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

The Story: The Illuminati each tries in various ways to find a solution to the colliding Earths problem as they venture into the other Earth.

The Review: How can you top the last issue? That was the very first thought that occurred to me as I opened up this month’s issue. The previous issue had ton major events in them which helped ground the title and proclaim how serious it was in its agenda. It was big, catastrophic and ripe with so much potential for the whole of the Marvel universe, it was clearly impossible for Hickman to even come close to this level.

Unfortunately, it seems I was right in that assumption.

Now, this may seems that I will bash the book because it did not keep the same level of drama and importance that was shown previously, but that would be a serious error. There are several things to like, even love in this issue, starting with the voice Hickman has found within each of the characters. While they may all be optimistic characters or people clearly used to having huge responsibilities, we can see in each scene how this kind of event affects each of them. He gets how these characters think, with the ever so noble, yet utterly prepared and dangerous Doctor Strange, the arrogant Namor to Beast who seems out of his league in such a group. Things are big, dangerous and it seems there are close to no right answers for the group considering what the noble thing to do is.

Even though the characters convey that sensation really well, the sheer concepts and the ideas here are what push the envelope even further into the abyss. Coming to the Earth that will soon collide with theirs, the universe the Illuminati find there is barely explored, yet what is shown here is brilliant, keeping with the themes of the multiverse and the sheer potential of such a thing. Here, they encounter this universe version of Galactus (called Galaktus there) as he is ready to obliterate this Earth. Seeing such a grand sight, they are greeted by the herald who gives them an ultimatum about the situation. It is exactly the kind of decision they have to make here that makes this title so interesting, as the Illuminati gets the idea that if they allow a whole Earth on another universe to die, their world will be saved. If they decide to go along with it, billions will die, if they do not, their Earth is still five hours from being doomed. With that kind of decision given to them as the cliff-hanger of this issue, Hickman shows that he knows how to pace his story with character moments, concepts and complications.

All of this careful pacing, however, would be nothing without the huge effort brought by the art team. Steve Epting brings his A-game here as his shadowy style complements the tone of the book perfectly. The subtle touch on the characters face and their expressions, the group shots, the paneling, the way he draws technology, everything seems just great. While the extreme shadows can become a bit excessive in some instances of the comics, it usually brings the point home that this is not an optimistic comic. When Hickman said that this was a dark book, he was not lying at all, as he was probably talking about every single aspect, especially the art. Of course, the whole somber effect is greatly enhanced by Frank D’Armata and his absolutely wonderful dark palette of colors. In most pages, he goes for the really warm or the really cold colors, bringing an extreme to the somber choice of his palette. When we see the pink and red sky on the other Earth, we know that this is not a nice place or something that is familiar. When we see the Kirby Crackles around Galactus, we know this is some dangerous stuff and that it means certain doom for this Earth thanks to his mix of colors.

The Conclusion: While not at the same level of the previous issue, Hickman, Epting, Magyar and D’Armata continues to astound with their dark take on one of the best concepts that came out of Bendis run on the Avengers franchise. With more promise of tough moral decisions and huge stakes, this title is well on its way to become a true must-read.

Grade: B+

Hugo Robberts Larivière