From the cover to the conclusion, this issue was full to the brim with fighting. It may have paused for a page or two, but in general there was non-stop action here, and it was all quite well done. I like Matteo Scalera's rough style for this. The stray black smudges in the air add to the sense of despair the surrounds all this combat, and in general their is a liveliness to the artwork that fits perfectly with such a fast-paced, rock-em-sock-em story. The cast is massive, but as he has done all along Scalera keeps the more crowded scenes clear and gives space to the action when needed. For example, the incredible two-page spread of a giant Hank Pym cold-cocking a sentinel. It isn't, in-and-of itself, the logical dramatic climax for this issue, but Scalera makes it so by putting so much emphasis and weight on it. With the enormous KWA DOOOOM sound effect and the thick lines of black smoke rising into the air like paint, the spread really makes the reader feel Pym's punch, which he throws everything he's got into. It's a stellar singular moment in an all-around good time action romp.
Matthew Wilson's colors go hand-in-hand with Scalera's dirtier linework, keeping things dark and grim but still plenty exciting. This artistic team has clearly hit their grove here at the title's end, and they seem to be having a lot of fun with the various slugfests they get to show us. That sense of fun pervades the entirety of the issue, actually, in the art and script, despite the end-of-the-world scenario and incessant violence it contains. Writer Rick Remender still infuses a lot of humor, and Scalera and Wilson do a great job of capturing the mood of a very real and significant battle mixed in with good old-fashioned superhero silliness.
Having Spider-Man show up as a guest star doesn't hurt, and Remender also gives Beast a fair number of quips and verbal jabs. Some of them felt a bit out of character, but they were all used well and made me laugh so I am willing to forgive it if Beast doesn't quite sound like Beast. What I liked most about the story, though, was the well-planned match-ups. It was inevitable that Venom and Black Ant would have a face-off after working so closely together in the previous arc, and fitting that Black Widow came along since she is the closest with Parvez, the little robotic boy the team is trying to rescue. Meanwhile, Captain Britain fights the original Human Torch who, it turns out, is the product of work that Britain's father did years ago. Those two characters couldn't get along even when they were on the same side, so watching their egos and fists crash into each other here was rather satisfying. The rest of the team, then, must take Father and his crew head on, so it's good that Beast, Pym, and Spidey are all there. That's some serious scientific smarts all in one place, which is exactly what'll be needed to overcome this particular threat. Plus, of course, we have Hawkeye, the supposed leader of the Secret Avengers, who I imagine will get to have his moment of leadership glory against Father in the conclusion next issue.
As demonstrated by these character combinations, this enormous fight is something Remender has been plotting and building toward for a long while. And though the beginnings of this conflict didn't grip me, this issue won me back over with it's breakneck pace and the strange feelings of joy it created in the midst of all the punching. Only one issue to go before this title gets the Marvel NOW! treatment, and based on this penultimate chapter, the finale is going to be pretty goddamn bombastic.