By: Rick Remender (story), John Cassaday (art), Laura Martin (colors), and Chris Eliopoulos (letters)
The Story: The Red Skull whips NYC into a mutant hunting frenzy with the Uncanny Avengers caught in the middle.
The Review: I imagine that this is going to be an incredibly divisive issue. Remender takes some big stylistic risks that leave this one firmly entrenched in “love it or hate it” grounds. The difficulty for me reviewing this is that, while I myself fell into the positive side of the equation, I can very much understand the argument from the other side.
The reason for all of this is that Remender has chosen to write this issue in a thoroughly retro, nostalgia-driven manner, filled with expository narration and a LOT of words on the page. While I’m often put off by that sort of thing, I actually found myself enjoying it this time around. I had a lot of fun visiting the past, if you will, with Remender seemingly bringing a writing style from decades past, polishing it off, and putting it in a thoroughly modern setting with slick, polished art to match. Sure, that style is verbose, melodramatic, and maybe even a little bit cheesy, but that’s all part of the fun! That melodramatic narration lends the book an escapist, soap opera feel, making the book’s universe feel especially comic booky and its characters iconic and larger than life. It also elevates the stakes and the story into something grander and more timeless.
Of course, the flipside to this is…you might just say that there’s too much exposition, it’s overwritten, and see the melodrama as an inherently bad thing and draw the line there. Somehow, for me, that feels like taking the fun out of things and completing disregarding what is clear authorial intent on Remender’s part.
Another thing of note is how in sync Remender and Cassaday are when it comes to the big story beats. When Thor touches down and makes his presence known, it’s done with a true “shit just got real” tone; Thor stands out and is presented as a real game-changing power player, as he should be. The same goes for Wolverine’s losing himself to his berserker rage; Remender and Cassaday do a great job of showing just how quickly that switch flips and the instant change that results.
This issue also does a solid job of cementing Havok in his role as leader as well as the awkward idea of Cap as…not the leader. Remender nicely highlights the inevitable awkwardness there, while also legitimating Havok as the “rock” of the team, a role that Cap usually holds. There’s something rather refreshing in seeing him slap some sense into a hate-spewing, mind-controlled Cap. It’s a nice moment for the character and I also liked how Remender showed that Cap himself isn’t use to not being the guy holding the Avengers crown.
As an aside, I also adore the goofy team of baddies Remender has created for Skull. Their names and powers are so ridiculous that they could only come from the guy who wrote Fear Agent.
Art-wise, it’s John Cassaday, which means highly polished but characterful artwork replete with soft edges that make it inherently likable. Of course, I still have no idea why it takes him so long to draw, but it’s aesthetically pleasing nonetheless. I do have to say, however, that I continue to be absolutely giddy about Cassaday’s take on the Red Skull. Cassaday’s Skull is just so goofy-looking that I can’t help but love the design.
Conclusion: Again, your mileage may vary on this one. However, if you’re up for a trip down memory lane in the form of a tribute to comics of days gone by, all in a modern setting with slick, modern artwork, you’ll enjoy this one for sure.