We are in uncharted waters here, folks. I chose this issue to review because I thought it was the debut of dynamic penciller Greg Capullo. (You may have heard of his Batman work? Or Spawn?) But it turns out Capullo only did the cover, and the interior pencils are by fill-in penciller Terry Shoemaker.
Shoemaker’s art is fine, but it is a bit cartoony. It’s brighter than Liefeld’s crosshatched work in the first issues. I think I see some Chris Batista-like details in the faces, and Larry Stroman’s style in the figure work. So a book that launched to feature the artist is saddled with a workmanlike fill-in, but clearly the art-driven direction of the book is taking a back-seat.
Fabian Nicieza is still writing, and things have cleared up nicely. The book opens with Cable and Domino infiltrating Tolliver’s estate while Cannonball and the rest of the team take on SHIELD. This era is clearly part of the confusing Externals plot, a storyline I have worked hard to block from my memory. The silly-named Crule shows up to kill Cannonball at the end of the issue, because… I think the Eternals are sort of like Highlanders? There can be only one… (maybe?) The main team doesn’t have much time to decide on their future plans. There is some talk about a long-term plan for the team without Cable’s influence, but they can’t really decide on a plan before Crule’s arrival.
I remember being very surprised by the other big development in this issue. When Domino and Cable get inside Tolliver’s home, they find Domino tied up against the wall. That’s right; the Domino who has been appearing in this book since the New Mutants days is in fact Vanessa, Deadpool’s sometime girlfriend. The real Domino has been captured and tied up for all this time. I do appreciate that Cable seems to zip through Tolliver’s other flunky at the close of the issue, setting up a big Cable/Deadpool throw down for next month. Of course, Deadpool seems to kill regretful Vanessa as he arrives, so it isn’t all fun and games.
While the art isn’t as fun as the early issues, the plot does move along more smoothly. Having Nicieza plot and script his own stories does seem to have improved the pacing of the issue. This is still only a FAIR comic, but it is getting better as the pacing and story improve.