By Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Avon Oeming & Taki Soma
As in previous issues, The United States of Murder Inc #4 opens with a flashback that continues to help fill in the gaps between an era that the reader can recognize. It is a great scene where members of the family walk into the stock market floor in the 1970s asking for their money. When they receive an answer that they don’t quite like, they respond the way one might expect the mob to respond when they don’t get their way. It is startling, and when it cuts to the same scene today it hits home even more. Bendis, Oeming and Soma have a great tone set for them within the first pages of this issue, and Murder Inc. has itself another grand issue.
Soon after, the book returns to its main plot and Valentine and Jagger head into the casino looking for an ally to start to unravel just who might have been behind the hit on the senator. The pair run into Delilah Kingsley and they head upstairs to ask a bit more about the situation. It is not long before the situation goes from a quiet conversation to a gun fight, however, and once more Jagger and Valentine find themselves in the crosshairs. The violence goes from blunt to massive as members of the Golanno family show up to take them out. Bendis’ script matched with Oeming and Soma on art duties fuse into an action sequence that would be singing if readers could hear anything over the gunfire. The tension is high and the pacing and panel progression are fantastic. Though this issue is no shorter than the previous, the pages fly by over the course of this sequence and it is high adrenaline until it concludes.
There is a brief scene, colored in green, that brings readers back to Valentine’s mother as she is being held by the FBI for failing to deliver on her promise to raise her son and turn him to be an insider within the Bonavese family for the agency. It is a brief scene that features a conversation which is mostly one-sided. Shrouded in shadows and with an eerie coloring, it makes an impact as it cuts off without resolution. Bendis does not offer much information to the reader in that way, and the scene only lasts two pages, but the check in with the character and tone of the scene is all that is necessary. The finale of this issue sets some great pieces in motion. That coupled with the teleconference from last issue certainly create an air that the brewing troubles across these families are only going to get worse and will likely come to a head very soon.
Bendis and Oeming have created a very fascinating new world in this series. The number of similarities create an interest and series of questions and mysteries for every subtle alteration and difference in how the world is in present day in this series as a contrast to the real world. Moments like the opening of this issue make for great teases to those history-altering moments and come with a smirk each time. Oeming and Soma are fantastic and their approach to the slowest scene is no less intricate and well considered than that of a four-page action sequence. There is a real care to this story and it pays off well, time and again. As the mystery of the murder continues to build in the background, Bendis has created a few layers of stories and questions that make every page carry a sense of weight and suspense. Issue four may feel the shortest of those released yet, but it is no less impressive and certainly leaves the readers wishing for more.