Writer: Neil Gaiman
Artist: Andy Kubert
Publisher: Marvel Comics
As we learn the Virginia Dare's transformation into a bird creature has occurred before, we also learn that her changes are somehow linked to the unusual weather that has swept across the globe. Meanwhile, the Grand Inquisitor deals with an assassination attempt, while Nick Fury works to uncover the identity of the third assassin, only to discover the truth too late for it to do him any good.
This latest chapter continues to slowly construct this new universe, where we see familiar faces cast into new roles, and Neil Gaiman deftly plays with all his various toys so that one is never quite sure what to expect from these character, even though they are all remaining pretty much true to their character's behavior patterns from the regular Marvel Universe. Now this isn't exactly an action packed affair, and beyond the cliffhanger ending and the revelation about Virginia Dare's secret that should make most Alpha Flight fans sit up and take notice, there's not much about the issue that I would label exciting. However, I've been making an active effort to track down Neil Gaiman's past work, and this search has shown me that he's a very concise, but highly talented writer who seems to have the entire story plotted in his mind before he even puts pen to paper. The only other comic writer I know of who appears to have such a solid grasp of the whole story is Christopher Priest, but most times his story have so many layers that he would have to be crazy not to have all his ducks in a row before he started in on the first chapter. Neil Gaiman isn't breaking the mold with this story, as it's basically an Elseworlds story set in the Marvel Universe, but he is making great use of his cast of characters, and I can't wait to see how this alternate reality will be reintegrated into the Marvel Universe.
As for the art, while I wouldn't go as far to say that I'm enjoying the look of the art, I will say that there are moments where it is starting to impress with its ability to deliver the action is a visually exciting manner. From the wonderful cold and calculating look in Magneto's eyes as he turns the tables on his assassin, to the high energy of the sequence where Nick Fury dukes it out with an armed prisoner, the art does manage to deliver some memorable visuals. The coloring work is also quite strong when it comes to delivering the scenes in the cavern, as it truly looks like the lighting is being provide by that candle, and the same hold true for the tavern, and it's blazing fireplace. The art also does some nice work on the big impact moments, like the series of panels where Matt stands in place while his partner deals with a group of soldiers, or the final page shot of the Queen.
While my fondness for all things Spider-Man continues to make Peter into my favorite character in this miniseries, I must confess that Nick Fury stands ready to oust him from the top spot, as I can't help but find the character's take no prisoners approach to his job utterly riveting, and with the last page reveal that he's failed at his job, I can't wait to see what the character does next. I mean here's a character whose entire purpose in life is to protect the Queen from the dangers of the world, and by the end of this issue we see all that his chest beating thuggery has managed to accomplish is to reveal the identity of the man who is currently killing his Queen. There's also some nice work on a scene involving Magneto's counterpart, as he dispatches an assassin who was sent to kill him with a wonderfully casual manner. I do have to say I'm a little confused by the mixed gender status of Jean Grey's counterpart, though I'm guessing the answer to this mystery will be forthcoming. Daredevil and his companion make for a rather dashing duo though.
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