Rick Remender ends the adventure in the core in epic fashion with an interesting plot twist that cements The Father as a significant threat. Getting to that final revelation is a fun ride as Remender produces a script that yet again balances action, intrigue and character. And in the hands of Gabriel Hardman, the book is enthralling from start to finish.
It is impressive that even in the conclusion of this arc Remender can continue to build on his ideas. Opening the book with Jim Hammond reaching his goal not only gets the plot moving, but gives us some backstory to Father and his motivations. Usually this type of exposition dump would hinder a plot in this stage, but the moment is succinct in its delivery and genuinely intriguing enough to not disrupt the flow of the book. This little “calm before the storm” moment is needed as the narrative kicks into gear and becomes a breathless race to the finish.
The rocketing pace of it all gives the sense of urgency that was present last issue. This adds a lot of tension to the situation the team finds themselves in as they continue to fight antagonists that out match them in every sense. These odds add heroism to their actions, which allows the readers to root for the team. Take the Valkyrie moments for example, she is essentially fighting to the death to ensure the safety of a child and when she is saved by another teammate you can’t help but be happy that the team is coming together to help each other.
Talking of the team, Remender showcases both Jim Hammond and Venom this issue. But that isn’t to the detriment of the rest of the cast as he manages to throw in moments for almost everyone. Black Widow and Valkyrie continue to be defined by their actions, which allows Gabriel Hardman to show off his character work. Hawkeye gets to go down an interesting path, deciding to keep everything that happened a secret. His talk with Ant-Man shows that he is concerned for his team and therefore justified in keeping the truth from Steve and Hank Pym. This moment adds even more exciting fuel to the cliffhanger as it is revealed just how forward-thinking Father actually is. The ramifications of the book’s ending are an exciting prospect and will hopefully be picked up after the AVX tie in issues.
But the main stars this issue are Jim Hammond and Venom. Jim manages to get some clarity on his connection with The Core, which in turn leads him to the conclusion that he is being manipulated. But his charm comes from his dialogue as he continues to be the old soldier ready to do the right thing. It is a shame that he is injured in such a way. But with Remender at the helm, you can assume there is a plan for Jim yet. Venom on the other hand is thrown in as the asset that saves the day, not only that but he does it as the token bad-ass. This does wonders to sell his place on the team and his actions and dialogue are playful and fun which adds humor to the book.
Venom, much like the rest of the cast, is in good hands as Hardman continues to impress. The Core itself has a life of it’s own. The sprawling metropolis continues to be a great backdrop to the action. But this book is all about the big visuals and small character beats. Hardman delivers on both as he throws in grandiose moments, The Master Mold Rising, in the mix with intimate scenes, the Hawkeye/Ant-Man conversation. His action scenes continue to be frenetic and visceral, which keeps with the pace and tone of the script. Poor Valkyrie is on the losing side of a brutal conflict and Hardman adds just the right amount of blood and sweat to sell her plight. He also delivers some great visual images from the multi-gun toting Venom to the almost fatal attack on Jim Hammond. Hardman has seemingly moved past his problems of his first issue to deliver a well-rendered book that he has infused with dynamic action and character.
The book is dynamic and fresh. The concepts may not be, but Remender’s script and Hardman’s art present the whole thing in such a way that it feels different. It has all the action, tension and fun of a normal superhero comic, but it continues to keep you invested in the characters and intrigued on how the story will continue to unfold. It also helps that the book is visually engaging and in Hardman, Remender has found his perfect partner for the stories he wants to tell here.