Juggernaut #5 brings the miniseries to a close while providing the often-one-dimensional character with depth and a new sense of direction. Writer Fabian Nicieza and artist Ron Garney’s final issue is the culmination of Cain Marko’s current redemption arc and the segue into his future endeavors. The issue – and the entirety of the series – isn’t without its foibles, but manages to firmly plant the narrative in its themes of salvation, acceptance, and the titular character’s desire to forge a new path. Most notably, the issue’s climax subverts expectations and ties into the series’ clear goal: making Juggernaut relevant and relatable. Despite some missteps, mission accomplished.
SPOILERS AHEAD for Juggernaut #5!
Cain’s new sidekick/ally/surrogate ward D-cel has set Juggernaut in a new direction. After Cain managed to bring the Incredible Hulk in for an intervention (Yup!) and narrowly avoid a devastating lawsuit, his newfound social media status and hype-woman D-Cel have inadvertently brought “The Dungeon” to the light. The Dungeon is a maximum-security for-profit prison for super-powered villains. Essentially, they become glorified lab rats, and their abilities are exploited for weaponization. With the backing of Damage Control, Cain breaks into the Dungeon intent to free the prisoners. Doing so would make Cain a wanted man, but his new path is evident.
Nicieza manages to balance the action by using a time-jump method, buoying back and forth between the present, Cain’s prison break-in, and the past few weeks’ events as Cain seeks to find D-Cel refuge in Krakoa. It works well to balance the pace in the issue, with the past tying events into and informing the events of the present. It’s a great tool at a writer’s disposal that is often overlooked, but Nicieza uses it seamlessly — not to mention it provides more insight into Cain and D-cel’s relationship.
Speaking of D-Cel, it’s difficult not to liken the relationship between Cain and D-Cel to Wolverine and Jubilee. A snarky and angsty teen with good intentions and a problematic past breaks through the rough exterior of a tough-as-nails mutant seeking to put his ghosts to rest. Unquestionably, their relationship is at the heart of the series, and it is all the better for it. A little bit of “been there, done that” creeps into your mind, which is fair, but at no point does it feel overdone. D-Cel’s struggles are reflective of Cain’s; they both strive to come to terms with their past and find a way forward. Their relationship is reciprocity, serving as emotional anchors for one another. D-Cel incentivizes Cain to use his abilities for good, while Cain helps D-Cel accept that she is a mutant. It would be easy to tread into melodrama territory, but never does. Through a series of flashbacks, we come to learn that D-Cel refuses to accept her inherent mutant abilities because it caused a great tragedy. Admitting to her mutation would reinforce what she did.
The issue’s climax and the peek of Cain’s character arc are a mixed bag, but there is far more positivity to glean from the scenario. Let’s get the bad news out of the way now: Cain and D-Cel break into the Dungeon and find out that the base is a front; within its walls is a teleportation machine that transports you to a floating fortress, the true Dungeon. Sorry, but here’s where I kick some holes in the story. It isn’t truly a front if the teleportation machine takes you to the actual base; it just adds one more step to your trip. Cain also looks at the scientists in the base and says, “take me there,” and voilà, they abide. How in God’s name would he know if they entered the correct coordinates? Not much of a front.
But wait, there’s more. Once Cain does get to the base, he battles through genetically modified troopers, which admittedly is old-school comic fun. They overwhelm him, he breaks the ship’s hull, but can’t escape because he has D-Cel with him. They are afraid of the fall. Let me repeat that: they are afraid of the fall. In a previous issue, D-Cel literally leaped from an aircraft carrier and used her powers of deceleration to manage her descent, but here, it’s an issue. Not to mention that the freaking Juggernaut is with her. Why not hold her in your arms and jump? This is the Marvel Universe, it’s been done thousands of times. The ire here is that the scenario is simply a plot device, a nonsensical one at that. It’s a means of having Cain and D-Cel get back on the ship and resolve the situation by other methods. I hate how they got there, but this is where things improve.
Once inside, Juggernaut doesn’t resort to the power of Cytorrak to escape. He doesn’t punch his way to success or barrel through swaths of enemies. Instead, he uses the Dungeon’s political status against them. The U.S. Department of Justice contracts the Dungeon, which gives them political clout and some immunity, but that also means they must abide by US Laws.
Cain uses D-Cel’s mutant status to their benefit. He requests asylum for D-Cel on Krakoa, citing a United Nations treaty, whereas they must recognize her petition! And just like that, D-Cel claims her mutant origins and thwarts the Warden’s attempts to corral her. Admittedly, it was a magnificent moment that perfectly captures the series in a few pages and brings closure to both D-Cel and Cain’s character arcs. As we find out, D-Cel, or Miranda Manuel, comes to terms with what she has done and accepts that she is a mutant. Cain has proven he’s more than a mindless goon and can be a hero. It honestly made the issue for me. Well done, Nicieza; I see what you did there.
The comic also closes with a stinger of sorts. Cain brings together a team of villains he faced throughout the series, and they have a new purpose: to work together to keep super-powered individuals from abuse. Interesting, to say the least.
Overall, Juggernaut #5 is a fun departure from the very heavy or cosmic level threats throughout the Marvel Universe. There’s something to be said for a series that can take a more singular and focused approach to storytelling. I appreciate the creative team’s efforts to flesh out the character and personality of Cain Marko. If nothing else, I enjoyed my time with the book and look forward to seeing where the road the series laid out eventually leads to.
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