by Nick Spencer, Ales Kot (Writers), Luke Ross (Artist), Matthew Wilson (Colorist)

The Story: Contracts are signed, extractions are done and the secrets in the pile of mysteries are revealed.

The Review: Everyone has its limits when it comes to patience. While not always the most impatient of man, I can sometime get anxious for things to actually reach their culminating point. In story, in cooking and in a lot of areas where anticipation is key, there is a fine line in the sand when it comes to getting the awaited results.

This is how my general appreciation of this series could be summarized, with plenty of things going on, situations being built yet the climax never came with each issues. To be able to set up a threat and build it to make it interesting takes skill, yet there is slow build and then there’s teasing, which this series has been on the verge of doing in this particular arc.

It seems, however, that it had been a stratagem on the part of Ales Kot and Nick Spencer, who goes all the way in this issue to deliver not only an exciting issue, but also plenty of twists and surprise to amplify the espionage and intrigue part of the series without sacrificing the action and particular identity of the book.

Where it goes right is in terms of confrontations, whether it is through gunpoint or in negotiations, as many of the conflicts that were set up in this present arc reach a new point or conclude. The fight of Marcus Johnson and Black Widow against an adaptoid Shang-Chi, the release of information between Maria Hill and M.O.D.O.K. along with a few little moments makes this issue particularly exciting. Letting many of the developments surprise the readers, both writers knows the strength of a well-elaborated twist, which they use quite a lot very well here.

However, as much fun as those moments are, this is still something set in a super hero universe, a type of world which is known for delivering plenty of action. Both Kot and Spencer delivers with quite a lot of it in this issue, letting it permeates the issue with plenty of tension. The sensation that everything isn’t as it seems still continues even near the climax, which fuels a lot of the better moments of the issue.

Another key component of this issue and its success is the dialogue, with is witty, but also really efficient at infusing characterization and exposition without any of those two aspects overwhelming the other. The exchange between Maria Hill and M.O.D.O.K., the little jokes of Hawkeye, the confidence of Black Widow and a lot of other small tidbits of personality easily passes through the interactions and lines of everyone, which makes for an odd mix between relief and tension that simply work in this case.

However, the very best aspect of this book is Luke Ross, who shows just what he can do with a right script and a solid direction. His panelling and his pages are simply magnificent here, with just enough chaos and semblance of order that it makes those final pages all the more satisfying to read. Adding to those last stressful moments a huge margin of quality, the action simply pops out of the page as the eventual finality becomes even more anticipated. Being very inventive and wild in this issue, Ross borrows a few techniques while using some of his own to make the visuals here simply astounding.

Even though there is a certain air of chaos in this issue, the fluid storytelling isn’t affected at all, with the book remaining easy to follow despite the huge gamble taken here. The switch between extreme close-ups with characters like M.O.D.O.K. and Andrew Forson, the larger action scenes combined with smaller frames and the focus on very simple motions through angular panels are great. Despite the very technical aspect of everything, Ross does not miss a single beat when it comes to emotions and backgrounds also, with a very detailed overlook on the environment and the reactions of characters. With a certain precision, though not an overbearing one, the artist is able to draw just the right amount of lines to make everything just right. This issue, in many ways, is perhaps the one of the finest that Luke Ross ever did.

The colorization of Matthew Wilson is also out-of-this-world as well, with a very rich and calculated approach to very simple contrasts. His heavy use of blue and red to details cold and warm with each action and characters is a thing of beauty, with a very high amount of change and switch to provide just the right sort of attention to help with the crazy action and panels for readers. With a very light touch of shading and lighting, Wilson combines the overly simplistic with the complex, using the themes of this series to the colors advantage with several techniques that allows for an even better simulation of controlled chaos.

The Conclusion
: With a great deal of actions, payoffs and a decidedly gorgeous artistic direction thanks to Luke Ross and Matthew Wilson, this issue serves as a superb climax, setting things up nicely for the upcoming finale. A great read all-around.

Grade: A-

-Hugo Robberts Larivière