Who shot the Watcher? That's the question asked by the cover of Marvel's latest event series. The image, by Julian Totino Tedesco, aims for drama but only elicits sniggers - just look at those cute wee boots.
Inside, we see Uatu, Earth's Watcher, disappear as an explosion targets his home on the moon. Alerted by Thor - who ran into floating blood while hammering through space, yechhh - Nick Fury, Captain America, Black Widow and Wolverine travel to the scene, where they find Thor and Iron Man waiting. Their horror at the Watcher's corpse, a hole blasted through his head, his eyes gouged out, is soon eclipsed by fear. Anyone powerful enough to kill the Watcher - someone who has stolen items from his lair, his very eyes - could be a threat to everyone on the planet.
Elsewhere, ad hoc groups of heroes (and a couple of anti-heroes) with mysterious agendas gather for their own investigations - Black Panther, Ant-Man and Emma Frost; Dr Strange and Punisher; and Gamora, Winter Soldier and Moon Knight. Spider-Man and the Thing get dragged into proceedings via an encounter with a Mindless One from the Dark Dimension.
And behind the scenes, the Watcher's killers find things not going as they expected.
As a fan of superhero comics, I'm good with a certain suspension of disbelief. I believe a man can fly, another can stretch and so on. I can't believe this:
Why the heck would Nick Fury assume the killer(s) is from Earth? The Watcher is a big player on the cosmic scene; he may not take an active role in proceedings often, but he's a well-kent figure. He stands on the moon, obvious to every extraterrestrial and extra-dimensional race looking to invade. I can't see Earth's defenders being left alone to investigate ... there's no way Uatu's fellow Watchers, the Elders of the Universe, sundry pantheons and the like wouldn't be all over this like the proverbial rash.
As for that line: 'And not all the names on it are bad guys', well no, but good guys tend not to murder. The paranoia is unconvincing, unmerited. It has me wondering if Fury is a Skrull, a Space Phantom, perhaps even a rogue LMD, ready to sow the seeds of suspicion.
The scene with Emma Frost and Ant-Man doesn't work, as Scott Lang is written more like Eric O'Grady. I wonder if future issues will mention the fact that Lang was recently at a party on the moon with the Watcher and his missus in Matt Fraction's FF run. And where is Mrs Watcher, the last we saw she was having a Baby Watcher (I wish I was making this up)?
And the diner scene with Wolverine, Captain America, Black Widow and Nick Fury discussing the best steak they've ever had is the type of thing I never wanted to see in a Marvel comic again, after years of Brian Bendis Avengers, done wonderfully well. The conversation flows naturally, with wit and truth.
While it's odd that the Avengers aren't joined at the crime scene by multiversal bigwigs, it does make sense that they would begin an inquiry. That being the case, I loved CSIs Natasha and Logan.
The fight between the Thing and a Mindless One is rather joyous. I've not yet mentioned the artwork by illustrator Mike Deodato and colour artist Frank Martin, but it really is extraordinary in terms of composition, execution and lighting. Big set-pieces such as Benjy's battle and the moon massacre really are rather awesome, while close-up portraits of the likes of Fury and the Black Panther capture the characters in a certain moment.
And as for Fury's flying car, it exudes cool.
Aaron does a terrific job of conveying the Mindless One's feelings as an unfocused sense of self is replaced by a more complicated self-awareness, as it journeys from a single 'I!!!!!' to fully realised sentences with contractions. Think Weeping Gorilla Comics meets Dr Strange.
So, daft premise, excellent execution. The talents of Aaron, Deodato and Martin make this issue well worth the money. I'll keep watching.