By: James Robinson (Writer), Leonard Kirk (Penciller), Scott Hanna (Inker), Jesus Aburtov (Color Artist), VC’s Clayton Cowles (Letterer)

The Story:
Reed and Sue find Eureka on Eden, Lake Michigan; Johnny is no longer an American Idol; Valeria and Franklin think Dragon Man is Almost Human; and Ben will find out if Orange is the New Black.

The Review:
Things seem to be finally moving into place, which is an odd thing to say of course because the “place” is “rock bottom” for our heroes. I’ve criticized some of this narrative in the past since the moving process itself has often felt ham-fisted and maybe even illogical, all for the purpose of forcing characters and plot to go where the narrative dictated.

Such as in this issue. The Thing needs to be arrested, so he is. What’s not clear is exactly how he was apprehended. It’s reported that Reed found the Thing over the body of the Puppet Master and was “compelled to relay to SHIELD,” which I suppose also means they both just waited around for SHIELD to show up (in silence, because they aren’t speaking to one another) and didn’t look for clues or try to solve anything on their own.

Because it’s all just set up for what is supposed to really be important: the Thing’s reaction to his predicament so we can return to motifs where he feels monstrous. It’s disappointing that it’s a tired trop, but at least the silent resignation of Ben is reinforced with some nicely expressive art, including heavy shadows and mopey posture, and a nicely positioned final splash page where Ben is dwarfed by the prisons of actual monsters in the “Power House” wing at Ryker’s. I do wish, however, that some of the heavy-hitters were recognizable, but they just look like generic hulking aliens in jelly tubes.

We also get a follow-up of a cliffhanger from a couple of months ago, when the Invisible Woman faces down the Avengers. It’s an impressive display of power that reminds everyone that Sue really is one of the truly powerful heroes of the Marvel Universe. It’s a shame the battle is only for a few pages, which makes some of the panels a bit cramped and the posturing awkward at times. And there seems to be a set-up where the original Human Torch makes Sue pause as she thinks it’s Johnny, but with Hammond taking up the majority of a full-page splash, it’s not visually set up as a surprise for the readers.    

The fall-out is again very poignant. Sue’s distress is palpable, although Reed as always seems less emotional, which is perhaps apropos. He even has a solution, setting himself up for work with one of those Community of Tomorrow scientific cities. Which of course may be setting up some future plot element with a new player in John Eden.

Kirk and Hanna help make this issue engaging, with emotionally resonant panels thanks to key posing and expressions, but overall it’s still a lot of talking heads.      

The Bottom Line: Hopefully, this issue marks the turning point for this latest story arc, as more and more we can read about the pay-offs and not the set-ups. There are a few things that seem genuinely new, such as an ethical dilemma regarding Dragon Man and seeing the kids in action by themselves, but I can’t help but feel that everything else is still pretty much regressive– Johnny’s trouble with fame and the Thing’s trouble with woe-is-me.   

The Grade: C+

by Danny Wall