The covers: Gordon Purcell and Michael Atiyeh do the A cover showing the Patriot doing battle with an unseen foe, Detective Riley is missing part of his iconic jacket, though his right fist is now covered in metal, and, high above the smoke, Angel is battling a foe from a previous issue. This is how the book starts and serves as a good introduction to returning readers. I like how Purcell put the one human in the center of all the fighting and he looks completely out of place. The coloring is really good, with the shading on the Patriot super. The B cover is by Ben Templesmith. I couldn’t find a large image of this cover online, but, straining to see it on the inside cover, it appears to be someone with a glowing hand moving upon Detective Riley in a back alley. What I can see looks cool, and I really like the art of Templesmith, but I can’t rave about it if I can’t see it. Overall grades: A A and B B+
The story: This is the final chapter in this saga and it’s got a great surprise. There’s action going on in three different fronts as the A cover attests: Riley is dealing with the individual whose foot he grabbed last week just as that person decided to start flying. Angel leaps to his defense, but then someone appears to deal with her. Meanwhile, the Patriot has returned to action to do battle with the individual who started this mystery in the first place. Each page has a revelation as J. Michael Straczynski closes the lid on this tale, but he opens another lid to wind things up. The surprise comes early on Page 10 and it was terrific. First, I didn’t expect that to be the way that the obstacles are defeated by the heroes, and I didn’t expect it so soon–there are still 12 pages to go! I found myself asking why Straczynski needed such a long coda. He didn’t need it, the characters did. This has always been a story of characters and if they’re going to go through all this mayhem, their stories need to be completed, and Straczynski does so. I was happy to see Page 12, saddened by 13, beaten by 14 and 15, hopeful by 16 and 17, decimated by 18, stunned by 21 and strengthened by 22. This is how you tell a story: the heroics are the first 10 pages, while the humanity is the final 12. Perfection. Overall grade: A+
The art: The pencils and inks are done by Gordon Purcell with Andrew Pepoy inking the first six pages. I am an unashamedly biased fan of Purcell’s artwork. This book is a great example of why I enjoy his visuals. His page layout is always aces: Page 1 shows this in action–the first panel establishes the lead and his plight, the second panel shows his imminent destruction, the third his rescue, the fourth the change in settings, and the final ends with a cliffhanger as two forces are about to do battle. This is the way a book should be paced and every panel is necessary to progress to the next. Will Eisner would be smiling. Pepoy softens up Purcell’s art subtly, such as shown with one character’s face in the third panel on Page 2. Contrast this with the second panel on Page 7 and it’s noticeable. This didn’t effect my enjoyment of the book, and if it gave needed time for Purcell to do the rest of the book, I’m for it! I know it’s a simple element, but I always enjoy the electricity coming off of each super powered individual as they use their abilities. Another simple, but appreciated element, is the change in panels from right angles to rounded corners as a flashback is given, giving readers an instant visual clue that a transition in storytelling is occurring. One of the most beautiful and painful pages is 14. The setting is wonderful. However, my favorite panel is the final one on 21. This sums up the series entirely. I loved this book. Overall grade: A+
The colors: Michael Atiyeh’s work is also outstanding. The first page shows that he’s great in highlighting the characters by making the backgrounds dark. This may seem like a little thing, but the electricity that comes off of each Protector is not just solid white–it’s outlined in a pale blue. This is a nice touch. The blues on the third page are particularly sharp. The smoke effect on Page 10, which is a major turning point, is also highlighted in blue, making the effect eerie. The yellows and oranges on 14 and 15 made the emotion more dramatic. Blues return to prominence on the final three pages and they are beautiful. I couldn’t imagine anyone more perfect for this series than Atiyeh. Overall grade: A+
The letters: Closing out the talent out is Troy Peteri on letters. He provides dialogue, narration, and one key sound in a flashback. His work is solid and he’s got some tricky panels to place his wordage as there’s not too much space sometimes, such as the fourth panel on Page 8. Yet, he can insert it masterfully without interfering with the story in the text. A sign of a pro. Overall grade: A
The final line: This was a great conclusion that held surprises all the way to very end. An excellent read. Overall grade: A+
Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!”, he reviewed comics for TrekWeb, and he currently reviews Trek comics at TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for two years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.