by Jonathan Hickman (Writer), Simone Bianchi (Artist), Adriano Dell’alpi (Colorist)

The Story: An incursion event happens on another Earth as the Illuminati try to find a way to travel to other universes to observe such things unfold.

The Review: I am someone who craves high concepts. A comic that tries to be ambitious has better chances to work with me than others, especially in terms of cape comics. It’s go big or go home, usually, as far as ideas go. Smaller book can satisfy, of course, yet huge events and impossible high threats have a certain allure to them, don’t they?

However, despite the level in which the conflict is set and how everything unfolds, large concepts needs a proper execution in order for them to properly have an effect on readers. If things are too large and a bit incomprehensible, how can anyone be expected to follow if everything is too obscure for even the initiated?

It’s unfortunately one of the problem that plagues this issue a bit, as Hickman throws incredibly fascinating ideas in this issue, yet some of them aren’t fully developed or revealed enough in depths for readers to fully appreciate them. While the idea of an Illuminati group from another universe, one with Magneto, Captain Marvel, Shuri and Charles Xavier replacing the likes of Namor and Doctor Strange is actually really clever. The alternate manner in which the events of Infinity unfolded in the Earth they are in (Earth-23099) is very interesting, with the terrigenesis having a very different outcome along with some key differences in characters.

Setting the issue in constant switch with what happens with the regular Illuminati is a rather smart move, yet neither plot points ever reach a point of satisfying conclusion, with one reaching a certain point, while the other serves merely as a sacrifice for readers to understand some basic truths about the tone and themes of the title. One point presents pseudo super-science while the other battles the black priests trying to destroy their world. In the end, both stories make their point clear, but doesn’t do much with them beside pointing them out.

Sure enough, not everything is bad here, as some ideas are indeed for the long and short-term plans of the book. The inclusion of the bridge from Hickman’s Fantastic Four run is rather intelligent and does offer plenty of opportunities while it does tie-in nicely to the themes of the book and the problem of the incursions,

However, the characterization is not exactly one of the finer points of this issue. While Hickman is usually rather great at presenting the quirks of the Illuminati, this issue does show some problem as he instead focus on another group altogether, mixing it up with the black priests and Black Swan. Unfortunately, most of them are here to present ominous lines rather than actual characterization and personality traits, as most of the dialogue is either teasing or exposition, which does not help in building up situations that can be emotionally charged for the readers. The exception is Black Swan, who does not fare much better as she tends to be more annoying than anything else in this issue. While there are some character traits attached to her, her constant bickering, vague lines and behaviour does not add much fun nor does it add anything more to this story. She has been handled much better in previous issues, which makes this one rather disappointing in comparison.

The weakest part of the issue is the art, though, with Simone Bianchi lacking a lot of restraint in terms of style which makes some of the anatomy and most of the action look rather ugly and unfocused. The architecture along with the backgrounds are actually pretty nice, yet the characters, emotions and most of the details attached to these concepts are simply too rough-looking. Lines are blurry, details are wobbly and some of the poses and emotions are conveyed erratically. Not everything is bad, mind you, as the panelling is good at most times, with some pages being absolutely great, like the Dr. Strange ones, but for the most part it’s rather messy.

The colorization fares a bit better, but not by much. The general economy of colorization due to several empty space is smart, with a certain approach to darkness being contrasted very well by the rather huge amount of white present. The more colorful aspects of the backgrounds also do work well with the designs of characters and other details such as machinery, but there’s a certain overwhelming presence of black and white that does a certain disservice at times to the book. Moments of brilliance, like the Dr. Strange pages, are often balanced by lesser ones like the pages focusing on the Illuminati of Earth-616. It’s certainly not terrible overall, but it does not go much higher than decent in general terms.

The Conclusion: Superb ideas and a rather neat presentation of the themes of the series are unfortunately brought down by weak art, a certain lack of accomplishment and some poor execution of some concepts. A nice try, but not exactly the satisfying experience it could have been.

Grade: C

Hugo Robberts Larivière

-Is it just me, or did the solicitations simply lied to us? They said the gathering of a new Illuminati would be seen in this issue and we haven’t seen even a single clue as to who or what could instigate such a thing.