"Master of the Ring, Part 5"
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Art: Scott Kolins
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Plot: Captain America and Wolverine find their information exchange meeting interrupted by an explosion in the distance, and the two rush off to play hero. However, the explosion was simply a firework show created by the Ringmaster, and while it did serve to draw the attention of several heroes, the Ringmaster's defeat comes about from a very unexpected source. The issue then ends with the Sleepwalker arriving at the site of the battle.
Comments: I get the joke that Robert Kirkman was playing on the reading audience. I'll even admit to cracking a smile when the story presented its less than dramatic solution to the Ringmaster crisis. However, this is a rare miscue on Robert Kirkman's part, as if one if going to spend four and a half issues building toward a moment then you had best put a little more on the table than this issue offers up. On one hand, I did enjoy the unexpected quality of how the Ringmaster is defeated, and there's something delightfully goofy about how Wolverine and Captain America are used in this issue, as I'm sure the readers expected them to be last second rescue, but they end up arriving after the crisis has been resolved. As such, they are left to stand around exchanging pleasantries with the other heroes. However, in the end the success of this second arc is entirely dependent on how much one enjoyed Robert Kirkman's simple moments of interaction between the various characters, as the Ringmaster threat never really developed into anything all that impressive. In fact, Robert Kirkman resolves the exploding Spider-Man cliff-hanger in such a slapdash manner that one can't help but feel a bit insulted. Still, there was quite a bit to enjoy in this issue, as the opening back and forth exchange between Wolverine and Captain America was a fun display of how these two men don't really get along, but circumstances have forced them to work together. The Thor gag though was more confusing than amusing. The issue also presents an entertaining little bit where Spider-Man tries to figure out if Wolverine is joking, and the final page made for a very funny closing gag. The complete lack of material devoted to the Titannus subplot was a bit strange though, especially given both recap pages goes out of their way to mention it. I also found myself wishing that the second recap page had displayed more of a willingness to break from the established format, as the last two lines were very funny.
I loved this issue's cover; it's such a goofy visual moment that one can't help but smile, with Daredevil's expression being the little touch that really won me over. As for the interior art it earns full marks for its work on the big action as wSpider-Man, Moon Knight and Daredevil find themselves dealing with the ever shifting reality that that Ringmaster is generating. How can one not help but enjoy the page where the three are about to be fired out of cannons? The art also captures the abrupt quality of the scene where the Ringmaster is brought down, as the three panels where we see what has happened is a great bit of visual storytelling. The art also sell the humor of the moment where Spider-Man finds himself on the receiving end of the withering gaze of the other heroes who have gathered to deal with this threat. While the character is little better than an amusing final page gag, Scott Kolins draws a great looking Sleepwalker.
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