by Rick Remender (Writer), Steve McNiven, Jay Leisten (Artists), Laura Martin, Justin Ponsor, Matt Milla, Larry Molinar (Colorists)

The Story: The fate of the Earth is decided as the heroes fight for the survival of everyone.

The Review (with spoilers): Rick Remender can be a bit dark at times. With his penchant to throw several hardship and put his characters through many severe miseries, the writer knows that it’s through adversity and conflicts that actions actually hold a lot more weight. Through his work on Uncanny X-Force, his Fear Agent and many other of his books, there is a tendency to make the life of everyone there as hard and painful as possible.

With this in mind, it seems that Remender took this particular quirk of his to a whole new level. In this very book, which is the finale of a long story-arc that got started in issue five of this series, the heroes lose. Despite all the effort of everyone on Earth and aboard the ark, Exitar manages to destroy the Earth, shattering it to multiple small pieces as the attempts of everyone to save it fail.

In a genre where the usual good versus evil fight is painted in a low amount of grey, this kind of ending is something that is decidedly unusual, something that defies the norms established. Using the traditional non-ending to make things continuous for the next issue, the conclusion to this saga is something that is a bit disconcerting, yet in a good way.

Still, the ending isn’t the only thing of matter in this issue, with plenty of the strengths of Remender being on display here. With a penchant for merging dramatics with plenty of action, this issue is able to switch the focus from one character or set of characters very well, enhancing the scope of things as they escalate to their paroxysm. The way Remender switch from Thor, Wasp, Captain America to the heroes left on Earth makes for a very exciting narrative that makes the buildup to the conclusion that much more effective.

Despite all this action, the character work is rather well done. With some writers sacrificing some aspects to strengthen others, it’s a welcome sight to see that the reactions of Thor, the heroes of the Earth and all those characters still rings true to their previous iterations, but also to the setup that made them of importance here. Going for tension and for a good deal of heroism and fatalism, there is a lot to be said about this issue in terms of scale, which makes their actions, words and acts all the more impressive, yet also memorable in terms of futility.

However, there are certain downsides to all of these big events. While the issue does its very best to makes itself of cosmic importance and to have an impact, it sometimes goes a bit beyond the line of disbelief. The dialogue of Grim Reaper, the death of some characters and the overall fate of everything makes for something that can stretch the credibility of this book for some. While it does not destroy the impact of what happens, the fact that those things are certainly too large and unbelievable does tend to make it that much more obvious that something will happen to fix everything. It does leave plenty of opportunity for some utterly surprising development for whatever might come next, but it’s understandable that it might hinder the experience for some.

Still, the experience of this issue is definitely worth it, with Steve McNiven and Jay Leistein sweetening the deal for their final issue. Matching the tone of the script with their imagery, the artists knows how to make it so the panels envelop the action while making the characters and their reactions an integral part of the visuals. Sacrificing backgrounds to make a better use of scenery and the characters, McNiven manage to make those choices work for the better parts of the issue, with a good sense of motion between panels and with the characters.

Speaking of characters, the emotions and the range is pretty decent here. While not all faces display the most elegant and diversified expressions throughout the entire issue, what is shown here is certainly quite apt, with some visceral emotions being portrayed very well, like the madness of Grim Reaper, the despair on Thor’s face and many other such tidbits. The poses, for the most part, are also very competent, with a good portrayal of brutal violence and just enough to show the strikes counting. There are some instances where the poses range a bit too close to stereotypical and simply impossible, yet those are very few in numbers, with the emotions and the results overshadowing the smaller faults.

The issue, however, wouldn’t work as well visually without the army of colorists working together. Laura Martin, Matt Milla, Justin Ponsor and Larry Molinar all contribute to the greater whole, bringing their talent to make this cohesive. With a good balance between somber and bright, there is a heavy use of shading and brightness in some areas that are immediately balanced through a contrast of darkness. Either through division in terms of some pages, some scenery and an important use of effects, the warm and cold approach is nuanced by some balance by other techniques. The pages, for the most part, aren’t perfect in terms of balance or technique, yet the spectacle the colors partake in is greatly enhanced by the works of the many talented people here, making their contribution all the more worthy despite some smaller weaknesses here and there.

The Conclusion: With a rather effective visual approach, a great balance between action, repercussions and a decidedly unbelievable conclusion, the creative team delivers a surprising and memorable conclusion that is assured to leave readers asking for more. Disconcerting, but fascinating despite it all.

Grade: A-

-Hugo Robberts Larivière