Marvel has dominated DC in recent years in terms of the sheer quantity of writers with strong authorial voices and artists with distinct visuals, but there's still a house style at Marvel -- or a style that's the default, generic look of the line. And unlike DC, which uses a watered-down Jim Lee look for so many of their comics, Marvel uses a mediocre blend of Marc Silvestri and J. Scott Campbell for the likes of "Deadpool," or "Nova," or "Avengers : The Initiative." It's not a bad look, but it just gives you an idea of the type of thing you'll see when you open this comic.
The dialogue isn't much less generic than the art, but there's plenty to enjoy in this issue nonetheless. It jumps with lively glee from scene to scene, even if the somber tone of some of the scenes wouldn't seem to lend itself to liveliness. Night Thrasher wrestles with the ghost of his brother -- sort of metaphorically, sort of literally -- in the opening scene, then we get a melee at Camp H.A.M.M.E.R., a jump to the Hood's office, over to the siege of Asgard, and back and forth. This series has always had a large cast of characters, and this issue is no different, but the impressive thing about this issue is how quickly and effectively Gage gives us a sense of each individual. Sure, the dialogue isn't full of flavor, but it's tight and direct.
I haven't read this series in nearly a year, but I was immediately drawn into the story. It was a crisp entry point.
Of course, it helps that this story is framed by the events of "Siege" #2, in which Norman Osborn and the Dark Avengers storm Asgard, and Ares becomes considerably more spineless. We see the pink-haired Diamondback and the wide-eyed Constrictor's reaction to that gruesome event, and it's an effective perspective on the bit of ultra-violence. Maybe even more effective than the insert shots of the reactions by Olivier Coipel in "Siege" #2, because we were following Diamondback and Constrictor through the battle, and when they are stopped dead in their tracks, well, it stops us as well.
Overall, this issue was a more effective counterpoint to "Siege" than "Siege: Embedded" has been.
This issue was good enough to make me want to read more about the adventures of the Taskmaster and his junior Dark Avenger squad. Too bad it's barreling towards a series conclusion in a few issues. But if the series that replaces it is as good as this one, I'll have to give it a close look.