Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Olivier Coipel (p), Andy Lanning (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
While Warbird and the Scarlet Witch work to halt to expanding cloud of deadly gas, Iron Man and the Black Panther fight a desperate battle against the Red Skull to save the lives of Captain America and the Falcon, while also working to secure an antidote to the devastating effects of the gas cloud. The issue ends with a fist fight between the Red Skull and the Black Panther.
Entering this arc I have to say I was greatly impressed by the almost epic scale of the crisis the Avengers were up against, as well as the sense of hopelessness that was established when we got our first look at the effects of the gas. However this final issue decided to wrap up the crisis with a simple slugfest between the Red Skull and the Black Panther, and given the Red Skull has never been presented as a formidable hand to hand combatant, while the Black Panther is one of the most skilled fighters in the entire Marvel Universe, the big battle wasn't nearly as gripping as it might've been. Now there are some highly dramatic moments to be found in these pages, as the opening scene with the Scarlet Witch is a standout moment for the character, and while the scene felt a bit manufactured in how easily the Red Skull was able to cripple Iron Man's armor, the scene where Tony makes his decision is a great character moment. Also while I would've preferred a battle of wits rather than a common slugfest, I must confess the battle was far more even-handed than I had gone in expecting it to be, as in the early going the Red Skull comes across as quite formidable. However, the house of cards that was the Red Skull big plan come crashing down in a manner that I found rather hurried, and the visit by the President just felt downright awkward, especially since the earlier issues had done such a credible job of conveying Captain America's anger that the gas was created in American run labs.
As for the art, the work of Olivier Coipel isn't the most dramatic looking work, nor is it all that impressive when it comes to the facial expressions of the cast, as when the art would seem to call for a emotional response, instead we receive decidedly flat looking expressions that conveys very little. However, I will give the art full marks for it's vivid display of the Scarlet Witch's big moment, as that wall of water is a truly impressive visual. The art also does some strong work making the Red Skull into a truly frightening looking opponent, and the final shot of the battle where the Black Panther delivers on the promise he made at the beginning of the fight is cringe worthy. Also while I didn't care much for the scene, I will concede that Olivier Coipel offers up a pretty good likeness of the President, especially in the opening reveal shot.
There are moments in this issue where Geoff Johns is very impressive, such as the opening scene where the Scarlet Witch puts on probably the single most awe inspiring display of magic that I do believe I've ever seen from the character. There's also a solid Iron Man moment where we see Tony makes a fairly heroic sacrifice in a bid to save the life of a teammate, and the big battle between the Red Skull and the Black Panther was well delivered, and it also managed to put in place a rather interesting rivalry between these two characters, in what I believe is their first meeting. However, there's also a sense that this issue is racing to resolve it's crisis before it runs out of pages, as after the first victory arrives, the issue takes on a feeling that it can't resolve the problems fast enough. I mean the villain is defeated, and one page turn later so is the deadly cloud of gas, and then cue the happy ending complete with a visit for the President of the United States. I guess I'm just a little disappointed that after taking quite a bit of time & effort to develop such a overwhelming crisis, the resolution comes across as a rushed, can't get it over quickly enough finish.
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