So the fight at Project Pegasus comes to its conclusion this issue and what we get is action, bloody violence, betrayal and a tantalizing cliffhanger. However the issue as a whole, although well paced, doesn’t quite work.
The writing team continues to remind us that the golden apples are the key to Valkyrie’s immortality and how she is willing to give them up. This reinforcement makes the flashback in this issue redundant. These are plot points that have been thrown at the reader constantly. Valkyrie is a hero willing to give up her own immortal life to save lives. We get it. She wiill probably sacrifice herself by the end. By now everyone understands so hopefully it won’t be mentioned again. The only slightly interesting moment is the dialogue as Val expresses how fed up she is with helping brave men and women to Valhalla. Though, it’s hard to tell if this is something new for her to say or has been mentioned before.
As for the present, the Avengers continue to fight the increasing tide of demon cannon fodder. It’s just another fight at the end of the day and nothing really special happens. The nice quips of the last issue are gone and replaced with serviceable dialogue. Sin seems to have lost a lot of her vicious wit this issue leading to her falling into the background. Even when she is given interesting dialogue near the end of the book, the overtly charming Son of Satan outshines her. However, her parting words to Valkyrie are great setup and drum up a surprising amount of excitement for their next encounter.
Hellstrom is the most appealing character in the entire book. He oozes charm and wit and his betrayal, although distinctly telegraphed, is somewhat surprising. It will be interesting to see what angle he’s playing. But as we readers get excited by his double cross, you can’t help but see that his little gambit overshadows the main characters of the series. Granted it is probably the single most important plot point of this issue, but his motivation seems far more interesting than both Sin’s and Valkyrie’s. This could be due to the fact that the writing team has over-saturated the series with the same character motivation for so long that when someone comes along with another game plan it just sparks interest.
Valkyrie’s present day scenes are in a similar vein. It’s nice to see Val and Dr. Strange team up. Old school Defenders fans might smile. They have some good dialogue together and it’s nice to see Strange appeal to Val’s heroic side, but as we all know by now she is a hero and will do anything to help people in trouble. Probably the most interesting moment of Valkyries entire tenure this issue is the final few panels. Dismissing Strange’s offer of help due to her new found fear that her journey has become a war is an interesting angle. She seems almost annoyed that she stopped and helped Strange in the first place, which is another angle that intrigues and distances her from her former Avengers allies. But with her constant appearance in Marvel’s publicity of Secret Avengers, it is hard to believe that Valkyrie and the Avengers don’t just kiss and make up at the end of this series.
The only other thing going on this issue is the fight between Wolverine and Crossbones. Now this was a brutally depicted fight, but as it turned out it was quite dull. As it seems customary when Wolverine pops up, no one can upstage him. All the dialogue Crossbones spouts about people with healing factors is playful and would be great if it was true. In fact it would be in keeping with how the writing team have been portraying him for the past six issues: an utter bad-ass. What we have instead is Wolverine essentially murdering him after his little speech. It is obviously constructed so that Crossbones arrogance is dealt a blow, but it just makes your eyes roll. The whole “I’m better than you” dialogue from Wolverine is far too on the nose, but the more puzzling Wolverine dialogue is the whole “I bet you think Mutants are just another inferior species, huh?” Crossbones has allied himself with a Nazis but that question just comes out of the blue and doesn’t sit well with the rest of the scene.
The art from Pelletier isn’t really up to the standard of previous issues. Although he draws a great looking Sin, other characters seem to suffer here. Everyone seems a little lifeless, as the expressions are hollow. This could be due to how cramped the panels are, as they are filled with non-descript demons. It all seems rushed when it comes to the fight scene, which is a shame. His Valkyrie moments have a glimmer of his old renderings, but something is still missing. Meanwhile, Bagley improves a great deal from his previous work. His line work strikes the right emotional note in the flashbacks and he draws the standout image of the book. As Sin and Hellstrom gather their forces whilst surrounded by Hellfire. He manages to capture Hellstrom’s arrogant demeanor and even gives his Valkyrie a great sense of disappointment at the end. But it isn’t all perfect as his Wolverine/Crossbones fight seems to lack any real weight or impact. It’s bloody and vicious, but it seems airy, with no sense of pace.
So, the issue doesn’t really sell itself and this is due to shoddy workmanship. Although Bagley has improved, he hasn’t knocked it out of the park. Add to the fact the Pelletier seems to be phoning it in this issue and the art just falls short of the previous standards. The flashback is redundant and Valkyrie and Sin are lost in an issue full of fight filler. Hellstrom’s defection is the highlight and it not only over shadows the issue, but perhaps the larger plot due to its intriguing nature. Wolverine’s takedown of Crossbones actually lessens the mercenary’s appeal and increases the Canuck’s annoyance. This issue had glimmers of good dialogue, but all the playful banter from previous issues has gone and with it the book feels like it’s missing something. But that ending page at least gets the excitement flowing, as hopefully Sin and Valkyrie will take center stage in future issues.