and character play that are superb, but what amazes me even more is the fact that I was invested so much in an issue that had close to no action, merely talk. The bulk of the issue is set in a simple dark room where we see all those characters discuss what T’Challa has seen and what they should do about it. It sounds boring, but it absolutely works, as the stakes are felt with every line of dialogue and explanations.

What work even more is Steve Epting art, which is suitably dark and somber, matching the tone of the issue perfectly. Epting and Magyar do a wonderful job at making the tense situation and discussion even more so thanks to their shadow work and the facial expression of their characters. There are close to no background work in most panels or scenes, but the somber style makes it work quite well. What helps makes this issue a little bit more dynamic despite the lack of different surroundings are the small diagrams, something that Jonathan Hickman loves to put in much of his work. It brings some visual diversity and really do make it feel like the scientific explanation is actually interesting visually. Everything is helped by Frank D’Armata and his somber palette that truly highlight the smallest of details, hammering down the fact that this issue is a visual treat in close to every aspect.

The Conclusion: This is everything the first issue should have been. Tense, important and dramatic storytelling combined with dark, yet wonderful art. The true potential of this series has been shown now and I cannot wait for the next issue and to see how this title will connect with Avengers.

Grade: A-

Hugo Robberts Larivière