by Nick Spencer (Writer), Luke Ross (Artist), Matthew Wilson (Colorist)

The Story: As Mockingbird tries to assess her situation, the A.I.M organization and its minister continues their operations after the attempt on their leader by S.H.I.E.L.D.

The Review: While many read superhero to follow their favourite characters and how their heroic combat for justice and their life are going, there is no denying that many do the same for certain villains as well. A book is as strong as its lead, of course, but any protagonist need a good antagonist as well or else the conflict thrown in its way would feel a bit pointless or derivative.

It seems that Nick Spencer understands this quite well, as the focus of this issue is set largely on the A.I.M organization, with some of it on Mockingbird also. The writer had shown pieces here and there to show how the antagonistic organisation worked, yet it was always with Andrew Forson being the face of the whole thing. Here, the other ministers are covered as well, showing what they do, how they react and how they see themselves and their roles in A.I.M.

The mixing of general workplace environment vibe to the craziness of super-science and the Marvel universe makes for a rather fun read here, despite the focus on the more villainous aspects of the script. It is in fact the whole focus on the madder aspect, like Taskmaster training his soldiers only to go play table tennis with Mentallo only to be followed by much darker scenes featuring Andrew Forson, Yelena Belova, Graviton and others that make for a weird balance. Showing the readers that even the antagonists have the same problem, like in-office fighting, politics and the ambitions of the persons in power that the protagonists have to deal with.

There are some particularly strong scenes here, conceptually, as we see the characterization of some of the ministers. While they aren’t all equally interesting, the ministers really bring this issue quite high in terms of quality, with Taskmaster and his attitude, Graviton’s kind-of zen attitude and the actually quite powerful scene featuring Jude the entropic man toying with an agent’s life. They make for some really memorable scenes that shows just how twisted up this whole organization is.

It’s not just the A.I.M. characters that manage to make this interesting, though, as Mockingbird is cleverly used as well. Using her own history and the numerous missions she has been in, Nick Spencer really take advantage of it as he delves a bit more into her own thoughts. Her doubts and the situation she is in are actually quite fascinating, as the confusion she is in and how she tries to deal with it make for some particularly effective drama, which then leads to a pretty great finale.

What’s a bit less effective, although it is quite minor, would be the connectivity between each scenes. There is a thread that do connect through the various ministers and their interactions, yet it is quite thin. It works, yet barely as each scenes serves to show the readers who the ministers are without really serving the main narrative, if there is one. This is mostly a compilation of scenes with a minor connection between each of them, with some scenes with Mockingbird for good measure. It does not rob the quality of those scenes, yet a bunch of great scenes that don’t play quite well with each other does not necessarily result in a great whole.

The whole looks fantastic, though, with Luke Ross returning to the title as he illustrates each scenes according to their tones. There is a cosmic vibe coming from Graviton, a horrific one from Jude, a rather pleasant though minimally dark one from Taskmaster, making each scene effective on their own. The backgrounds are also very detailed and never quite empty as Ross fills them with various elements and characters. The characters are also very expressive thanks to their poses, motions and faces, which does bring the whole issue to life rather nicely. While Guice and Epting were very nice as artists, Ross is also doing a very good job and it’s great to have him back on this title.

Matthew Wilson, all the while, is pretty solid, bringing each individual scenes quite well with his choice of palette for each of them. The high number of colors that clash together in the more cosmic panels featuring Graviton and the ones showcasing the weirder aspects of Mockingbird’s history make for a high contrast to the colder and darker aspects of the script. Wilson juggles from one tone to the next without breaking the effect each scenes has, which is easily said but not done, which credits him and his work.

The Conclusion
: While not every scenes connect perfectly with each other, the whole package is still very good as the focus on A.I.M. and its more antagonistic personality gives the readers an inventive issue with some excellent art by both Wilson and Ross.

Grade: B+

-Hugo Robberts Larivière