Things began to move forward somewhat in issue #3. Peter Parker/Hulk inadvertently killed Steve Rogers/Iron Man. He remains in hiding from the authorities. Also, Reed Richards finally went up into space. However, a saboteur's explosives killed everyone on board except for the distraught Reed. As a result, Reed is offered a position in the worldwide spy organization dubbed S.H.I.E.L.D.
The first page recounts what has happened previously in regard to Peter Parker, Steve Rogers, and Reed Richards. Reed has become S.H.I.E.L.D.'s top leader and most ingenious recruiter of talent. To that end, he has managed to enlist the talents of Stephen Strange. Strange had lost the use of his hands while searching for a higher meaning. However, he managed to lace his skeleton in adamantium and enhance his hands with retractable claws. His decision allowed Baron Mordo to become Sorcerer Supreme. Yet, Mordo was not strong enough to carry the burden and was defeated by the dread Dormammu. The Ancient One still waits, hoping that a worthy student will come to accept his tutelage.
Yet, some things remain unchanged. The destinies of Daredevil, Thor, Professor X, Namor, Magneto, and Doctor Doom are consistent with their 616 counterparts. The legend of Peter Parker grew as his disappearance from the world became more pronounced. We cut to a conversation involving Reed and Tony Stark. They discuss the future of the Iron Man armor. He questions why Reed has delayed the further modifications to the armor. Reed responds by recalling the Hulk incident that cost Steve Rogers his life. Nonetheless, Tony wants to become the next human test subject of the Iron Man suit. Unfortunately, Tony has a weak heart and Reed calls for Bucky Barnes to be the next test subject. A younger test subject would actually prove a hindrance, as it would introduce more potential for human error. Bucky wants to become the next Iron Man because of his fond memories for what Steve Rogers did for the Allied armies during WWII. Reed remains resolute to Tony's objections and they go off to see another experiment.
As it turns out, the aftermath of the gamma bomb explosion that transformed Peter Parker was fortuitous for Dr. Bruce Banner. An irradiated spider was thought to be the key to curing Parker. However, Banner's experiments led him to being bitten by the spider. Banner tried to seclude himself from society. It took Reed Richards two years to locate the distraught Banner. He had become a freak of nature. Intensive research has allowed Banner to become a special S.H.I.E.L.D. agent on Reed's specially designed heli-carrier. He dons a special Spider-suit and uses his powers to protect national security. Stark is amazed and heartily greets Banner while Reed checks out an astronomical disturbance in the war room.
An unidentified object, half a mile across, has moved into orbit around Earth. Something incredibly fast crossed the North Pole before S.H.I.E.L.D. lost contact. The agents extrapolate that the unidentified object is heading to New York City. New York's denizens become panicked as they witness the arrival of Galactus and his herald, the Silver Surfer.
The story picked up somewhat in issue #4. We get a fast montage of what has happened to the recognizable heroes of 616 Marvel lore. Dr. Strange substitutes as this universe's Wolverine while Bruce Banner switches places with Peter Parker to become Spider-Man. Meanwhile Bucky is chosen over Tony Stark to become the new Iron Man. JMS's decisions are a mixed bag. Brice Banner as Spider-Man serves no purpose other than to put a recognizable character into the suit. Having Banner as Spider-Man was obviously meant to provide one of those "wow" moments but I was frankly bored. He is given no characterization and just hovers in the background. Strange as "Wolverine" is a bizarre change. I give JMS some credit as I thought it was a plausible explanation. I just don't want Strange to start drinking beer and calling everyone "bub." However, Strange also suffers from characterization. There just isn't enough space to include all of these characters into a five issue mini-series.
JMS's reveal that some things remain unchanged is a plot device to have the reader stop wondering what happened to the rest of the Marvel universe. Frankly, it is a quite lazy tactic and undercuts JMS's grandiloquence about how a bullet changes everything. Well, obviously the bullet did not change everything or else we'd get some explanation of how Paste Pot Pete became Daredevil. Thankfully, JMS did not go that far so on that count I am relieved.
The "protagonist" of this story remains Reed Richards. Reed's fleshing out, as a character seems somewhat surprising. Obviously, JMS needed someone to move the story forward with Steve's death and Peter's voluntary exile. Or perhaps JMS thought it the best way to salvage a story so he could get to the fateful encounter with Galactus. Peter is not really focused on this issue. And it's really funny how a bullet causes massive changes to the status quo yet Galactus still comes to eat everyone. Actually, I really hope that Galactus does win. This mini-series does not deserve a sequel.
The art remains solid for the most part. However, I vehemently disagree with Edwards's portrayal of Reed Richards. Reed is supposed to stand- in for the grizzled old war vet that is Nick Fury. So Edwards's "logically" decides to give Reed a youthful and vibrant look. The eye-patch seems looks comical on him and does not give the intended effect of making Reed a man to be feared and respected. Honestly, I wish I could go further with this review but there is just not much there.
Here's hoping the conclusion in issue #5 can salvage a two-web rating out of me. What a mess...what a mess...