Page 45 Review by Jonathan
I had zero intention of reviewing its prologue and little more inclination to read it. But do you know what? It surprised me. What became of the story as a whole I will never know but, for what it's worth, I wrote this of the first forty pages:
I love Nick Spencer's THE FIX and THIEF OF THIEVES plus his work at Marvel has been better than most. But the last thing anyone wanted or needed so early into Marvel's fresh, post-SECRET WARS re-launch was a crossover to which this is the kick-off catalyst.
It will envelope nearly a dozen different Marvel titles - ranging from its multiple AVENGERS series to the non-entity why-do-these-even-exist - written and drawn by completely different individuals, so the quality here is no indication of what is to come. To be clear: this is not an endorsement of the pocket-gouging policy nor an encouragement for you to splash out ridiculous sums of cash on a corporate crossover when superhero fans could instead be buying the enormously entertaining JESSICA JONES, INFAMOUS IRON MAN or even THE WICKED + THE DIVINE, all of which essentially feature powers without capes.
But this is, nonetheless, an interesting premise whose initial execution sets the stage for a great deal of dramatic irony.
Pleasant Hill is a leafy little town where everyone is idyllically happy and civic-minded. There are restrictions, to be sure: curfews etc, but everyone is exceedingly kind and almost excessively courteous, especially to strangers. Stray upon it by accident and you may not want to leave - which would be fortunate, since you can't.
You can't because it's a construct, a sham. It's a prison for supervillains created by S.H.I.E.L.D. which has grown bored shitless of incarcerating super-powered sociopaths only for them to break out and cause billions of dollars of collateral damage (and, incidentally, the loss of lives) to satisfy their psychopathy. If psychopathy is ever satisfied: I don't think those two words mix, really, do they?
The whole enterprise is understandably way off the books because it involves a complete abandonment of human rights. S.H.I.E.L.D. is using fragments of the reality-altering Cosmic Cube to rewrite the felons' entire identities. They're not just brainwashing them, they are refashioning them into new individuals physically and mentally.
Now, let us be clear: I'm all for it. I don't believe in the real-life death penalty because I don't have faith in the British or American or almost every other justice system because they have been proved over and over again to be racist and target-driven rather than justice-driven: innocent individuals are locked up every day by those who know they're not guilty. In the la-la land of superheroes wherein the villains run riot, however, I'm with Maria 'Pleasant' Hill of S.H.I.E.L.D. - fuck 'em.
The problem lies in my previous paragraph, because S.H.I.E.L.D. has just done precisely that: they have incarcerated a hero who got too close to their truth. What I will not spoil for you who has become trapped there and who they're been turned into on the very last page. Clever.
I don't know if it's Scott Hanna's inks or a departure for ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN's Mark Bagley, but the art here is slightly more grounded in reality, ironically enough.