Writers: Daniel and Charles Knauf

Artist: Butch Guice

Color Art: Dean White

Company: Marvel

Well, this was a heckuva time to decide “Hey, I really should catch up on this whole ‘Tony Stark: Agent of SHIELD’ thing going on that all the kids are talking about.” And can someone point out to me exactly when Marvel decided that maintaining a minimum “one death per issue” average was a good idea?

Here’s the ironic part: I started collecting comics back in 1987, when I was 17. It is possible – nay, almost a certainty, that some of you reading this were not born then. But, I’ve had a long layoff for the past 10+ years. I had to raise a family and all that, as well as being burned out from the over-saturation of the market back in the early-to-mid 90’s. Once “The Sandman” finished its run, I pretty much fell off the radar. So, I’ve been getting caught back up – and if you think reading up on M-Day and The Civil War in the span of a couple of days, as well as keeping up with the new heroes that seemingly pop up out of nowhere everytime I turn out, you are sorely mistaken.

Even with the detailed “Previously…” intro on the first page, I was still somewhat confused by this issue – partly because of the confusing background (the Mandarin did what? who’s dead? Tony is seeing visions, seriously?), and partly because of the frustrating lack of actual info handed out in the issue itself: honestly, it felt like the middle 30 minutes of a particularly frustrating issue of The X-Files. We’re obvously building to something big, but I’ve got about 20 distinct pieces of information here, and absolutely nothing to tie them together. (Significant events do befall two characters, but they were characters I could feel absolutely no empathy for whatsoever.)

The writers here definitely cannot be accused of insulting the reader’s intelligence: this is a multi-layered, complex storyline with a large cast, and more behind-the-scenes manipulation and set-up than one can shake a helicarrier-sized stick at. But, if you do decide to pick up this issue, be prepared to pick up as many back issues with it as you can find.

Rating: 5.5 out of 10

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