This issue kicks off a new arc, with the title 'Eyes of the Dragon,' and it feels slightly different in tone. Having dealt with space mining corporations and strange crowns of ancient power, and then dabbling with a brilliant interlude of a fake man becoming real and becoming a real nuisance, this issue brings us into a mystical tale. There will be kung fu fighting, a whole mess of espionage, and what looks to be enough to still tie this whole series together.
The big elephant in the room to be addressed with this title is that not every character is going to get screen time. The front page bills eight players to the team but then we get Shang-Chi and a return from the Prince of Orphans, so you can't expect everyone to be shoe-horned onto the same page. This is a gripe for a lot of titles; Avengers and X-books are rife with characters just mugging in the background (maybe panel bombing should be the expression) and here I prefer to not need to see every person. Let them have a few minutes off. It's a rotating cast. I'm fine with that. And maybe everyone else should be, as well.
The main crux of this issue is that Shang-Chi's father (a Marvel 'he who shall not be named') is being resurrected; this is a bad thing. It's a good set up and Brubaker throws a curveball into the mix with the resurrection, which I appreciated. He's scripting something different here. He's also tying it to a villainous character shown earlier called Thorndrake. A big old tale is being spun and if you're diligent, and keen of eye, plenty will pay off later down the track. Not to mention it will still be enjoyable right now.
There's plenty of fu spectacle on display, and it's interesting that Deodato draws the gorier stuff in silhouette, and while the Rogers/Carter back rub interlude was a real draw it is the actual espionage on display in this issue that pleases. It might be slightly rushed but mostly it just feels like the start of a solid "Mission: Impossible" episode. Narration moves the small crack team through the hoops to get them to the big set up at the end. This definitely worked for me. All the pieces are in place and it makes the issue feel like it's got more in it than it should.
Deodato's work is still complementing this series. He's taking some chances with pages and uses panels effectively to show one Shang-Chi attack. Overall, he does a good job of making the team appear damn good looking, as well as good at their jobs. Having Black Widow crawl upside down as she descended an elevator shaft may have been too much, but otherwise his establishing shots really made this feel like some 70s action (I'm thinking The Yakuza).
This arc is much more espionage than the first arc turned out to be. Even with the mystic setting, through actions and voice Brubaker is finally making this title what it should be: Rogers and whoever he needs sneaking in and getting the job done. Oh, and Shang-Chi gets a shirt, it's all going on here. This issue is a great set up for a spy tale that's bringing many genres into play, which many great spies always did. It's a break-neck, dynamic lift off and plain old school fun throughout.