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For six months, Jason Schachat's column was written by Kevin Smith.

Jason Schachat's Occasional Breakdown

Ah, a week of endings, crossovers, and “to be continued”... this is gonna hurt.

Well, at least we get some minor relief with the finally released final issue of the longest running Marvel mini-series not to be written by Kevin Smith: Secret War #5. Hard as it is to remember that this story started before the advent of sliced bread, the disassembly of the Avengers, Daredevil’s kingdom, and the decimation of the X-Men, it does prove a little jarring to hop back onto this plotline, but, hell, let’s give it a try, shall we?

Okay, to begin with, Nick Fury’s still in charge of S.H.I.E.L.D.

...damn, did I lose you already?

See, this is what happens when a story arc or miniseries gets so horribly delayed in these times of tenuous cross-continuity. For the most part, Secret War was a black-ops story. If not for Bendis’ trademark decompression, this whole story would have been the first half of a single issue. Instead, we built and built for three issues, then had our huge fight scene last time around.

Now, we’re faced with the former president of Latveria using C-list supervillains to power a massive bomb that will take out Manhattan. Why? Because Nick Fury leveled Latveria and left her for dead. Why? Because she was funding C-list supervillains to wage war on America.

After all that rising action, she gets taken out remarkably quickly by newcomer Daisy Johnson (a teenage S.H.I.E.L.D. agent with Angelina Jolie’s looks and seismic powers). Then, we finally get to the core of the story: Why does no one remember the secret war in Latveria? What happened there to make things as bad as they are?

And, in the end, this is a Nick Fury story. A musing on what a man of action does when faced with an imminent threat and whether that man belongs in the employ of the American government or not. Sure, he wronged many people, lied to his friends, and disobeyed orders, but he also saved our nation and would gladly do it all over again.

However, as intelligently written as it is, the story isn’t enough to justify the year and a half of delays.

As confusing as the laws of physics that allow Daredevil to throw his billy club around like this...

The art, on the other hand, makes a good case for it. Despite the usual Bendisism of repeating panels over and over, Gabriele Dell’Otto delivers some of the best artwork we’ve ever seen in a Bendis story, flooding scenes with light and shadow, drenching characters with detail, and making even a $3.99 price tag well worth it.

For anyone who’s stuck with the miniseries this long, you should be satisfied with this ending. For everyone else, wait for the trade paperback to hit shelves and snatch it up ASAP. Without the wait between issues, this story and art shine with more thought and originality than any S.H.I.E.L.D. tale we’ve seen in a long time. Without the wait, it’s definitely worth the pesos.

On the other hand, Marvel ends another miniseries on time but without much fanfare in Ultimate Iron Man #5. After months of build up, this series leaves us hanging with the promise of another miniseries and little more.

We start out with Tony Stark and company messing around at the Baxter Building, toying with the components that will eventually become War Machine and the Iron Man suit. For now, they just have to put up with Tony’s non-brother Obadiah and Tony’s father’s insistence on making cool armor toys that might actually be useful to someone.

Thankfully, everything goes to hell when Obadiah’s father is killed in prison in such a way that Howard Stark becomes the number one suspect, and Tony discovers booze shortly thereafter.

When it comes to characterization and planting details, Orson Scott Card is quite a talented writer. But, when it comes to big climaxes, he’s not the most reliable of scribes. For the most part, Ultimate Iron Man has been playing out with a decent number of similarities to Card’s Ender books. The sensitive boy-hero with a dark side, the scheming brother, the school where children fight adults’ wars...

Unfortunately, Card doesn’t end this miniseries with the big finish of his Ender’s Game novella or even the epilogue-oriented novel version. Instead, we seem to stop at an arbitrary point while Marvel regroups and gets things in order for the next mini. What we’re left with is an interesting chapter, but nothing to get excited about.

Sure, the reasoning behind the workings of the Iron Man armor, Tony’s alcoholism, and his future with weapons manufacturing are laid down in an interesting and enticing manner, but the virgin flight of Iron Man ends too abruptly and with too little fanfare to ready us for the wait until Ultimate Iron Man 2. While it’s a decent read, this issue really won’t be good for anyone unfamiliar with the series and doesn’t tie-up a single plot thread. Hopefully, the next miniseries will end things right.

page 2: Son of M #1 and Cable and Deadpool #23

Jason Schachat

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