Man, I loved everything about this issue. Espionage! Secrets! Fights!
First, let's talk about the fights. This issue hums with energy, as we spring from the first panel into an amazing series of well scripted and beautifully drawn battle sequences. Remender does a great job keeping the guys' conversation short and Sam's narration scattered, showing them struggling to stay on their toes as they confront HYDRA's new inner circle. Then, we watch Crossbones stalk and battle Sam across Bagalia. I'm not an artist, so I don't know how Immomen complemented the script to make these fight scenes so believable and tense, but he really does. He somehow conveys Sam's frustration as he can't free himself of Crossbones to return to Ian and the sense that Crossbones is really outmatching Sam. It's just spectacular.
Moreover, the resolution is amazing. Misty Knight is in Bagalia on deep cover for S.H.I.E.L.D., trying to get more information on HYDRA. Although it might seem overly convenient that Misty is there to save Sam, this reason for her being there really works. (I mean, it's not like she's going to go looking to infiltrate HYDRA at the Vatican.) Plus, it further the existing plot, since she reveals to Sam that she's tracking HYDRA because of the moles that it's put in every superhero team (following onto the revelation of an "Avengers" mole at the end of "Captain America" #25). I'm really excited to watch her and Sam lead a full-on assault on Baron Zemo and HYDRA.
Let's talk about Zemo. Remender really gets the characterizations of everyone here right, and Zemo is a great example of that. I totally believe that Zemo is so delusional and egotistical that he would tell Ian his plans, even if it furthers the cliché of the villain spilling the beans to the seemingly helpless hero. I also love him essentially putting himself out there as some sort of misunderstood hero, with his plan to use the toxin in the blood of the kid that Cap and Ian thought that they were saving to eliminate most of the human race and, thus, saving the Earth from overpopulation. (I mean, sure, HYDRA conveniently immunized all its members from the toxin, meaning that it would rule a de-populated Earth. That's just good occupational health and safety practices. Also, did I mention that I loved that the kid was in league with HYDRA? Because I did.) This plan is exactly the sort of high-brow scheme that I expect a Zemo-lead HYDRA to implement.
In other words, I love this plot so much that I found myself nervous about the recent announcement of "Secret Wars," because I don't want Remender to be forced to cut it short to make room for an event. We could easily keep this story going for a year like "Dimension Z," since it's fueled with that same sense of tension and urgency. Moles! Spies! Sexy Ian in bondage! If you're not reading this series, pick up this issue and the last one and get on board!
***** (five of five stars)