Kot does an amazing job here. I didn't necessarily think that Coulson had PTSD, but Kot finally confirms that he does, and he makes us believe it. In his breakdown, Phil expresses a sentiment that I can't believe that more human characters in this world don't express, that his life is virtually meaningless to the spandex crowd and that it's really fucking hard to pull yourself together after you fall through space. We're just so used to everyone treating these events as normal that authors rarely take the time to assess their impact, particularly on the "regular" humans who run with the superhero crowd. Also, Maria does lie all the time, so it's not like he really knows that his employer has his back. It's a lot. I get it. Hopefully the hug from Hawkeye helps.
Meanwhile, shit is going DOWN. M.O.D.O.K. and Vladimir realize that a great "calling," not "culling," is coming, though it's still unclear what that means. (Calling Tlon, maybe?) Snapper kidnaps Maria Hill, and Vladimir manages to convince the Fury to heal Nick Fury in exchange for helping it find its children. (Who knew the Fury had feelings?) Also, portals of mysterious origin ominously open above major cities. Dun-dun-dun!
Returning to the emotional side of the house, I loved M.O.D.O.K. talking about falling in love with Maria Hill because she was a schemer like he was. Kot sells us that moment just as well as he did Phil's, making this issue just a master class in dialogue that serves to convey emotions and not exposition. Plus, we understand Maria a little more, since, after all, M.O.D.O.K. admitting his vulnerabilities is sort of like Maria admitting. Also? I love Vladimir. I hope he stays. He's like Jarvis combined with the Vision.
My only complaint in this issue is pet peeve #1 rearing its ugly head. The title page says that someone rigged Phil's locker to throw acid on him, whereas I always thought that Phil rigged it to throw people off his trail. In fact, Kot wanted us to believe that, likely until the moment when Phil asks what happened to Nick in this issue. Reading it on the title page lessens that moment substantially.
I'm just really glad I stuck with this series. Great stuff.
**** (four of five stars)