Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Olivier Coipel (p), Andy Lanning (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The Red Skull stands revealed as the villain responsible for the red zone attack, but the Avengers are in complete disarray, thanks to She-Hulk's attack, and the surprise attacks that were carried out by the Skull in the previous issue. However, the issue ends with Captain America becoming aware of his old enemy's involvement, and while his efforts to take the Skull down are foiled, the issue ends with Iron Man & the Black Panther joining the fight.
This is probably the strongest issue thus far in the "Red Zone" arc, as the surprise villain stands revealed, and as is the case in most chapters that lead into the big final issue the big, bad villain looks to be perched on the very edge of securing their victory over the seemingly beaten heroes. Now the book does make some rather heavy-handed attempts at adding some real world relevance to the material, by having the Red Skull dithering on about the notion that creating a climate of fear makes the American people far easier to control, and one can practically feel the story engaging in some wink, wink, nudge, nudge style storytelling. Now given that the Marvel Universe has played host to dozens of alien invasions, had their planet on the verge of being consumed by an entity that literally chows down on planets, and is currently playing host to no less than two dozen super-villains who have all made active bids to take over the world, any attempt to inject real world geopolitical dynamics into this equation feel downright awkward. Still, I guess if one is willing to go with the flow, so to speak, I will credit the book for giving the Red Skull a new plan of attack. The book also does manage to create a couple moments where one can't help but be a bit concerned about the fate of various endangered members of the Avengers, with Captain America's situation looking particularly dire.
As for the art I have to say that I wasn't overly impressed by the inking job Andy Lanning offered up this month which is a bit of a surprise considering he's one of the more solid inkers working in the industry. However, the line work on this issue's art was far too heavy, and the shadows seem to be all over the place, paying little heed to where the light source in a given panel might be located. Now there's a nice one-page shot of Captain America, and the Red Skull looks quite ominous, but overall the art on this issue was a bit disappointing.
Frankly I have trouble embracing the Red Skull's evil plan as it doesn't look all the functional when one addresses the simple fact that the Marvel Universe is not the same environment as the real world, and as such asking readers to accept an evil plan that relies upon the Marvel Universe playing by the same rules doesn't quite work. It's all well and good to say that the Red Skull would frame Wakanda for this chemical attack, and that the United States would respond by unleashing a volley of nuclear warheads, but the question then becomes would such an attack even be the slightest bit effective against the technological superior might that Wakanda possesses? There's also elements like S.H.I.E.L.D. who would need to see more than manufactured proof, and the various telepaths & independent scientists like Reed Richards who would step forward to test the manufactured evidence. It's nice to see the Red Skull thinking outside his normal method of operation, and there's some solid cliffhanger moments to be found, but the plan doesn't hold up when one places it within the confines of the Marvel Universe.
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