By Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Avon Oeming, Taki Soma
The pieces that are being arranged on the board in The United States of Murder Inc. are lending to a really fantastic sense of dread. With each issue, as the mystery set in place by the opening chapter looms overhead, the avenues and options left to Vincent Gallo are shrinking. Last month, readers were privy to a conference call between the heads of the families whereby Bonavese turned his back on Gallo. Here, Bendis and Oeming take the duo to yet another casino, but this time the story has left the territories.
The fifth chapter of the series opens without a flashback, and instead dives right into a fantastic sequence where readers are introduced to a new character. Set in Las Vegas, the story takes a moment away from the number of existing threads it has created to show how ruthless Carmela can be. Bendis scripts a very cool take down sequence that is crafted so well by Oeming and Taki Soma. The entire series of events feels sleek, and the dismantling of the card counters from MIT is swift and cold. It is an excellent opening and introduction to a new character that appears to be a bit more than the woman that Gallo sought out last time.
Here, though, the issue lags a bit as the sequence of events feels a bit like déjà vu. Gallo and Jagger Rose approach Carmela as Gallo once again desperately calls upon old acquaintances to seek help. Bendis does a solid job at differentiating this initial interaction, but painting a history between the two that holds more weight. When they initially stand across form each other, readers get a sense of the tension between them. Much credit to Bendis for his ability to craft personalities and script personal exchanges so well. It is because of this that, despite the familiar events occurring, the sequence of events does not hinder the issue too much.
At this point, the book splits into an A and B plot, and the energy and suspense grow by the panel. Vincent and Carmela retreat to the penthouse where he pours out his position and desperation for her. Oeming’s choice of perspective in this sequence is fantastic and he constantly draws the scene from a high point, placing Vincent in a position where he is being looked down on and appears rather small. Soma keeps the entire thing in the dark, filling the setting with deep blues and purples and blacks. Cutting in and out of this series comes the scene that Jagger Rose has been left to handle on her own on the casino floor. Rose is faced with a CIA hit squad who attempt to take her out of the picture. While she has been an interesting and impressive character so far, it is here that she really shines. Outnumbered by a group of trained professionals, her unwavering delivery is phenomenal. While the real story and threats brew upstairs, the highlight of the issue comes from this interaction. Vibrant colors, quick cuts around the room, and brilliant dialogue fill out this B plot interaction.
The United States of Murder Inc. #5 is a more intimate issue. No guns are fired. The story does not cut to the other families. Readers, instead, are kept inside this Vegas casino for the entirety of the issue. The world continues to shrink for Gallo and despite having ventured far from home; his places to run and his number of options are shrinking fast. With few places left to turn, and without allies, Bendis and Oeming have positioned their players and stories into a place that makes every page turn exciting.