By Jonathan Hickman (Writer), Steve Epting (Artist), Frank D’Armata (Colorist)

The Story: The Illuminati gains a new member and tries to use the Infinity gems to deal with the incoming problem that plague their universe.

The Review: Jonathan Hickman was not kidding at all when he said this book would be the dark counterpart to his lighter and more optimistic Avengers title. Even though he promised big threats and big things in both his runs, I never thought he’d actually go this far with three mere issues in. This is something I absolutely commend and I have only one thing to say about these developments and twists: congratulations.

Of course, this would not be much of a review if I stopped here. Something that works very well in the issue, just like the latest one, is the tension. Here, though, it is tension created with the relations between each character, not only by the situation. Hickman does not let us forget what is at stake, yet he is capable of adding the past relationships between characters in several key moments, be it with a snippet of dialogue or a simple action. People who have followed some of these characters for years will easily recognize that Hickman truly manage to capture the essence of each of the Illuminati quite easily, even in such situations and in such a tone.

It is not only the characters that Hickman manages to capture, as he also manages to make the problem seems even bigger in this issue with a single moment that tells a lot of the scope he wants to write in this series. This moment, which I will not spoil, is impossibly big and important. Unlike the latest issue which was mostly talking, there are some very big moments, notably two of them, another one at the very end of the issue, that push the title in a very interesting direction. Those moments seems even surreal in their scope, breaking the taboo of what we could potentially think would happen in this series. Like I always say about Hickman, he has a plan and so far, it is a fascinating one considering the problem and the trouble that goes along with it. Let’s just say that those interested in the Marvel universe as a whole must read this issue. No kidding.

As nice as the story is, a good plot can be brought down if the art does not match its quality. Fortunately, we have a professional on this book with Steve Epting, who still manages to convey the harsh thoughts and calculations on each characters faces. The somber tone of this book is greatly helped by his shadow effects and the pacing of his panels. It is by no mean perfect, though, as there were some small missteps here and there. I did not particularly like the way he drew Beast face, making it look a little bit too chubby for my taste. I get that he is a tricky character and that there are many versions of his design, but I did not find Steve Epting’s version to be on par with the rest of them. Another small error, right in the middle of the book, would be with the Infinity gems. On a page, we see the six gems, each one of them with a particular color and name, then we see them once more some pages later and the names and colors have been swapped. On one page the Mind gem is red, the next it is green. It is a small detail, but it could have probably been avoided quite easily. Still, the rest of the colors in this issue look superb, with Frank D’Armata using a somber palette once more to great effects.

The Conclusion: This is a big, important book that warrants to be called such. Full of big and bombastic moments, this has set some major pieces in the play that Jonathan Hickman wants to show in his tenure on the Avengers title. With a script like this, good character work and some very good art, it is quite easy to recommend this title.

Grade: A-

-Hugo Robberts Larivière