By: Dennis Hopeless (Writer), Kev Walker (Penciller), Jason Gorder (Inker), Jean Francois-Beaulieu (Color Artist), VC’s Joe Caramagna (Letterer), Francesco Mattina (Cover Artist)

The Story: You can’t keep a bad man down, but you can keep a good man down for a little while at least.

The Review: Deaths and resurrections are an essential part of comicbook storytelling, as there can’t really be any higher stakes to play with. And play with the stakes it does. The consequences of Death Locket’s actions and Chase’s condition serve as a catalyst for some significant displays of emotion, and the last-page appearance of a truly surprising resurrection makes for one of the best cliffhangers in recent comics.

There’s very little direct action here, making yet another talky issue, despite a bit of super-power training in the beginning. But the best of Marvel comics have always featured characters stuck in the middle of “will they won’t they” tension, and here’s a comic full of them. Nico takes the focus in this issue, with her training serving as the opening and her moral dilemma to give into the horrors around her as the featured illustration of the conflict facing our heroes. It’s truly a tragedy (in the classical Greek sense of the word) to see Nico slip into darkness — whether it’s truly her own decision or as a victim of the forces around her. But the combination of situation, dialogue, and expressive art make this an engaging and effective, emotionally-resonant, story.

I criticized last issue for it’s depth of focus on one character, and that is not the problem here. Balance is now given to other aspects of the ongoing plot/subplots, including Zemo’s plans, the Avengers’/SHIELD’s response to Bagalia, and Cammi’s imprisonment. There’s even a subtle new touch that’s added, as we witness via Cammi that there’s another player in Zemo’s cabal that remains just out of sight for another layer of mystery. This makes a more satisfying read for a team book such as this and I hope we can look forward to more as the story races to a head. (Bloodstone and Anachronism are absent/quiet in this issue, however, but it doesn’t feel conspicuous.)

Kev Walker’s return from last issue may be short-lived, as it’s announced he’s moving to New Avengers. I’ll add my moment of appreciation, as this series would not be as consistently great without his contribution. Notice in this issue how he plays with the panel borders to illustrate Nico’s state of mind– the panels featuring her rage and distress are bordered with a thick sketchy, scratchy line, including the inset of her close-up as she screams “why are we *talking?!*” Notice it’s the same border used as Satannish works his evil on Zemo’s prisoner, transitioning into Nico’s point-of-view narration in the next page. As always, Walker balances the close-up with establishing layouts, sequences panels from close-up to landscape, places characters carefully. It’s all helped with Francois-Beaulieu’s color art, that enhances the textures and scene moods with great choices as well.

The Bottom Line: It’s always a winning combination: characters you really grow to care about and situations that you really don’t know where they’re going, all made with expressive and dramatic artistic choices.

The Grade: A

-Danny Wall

One Other Musing:
— Whatever happened to the Runaways’ codenames? Perhaps it’s a feature of the way those heroes rejected the comicbook tropes, but I kind of miss Nico as Sister Grimm and Chase as Talkback.