A nagging suspicion many readers have endured for the past couple of weeks since last issue's shocking and graphic cliffhanger is addressed by writer Jason Aaron in "Original Sin" #4. It's a mostly sedate issue that doesn't give artist Mike Deodato many exciting things to draw, but the plot does slowly advance and Aaron even delivers another surprising cliffhanger of sorts, although it's milder nature plays into the quieter tone of the story.
That is, the story is quieter in the sense that there are no giant exploding eyeballs and no one is murdered this time around. Oh, there are a couple of skirmishes between the disparate cast members, but most of the noise comes from the characters' mouths rather than their fists or guns. There's a lot of macho posturing between The Punisher and Dr. Strange, and then The Punisher and The Winter Soldier, and then even The Punisher and a fan-favorite character Aaron introduces into the story. The villain known as The Orb speaks only cryptic ramblings, and The Black Panther is almost as obfuscating. The Winter Soldier's lines all have a snarky sense of cockiness, and so on.
Aaron's one-dimensional dialogue make the characters seem a little flatter than they really are, but that's basically the biggest sin of this issue of "Original Sin." A lesser one is the seeming indifference and emotional detachment the cast demonstrates upon learning the grisly fate of the long-time character who was murdered last issue, or the callous way his severed head is toted around, and swung about, like a woman's purse. These oddities don't really stand out so much, though, especially since they are rendered moot within the context of the issue, but they make for a momentarily distraction from a story that largely reads like an interlude in the first place.
Aaron does manage to provide plausible-enough reasons why The Punisher would ever need to travel inter-dimensionally with Dr. Strange, or why The Black Panther, Emma Frost and Ant-Man would ever be seen together anywhere outside of a cosplay contest. These team-ups present another kind of oddity, but not the kind that's displeasing or immediately dismissible as ill-conceived. If readers can accept the idea of the slain Watcher's giant detached eyeball serving as a repository of hidden secrets, and its detonation serving as the means of exposing those secrets, then the idea of Moon Knight and Gamora fighting side-by-side fits right in and doesn't seem so outlandish.
The sense of distrust that Aaron creates amongst this hodge-podge roster permeates the story, and while it's the engine that drives a lot of the directionless dialogue, it also moves the story along. The wariness amongst this eclectic cast begins to fade as everyone involved starts to realize that they're being played by someone unknown, although the identity of this mystery person is shortly revealed and serves as this issue's climax. This midpoint of the series is the point where this thrown-together team is just starting to gel, and shows that Aaron didn't just pick the characters' names out of a hat and try to build a story around it.
Deodato's usual dark and moody style works well here, in a story full of death and distrust that takes place in many desolate or deserted locales that often have plenty of dead bodies strewn about. His Hulk looks as dangerous as ever, and Deodato's Frank Castle looks even more so when he takes on the Green Goliath. The Winter Soldier almost looks villainous, with good reason, and Deodato makes a case for being a great artist for an ongoing Dr. Strange series, should there ever be another one.
"Original Sin" #4 is itself a bit strange, but the fact that Aaron makes a decent story out of such a strange mix is a testimonial to his talent, despite this issue's weaknesses.