by Rick Remender (Writer), Nic Klein (Artist), Dean White (Colorist)

The Story: The past of the Iron Nail is known to us, as Captain America is sent against Nuke, with Falcon in tow.

The Review
: Inconsistency is a killer. Many readers, including me, always expect the best when it comes to books, characters and the like, with each having a certain vision of how things could be done. With this in consideration, writers have to play up with expectations, but also exceed or subvert them, creating something better in the process. However, long form stories need these things in a constant manner, which can be achieved through characterization, action or the story itself. If a bunch of issues begins to feel predictable or simply weak, it can lead to disinterest as the quality drops.

This series had an unfortunate down with the previous issue, who tried to present new ideas yet didn’t do much to insert originality into them. The plot was a bit jumpy too, yet Remender did seem to have plans. With a fill-in artist and those elements now inserted in his narrative, does Remender put his series back on track?

It does seem that the previous issue was a one-time deal, as Remender picks up on some of his newly introduced elements and deepens them. The Iron Nail is one of them as the readers are shown a flashback featuring him as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., providing more complexity for the character while Remender plays with a few older ideas, some of them being more akin to Steranko era’s Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., albeit in a more sinister way. Putting some more background while providing context to Ran Shen, he becomes a bit more interesting as some other players are also introduced in his story, one that the fill-in artist is definitely in touch with. It also provide a neat contrast with the latter part of the book, with plenty of dark secrets and spy action.
The other part of the book focus a bit more on Steve Rogers, with the Falcon and Jet Black getting a good deal of interaction and characterization before the meatier part of the book. The way Remender shows the importance of Captain America as a positive representation of America in this scene, combined with the concern Sam Wilson has for Steve and the way Jet Black analyze the whole thing makes for some nice moments. It’s bit on the short side, though, as the rest of the issue is dedicated to something else.

The larger part of the issue focusing on Captain America is attributed to the fight against Nuke, which pretty good in terms of pacing, characterization and excitement. The first noticeable thing is how Remender portray Captain America in battle as opposed to his normal life, as how Steve acts in action is very different from how he was previously shown. This kind of subtle characterization plays nicely with the super soldier theme behind the character, who seems to get more alive when he’s in duty, letting his thoughts drift away to focus on the immediate problem. The way he is pit against Nuke, someone who clearly is also focusing on the immediate by following orders without question despite the consequences, makes also for a fine connection between the worst and the best, yet not in a way that feels overblown or without nuances.

The fight in itself is standard fare, though, with Remender not exactly bringing his flair for grandeur, innovation or eccentricity to the forefront. It does its job well and send the message of brutality versus heroism clearly, but it doesn’t go far enough in its portrayal of both, making it more like a brawl rather than an heroic affair. It’s competent and that’s that.

This last statement would be a far cry on how best to describe Nic Klein though, who’s the fill-in artist for this issue. Already, he seems to be at ease in the first few pages dealing with Ran Shen and S.H.I.E.L.D., with a good visual pacing rendered through the pacing and the switch between panels with a certain scope on the scenery and some with a clear focus on the characters. This kind of approach is also done, with much more restraint in the pages focusing on Captain America, though, bringing a certain disconnection between the spy tone and the super hero tone brought in the first and second half of the book. In the super hero portion, the action is much more central to the panels, with some of the final pages being really quick in terms of visual pacing, with the panels showing a slow progression that really shine on the urgency of the situation. The characters on both parts are good looking though, with their expressions being not exactly diverse, yet their body language and anatomy are splendid. Nic Klein is really great at expressing fisticuffs and other means of physical violence, which shows on the poses in the Ran Shen and Captain America sections. In this issue, Nic Klein is really effective considering how the plot is divided.*

The colors of Dean White are also nothing to dismiss, as he really does play well with the two scenes like Nic Klein. His heavy use of shadows and the way he minimize the other colors to make them clash against the darker aspects of the script makes for some nice settling down on certain themes. The low use of light makes for a nice clash against the other colors, who comes off as contrasting just as much against the somber palette. The rest of the issue, though, cannot shake the darkness away, playing the first part in reverse without removing the importance of black and other such colors as an invading force. The bright colors of Captain America, the explosions along with how Nuke is especially bright makes for a nice presence amidst all this low lighting. It’s a nice effect used in two different ways that elevate the art a good deal.

The Conclusion
: With a great artistic direction along with some pretty neat characterization from everyone involved in this issue, this series is getting back on track as Remender might still surprise its readers. It’s not perfect, but sometimes being good does the job nicely.

Grade: B

-Hugo Robberts Larivière

*Seeing this issue, it makes me wonder why isn’t Nic Klein on a book at Marvel, on a permanent basis. He definitely has talent and could probably bring out the strengths of this book to the front. No offense to Pacheco, who’s a good artist, but it seems to me that Klein is much more suited to this book.