At the penultimate issue, you either start ending things and making changes or you slowly settle back into the status quo. Jonathan Hickman, for all mistakes and triumphs in this series, is definitely aiming to send things off in this series with a bang that might make you whimper. There is a moment in this comic so shocking and yet also so obvious that you will smile with satisfaction and realize this comic has real consequences for its actions. If Hickman sends someone over the cliff, you can be sure next month they’re nothing but a grease spot.
Nick Fury gets this moment and speech that are nigh perfect. You might argue the set up for it is flawed, or the retcons involved with it are fake, but there is no doubting Fury does what he does with style. This is Hickman’s strength and he plays to it with vigor. Makes it all the more interesting to now send Hickman into the Ultimate U where he’ll have a very different Fury to play with. Good luck.
With one of the top five best scenes of the series out of the way, the rest of the issue lays down the red carpet for the final issue to waltz in on like the belle of the ball. The problem is, that’s all the rest of this issue does. The political machinations and conflicts made for characters to shine against hold no true emotional weight on their own here. They act like set dressing and the actors still have yet to grace the stage. This issue is one big greased up slope for every character to stumble upon and wind up jumbled in the final issue. Complete judgement must be reserved until next month, sadly.
The biggest problem with this issue, and much of Hickman’s writing in general, is that he doesn’t seem to be able to command the closure between panels with any great effect. If you need a double beat you don’t always need three panels over which to split it. Sometimes you can cut a panel in half to slow the reader down and have them consciously take the time to soak the panel in. You can completely move the characters in the subsequent panel, or drastically alter the camera angle of the panel while keeping the characters static. There are many ways to slow the reader down, but Hickman constantly engineers it so we are slowed down by far too many panels clogging up pages and not delivering narrative. Once this excess fat is trimmed, you have more room for story instead of leaving it for next month.
Alessandro Vitti’s art, much like Stephano Caselli’s before him, is a cornerstone of this title. This book doesn’t look like the other pretty and glossy books. The characters are weathered, worn down by the ages of war they wage. They are hard people in a harder world. Vitti has made this series look exactly like it should and his Fury will be missed.
This issue feels great, but upon looking back you can see it hanging on for grim death to the one scene you’ll remember. The rest whirs with the sound of wheels spinning and it will be a relief to finally see them gain traction and light up the horizon. A shame that moment is put back a few weeks. Until then, bask in the glow of one damn fine Fury moment and do your best to guess how it’ll all play out.