Four-fifths of this volume can be described as “good.” You get the same quality writing and art from Al Ewing and Joe Bennet, with Ryan Bodenheim doing solid work on the opening issue, as they move the story forward. First by going backward with a look at the leader of Shadow Base, Gen. Reginald Fortean, and how he came to be obsessed with stopping the Hulk. It’s an obsession that ultimately damns him as we see him obtain the awful means to make his dream a reality. While he’s doing that Doc Samson and the rest of Gamma Flight have finally figured out where Shadow Base is, and they’ve got their own plans for taking care of them. Which are almost certainly less savage than what Betty Banner, Rick Jones, and Hulk (with Bruce Banner and Joe Fixit still knocking around in his head) have planned for when they finally get there.
Then you’ve got the fifth issue -- the 25th in the current run. As befitting an anniversary number like that, Ewing and artist German Garcia decided to give us something special. It’s a story that doesn’t take place in this incarnation of the Marvel Universe, or the Eighth Cosmos as the writer has figured it. No, this story takes place in the Ninth Cosmos as one of its inhabitants takes up a desperate task as it nears its end. Where there was once a vibrant cosmos teeming with light and color, these things have slowly been taken out of it. Taken by something big, green, and so full of hate.
“Breaker of Worlds” is essentially the “Bad Ending” for this series and the closest it has come to inspiring genuine horror in me. The title’s early, overt stabs didn’t do much for me, but the concepts introduced here -- and Garcia’s rendering of just what’s inside that thing’s mind -- are more than unsettling. This is helped along by the fact that the issue is largely experimental as it eschews any trace of superheroes or the Marvel Universe for a cosmos that’s far weirder and decidedly weirder. Yet not unrelatable as Ewing does a good job of making this issue’s protagonist relatable in spite of their alien nature. It’s incredible stuff which serves as a showcase for Ewing’s ambition regarding this series, especially in how he ties it back into the main story at the end when a familiar villain makes his return.