Marvel’s approach to making this book is a lot like making a salad: throw together a bunch of ingredients that seem like they go well together, and hope it works. (That is how everybody makes salads, right?) In this case, they’re throwing together four characters (Venom, Red Hulk, X-23 and Ghost Rider) that look cool together and have a similar vibe, three different writers and five different art teams. Our heroes are all troubled in similar ways, and they all have a black costume thing going on. The reason it works goes much deeper than just looking cool, though.
Williams’ writing style is lighter than Remender’s, but it doesn’t take away from the stakes of the story. There are more jokes and witty remarks here, especially from Venom and Mephisto. The jokes don’t change the tone of the story though. Williams is telling the same type of story Remender did last issue, but in his own style.
In an issue that deals with our heroes’ respective emotional weaknesses, Williams handles the tone well. Flash has it the roughest, and when he faces his villain, it’s the most serious point in the book. Williams takes a story where the Earth is in danger of literally becoming Hell, and makes the hardest hitting parts of the story the parts that deal with each hero’s personal emotional weaknesses.. In Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead, the world is in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, but the story is good because of the interactions between the people dealing with it. The scope of the problem in any story, in any medium, is pointless if no one cares about the characters involved in it. Williams makes us care about the characters, and gives them depth and, even in X-23, who originally had no emotion at all.
Venom, Hulk, and X-23 each get two pages in a row with their respective villain, and not much else. The story would benefit from more focus on the heroes’ relationship with their villain counterparts, but for now, the space Williams gave them here is the strongest point of the story.
Garbett’s art benefits from Williams’ script, but it asks a lot of him. Most of the book is action, and the dialogue that there is takes place in the middle of it. Rarely is there a stagnant moment.
The art’s strongest point is Garbett’s depiction of the characters. The backgrounds are almost nonexistent, but it works because they’re also irrelevant. The focus of the art, like the writing, is on the characters, and detailed backgrounds would only take away from the point of it. There are a few points where Garbett gets to draw our heroes on a full-page scale, and those are the best looking pages in the book.
His style is somewhere in the middle ground between Marc Silvestri-style cross-hatching and simple, heavy lines. The style also fluctuates depending on character and the size of the panel. Hulk gets a few strong, defined lines, but his antithesis in the book, Encephalon (a giant brain), gets a bunch of thinner lines. Whether it was intentional or not, Encephalon is Hulk’s antithesis in the art just as much as he is in the writing.
Keeping with the movement trend, Garbett’s panel layouts are kinetic. Panels aren’t laid out flat. Instead, they’re often staggered, and there are a lot of pages where there’s smaller panels laid out on a bigger splash page. He also uses gutters well, putting empty space where There’s only one moment in the book where the panels don’t overlap or have some kind of kinetic layout, and it acts as a clear change of pace to make the page stand out.
It’s hard to sell a book six weeks in a row. Ultimate Fallout tried it with seven weeks, but turned out to just essentially be prologues for the new line of Ultimate books Marvel put out. This is different, since it’s one big cohesive story. Two weeks in, it doesn’t feel like it was rushed to meet deadlines. To be honest, I was looking forward to this book more than I’m looking forward to Avengers vs. X-Men, and for now, it’s just as good as I’d hoped.