By: Jeff Parker (Writer), Carlo Pagulayan, Ray-Anthony Height, Wellington Alves (Artists), Val Staples (Colorist)
The Story: Betty and Aaron have to fight several villains on Mount Rushmore in order to access another part of the great machine.
The Review: I think this title has an unfortunate curse, one that makes it unable to be consistent in terms of quality, despite the best effort of the team working on it. Either they balance their action and development well-enough to give us a rewarding read, or something gets in the way of our enjoyment.
Here, what seems to be causing a bit of disappointment would be the setting of a routine of some sort in the book. Sure, Jeff Parker bring some good and original ideas in the mix, but somehow the plot of most issues so far seems to be ‘’exotic locale, fight bad guys, look at the machine’’, which then continues like this. We are sometime treated to the development of other situations, like the original She-Hulk meeting General Fortean or the Mad Thinker and his schemes.
In this issue, we are brought to some kind of illusionary Mount Rushmore as versions of four of the greatest antagonists of the Marvel universe, Loki, Ultron, Red Skull and Dr.Doom. As we get to know just why these characters appears here as they try to defend the way to the Terranometer, we get to see both Aaron and Betty fighting simulacrum of these great villains. To the credit of Parker, the fight scenes with these two against these giants of villainy is actually quite well done, as we get to see just how they would perhaps be beaten if they weren’t so powerful as the real versions. There are also some very neat ideas being thrown, like Machine Man fighting Ultron through their very database and through coding. It’s a neat little concept that is well-used considering the character.
Another pretty awesome concept would be the new character introduced in this issue named the Yologarch, who is an amalgam of the reproduction from the Terranometer of all those four aforementioned villains. Like Black Fog and M.O.D.O.K from the previous story with Red Hulk, Jeff Parker has a knack for imagining new villains with clever twists and motivations, as this one wants to break free of his obligations, notably to protect the great machine.
However, as cool as this concept is, it is not necessarily used in the best of way, as the fight between The Yologarch and Betty isn’t particularly interesting, nor is it unique. Parker always had a knack for good action scenes, as shown in books like Thunderbolts or Agents of Atlas. However, here, Betty gets psychological, yet not in a particularly original or even effective way, which is kind of dull when compared to the previous action sequence in the book.
What also does not help the book would be the art. Not that it’s bad, but here we have another artist helping the regular team, which creates a feeling of non-consistency in the book. We have the regular team of Pagulayan and Alves, bringing their regular attention to detail and their more realistic approach to the characters and their good design. The first action scene, which looks fantastic, is done by these two and they are very inventive in their portrayal of the fight between Betty and those villains. However, a few page before the Yologarch appears and the fight with that new villain in question is drawn by Ray-Anthony Height, who is a good artist, yet he does not mesh very well with the previous team. His take on those characters is less detailed and rounder and he seems to have trouble drawing backgrounds properly, as the colors do the job instead of proper backgrounds. To his credit, though, his panel layouts are much better and more inventive than the previous art team, which does help.
Someone else who does help the book is Val Staples, a colorist of talent that really bring the more outlandish elements of the script. The energy crackles, the magic, the technology and the characters all look very good thanks to his much more chaotic palette that suits this book like a glove. The fight between Machine Man and Ultron is particularly psychotic in its use of colors, which really does bring the more alien aspect of a machine’s mind to the forefront.
The Conclusion: While it has some neat concepts and fight sequences, the book is a bit brought down in its repetition in terms of stories and because of the inconsistency with the art team. Good, but not quite on the level we know this team can reach.
Hugo Robberts Larivière