In the aftermath of the brutal and emotionally charged deaths of Rogue, Scarlet Witch and Wonder Man in "Uncanny Avengers" #14, Rick Remender and Steve McNiven's "Uncanny Avengers" #15 has a lot to live up to, and ultimately fails to resonate.
There's an uphill battle in a book like "Uncanny Avengers" #15 in that it tries very hard to place the entire Earth in jeopardy, but it's difficult for readers to take seriously. Of higher concer are the seeming deaths of three major characters in the previous issue: Rogue, Scarlet Witch, and Wonder Man. It's hard to recover from those deaths -- especially when they are graphically reiterated in this issue -- Rogue as nothing but charred bones and costume is excessive and also makes little sense.
Individual reader mileage will vary with how much one cares for any of the seemingly deceased characters, but it's certainly easier to connect to that part of the story, which feels intimate and personal, than the potential mass death of the entire planet, which feels absurd and disconnected.
There's a strange malaise when reading this issue. Still upset by what happened in "Uncanny Avengers" #14, it was hard to care about the Twins' grand plans that will ultimately be thwarted (surely Remender hasn't been given a long enough leash to actually destroy every living thing on the planet) and so a combination of frustration over meaningless character deaths (not to mention deaths that will probably not hold) and a full break of suspension of disbelief, lands me feeling completely unimpressed with the entire issue and just ready to have this wrap. I fully acknowledge that Remender may have some brilliant ace up his sleeve to surprise and impress in the last moments, but if readers are already weary and run-down by the story, isn't it too little, too late?
For his part, McNiven, with inkers John Dell, Dexter Vines and Jay Leisten, pretty much kills it on the art side of things. It's strong incredibly beautiful superhero comics, and McNiven doesn't shy away from going full bore on some of the more insane moments -- like when Sentry tears his skull in two deliberately with his own hands in front of Janet -- amazing and terrifying stuff. The character interactions are handled nicely on the whole and the work is so consistent and polished that it's almost offensive to even mention it as a positive, which is to say McNiven is working well beyond that level. The final moments, with Exitar The Executioner hovering over Earth ready to deliver the death blow, feels appropriately epic. Laura Martin does an excellent job on the colors overall and hits exceptional heights in a scene in which Eimin forces Cap to watch the imminent destruction of Earth. Martin simply bathes the scene in this reddish glow that we know is coming from Exitar and it adds such intensity to the scene it simply cannot be ignored.
Despite everyone involved bringing their A-game and really trying to sell the story, it doesn't quite work. The massive suspension of disbelief is far too great a request at this point, and once broken there's nothing for it to stand on. The book doesn't feel epic and important the way that the double page spread credits/title page leads readers to believe. Add to that an inability to recover from recent apparent deaths, and I find myself not caring about the fate of Earth, even if I believed Remender was allowed to "end it all."