As writer Rick Remender’s Marvel event story crosses the halfway mark, issue 5 yields a surprisingly uneven reading experience. Opening and closing on a couple of high-impact beats, it also mechanically carves a wheel-spinning valley right down the middle.
So far the series has traded well on its bombast and unlikely allegiances. The issue’s opening segment attempts to stay true to form, delivering a broad, unexpected twist but something is off- and it’s not just mind-controlled CapFalc’s personality. Remender attempts to duplicate his earlier success of utilizing the wisecracker as main POV to lesser results, subbing Spidey for Deadpool. They come off as too similar-sounding, one clearly an imitation of the other. As the action ramps up, there is also a thematic callback to Captain America’s famous escape during the opening rounds of Civil War. Unfortunately, all the adrenalized charge gets put on pause for what could’ve been a really interesting mid-book interlude.
There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with having a breath-catching down moment in such a go-go extravaganza. Given the characters Remender chooses to highlight during this passage, though, it is surprising that he doesn’t take the time to really delve into the weird of it all. Some extended dialogue and maybe a little more backstory on how the strangest of bedfellows came to be would have been appreciated. It’s a bit much to just take at face value, which is how the script pushes it along. Shamefully, the entire multi-page scenario seems to exist as a string of transparent writing devices. The first serves as a bone-throw to promote Gerry Duggan’s upcoming “Nova vs. Hulk” tie-in throwdown. It’s not altogether surprising as these stories are often structured to do just that, but it’s just so damn on the nose about it.
The second offense is a bit more vexing for a writer in this day and age but a common trapping all the same. For years, comic scribes would disguise exposition as character conversation as a quick way of catching up readers to past events. However, in the era of the obligatory “Previously…” recap page, it’s fallen out of favor. As such, when employed poorly in a modern context, it can come off as jarringly superfluous if not a lazy mismanagement of page-time. Sadly, Remender opts to really phone it in, taking a protracted handheld tour back through what the reader already knows from simply reading the opening paragraphs on page one! There’s so many parts in play, this time could’ve been better allocated any number of ways.
The lion’s share of points won for this issue goes to the husband and wife art team of Terry and Rachel Dodson. A fixture of Uncanny X-Men a few years back, they are always a welcome sight rendering Marvel’s once-merry mutants. Although thick-lined and cartoonishly stylized, there is still great presence to their work. By way of example, Apocalypse regains a visual edginess unseen since perhaps the days of Walt Simonson’s 1980s X-Factor. Hopefully next issue affords them the opportunity to break into more unfamiliar cast and turn loose on some villains acting heroically.
Despite bottoming out in the middle, the issue bounces back with a tremendous boost from the “Oh $#!+” cliffhanger. Like the previous chapters, Remender reaches down and somehow finds a way for this saga to up its own ante, constantly turning the dial well past “11”. It also makes it impossible not to come back again and do it all over again next week. It’s like a glorious trainwreck crossed with an Everlasting Gobstopper.
CBH Score: 3 out of 5
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