by Nick Spencer, Ales Kot (Writers), Butch Guice, Joe Rubinstein, Tom Palmer (Artists), Matthew Wilson (Colorist)

The Story: As things gets a bit more chaotic at A.I.M., Maria Hill and M.O.D.O.K. have a little chat.

The Review
: Not to sound too paranoid, but I think Marvel actually knew I was getting a bit bored with this series. The themes were presented well and some of the ideas were really nice, yet there never seemed to be a character I could follow in a way that made me anticipate the next issue. I like Maria Hill, sure, but characters like Marcus Johnson and Phil Coulson weren’t exactly the most interesting people to follow to begin with.

Then came in M.O.D.O.K., the character too crazy to actually exist, yet too awesome to not to be invented. While the character had been revitalized completely by Jeff Parker in his Red Hulk story in a manner that made him an actual threat, but also an interesting utilitarian figure as well. To say I really loved the character would be an understatement, but is his inclusion enough? Does the addition of this character to the general storyline actually adds anything to the book in terms of quality?

This issue, in ways, both works and doesn’t for a good number of reasons, making the issue a bit uneven in its quality. There are several great ideas at work here, but some of them aren’t focused on enough to make the issue better than it should be.

One of the bigger problems is the constant switch between scenes, which does not leave enough room to build up situations. In this issue, the spotlight jumps from M.O.D.O.K. and Maria Hill, to Taskmaster, Mockingbird, Mentallo and Marcus Johnson, with most of them not getting nearly enough panel time to have an actual impact on the readers. Their scenes do get the point across rather effectively, but a lot of these short spurts aren’t quite enough to provide greater emphasis on their roles or anything else.

Not all these scenes are too quick, however, as there are three characters that ends up getting a good lot of panels here. Taskmaster is one of them, as his unique form of improvisation and shenanigans do provide for a bit of levity and a different tone to the issue. Not all of his scenes are interesting, though, as they don’t all seem to add up to much in the grand scheme of things until the very end of the issue. The scenes with this character are competent, yet not that exciting to begin with.

The other two characters that receive a good deal more scenes are arguably the more fleshed-out characters in the issue: Maria Hill and M.O.D.O.K. With the both of them being expert manipulators and leaders of their respective factions, the themes of espionage and the ideology of powers is played very well in their exchange, with both their personalities and their actions having an impact on the story. The way they bicker and explain themselves is nothing short of delightful for those who are eager to see a more diplomatic and politically charged discussion between two power players in the Marvel universe. Their scenes aren’t perfect, yet their pacing and the characterization on display makes them very enjoyable nonetheless.

What also isn’t perfect, yet rather enjoyable despite its flaws is the art by Butch Guice, Joe Rubinstein and Tom Palmer. While the lines are rather straight and perhaps a bit too rough in appearances, there is no denying that it does get the job done when it comes to presenting the espionage thematic of the book, with its hard edge and its morally gray area. The approach to technology and backgrounds are also nice, with neither too much nor too little shown, giving each scenes a divergent look without going too far in term of details. The panel-to-panel flow is also really nice in most pages, with a clear progression with each movements that is also neat to see. Where it falters a bit in some places is with facial expressions, with either emotions being portrayed a bit too much or not at all. There are occasional moments where subtlety is done well, but there are too many instances where characters like Taskmaster are looking too goofy and some where characters are simply cold and lifeless. It doesn’t work well in most scenes, though it does not destroy the few good elements of this issue.

The colorization of Matthew Wilson is brilliant at times, though, with a clear Steranko inspiration in some panels due to some funky coloring. Some panels featuring computers, surveillance gears and other such elements show a certain brilliant and warm colorization that does bring a great element of contrast on the pages, like the first few pages with Hawkeye getting beaten, or the background in the final scene with Taskmaster. There is a clear indication in most pages that Wilson does know the power of simple contrasts, with many bright colors positioned in duller-colored environment, putting an emphasis on characters and some other details over the rest. It’s a bit subtle and minimal at times, but it does amount to a lot of the visual quality here.

The Conclusion
: Moment of brilliance are often tempered with duller moments in this issue, creating an uneven read that is saved by the quality of the art and the colorization. A nice read, yet this book could gain a bit more focus and it would be a better experience.

Grade: B-

Hugo Robberts Larivière