The cover: Detective John Riley can’t seem to find any cover from the super that’s out to get him. He’s running down an alley as a car and dumpster fall victim to the power beams emanating from the flying man above. This is a classic motif for a cover image: character fleeing from certain doom from much powerful character. I love this type of cover. It was drawn by Gordon Purcell and colored by Michael Atiyeh, both of whom contribute to the interiors of this book. Overall grade: A
The story: The first four pages are set within Riley’s car. What a monkey wrench to throw artist Purcell’s way, but writer J. Michael Straczynski knows this is exactly how the detective would be getting information: while driving between locations. Before he gets to the info pertinent to the storyline there are the funny, expected calls from previously unseen characters, including a very unexpectedly telling two panel sequence with someone he met at a party; it was nice to see Riley have a life outside of his job. The important info comes from a message from Chris at the coroner’s office, whom we’ve seen murdered in an earlier issue. He has made a link between the Huntsman’s death and that of a woman missing an arm. He believes that the hero was holding the woman as they were flying. They were most likely attacked from behind, when the Huntsman lost hold of the woman and grabbed her arm, accidentally ripping it from her socket (EWWW!) before he was killed. With this information, Riley thinks he’s got a lead. Page 6 made me shudder, not at what’s shown, but there are so many more of “them” out there that Riley hasn’t met. Thanks for destroying the awe I should feel when I see a super hero, Mr. Straczynski. The action scene then begins that inspired the cover and it’s awesome. Riley then makes a confrontation and gets access to a lot of information that brings him closer to the killer’s identity. But before this can happen, another Protector appears with a surprising promise, and then there’s a sucker punch of a closing and tease. My fingers are flying through the pages trying to solve this mystery. Overall grade: A
The art: The first four pages had to be a nightmare to plan out: the interior of a car as the protagonist is listening to some messages. There’s no one else in the car with him and there’s no car chase or other extraneous danger going on. Just listening. Gordon Purcell makes it work beautifully, and he inks his pencils on Pages 19 – 22, while Andrew Pepoy provides inks on the first 18 pages. I love that the panels go rounded during the flashback sequences; it’s a little thing, but I do get joy from it while reading a comic. Page 6 has several new characters shown from a distance, but some of their clothing makes their identities obvious, and I found myself chuckling at who was in the fourth panel–Great touch! The confrontation/conversation on Pages 11 – 15 was great for the posture of the antagonist: too much prim and proper in anyone should alert the reader to something being wrong. The final shot of that individual looking out a window only reinforced his motives not being on the up and up. I was delighted to see a character return on Pages 18 – 21, and I can understand why Purcell wants to ink those pages himself. The visuals on this book make the story an absolutely smooth read. Overall grade: A
The colors: The majority of this issue takes place during the day, so Michael Atiyeh gets to make much of this book bright. Even in the interiors of Riley’s car things are bright, though the individuals that the detective is listening to are nicely dulled to show they are there in voice only. Pages 11 – 15 are in the crisp and clean, cool environments of an office, which hides nothing, but, ultimately hides everything. The action sequence is bright to emphasize all the destruction and sounds are often neon bright to make them sing beyond the borders of the page. Overall grade: A
The letters: Troy Peteri does a bang up job on sounds, dialogue, and recordings. The side conversations that sneak their way into panels on Page 17 cracked me up. Overall grade: A
The final line: It seems the closer Riley gets the farther away he actually is from the truth. And just as it seems I’ve got a lock on the killer’s identity, someone does something to make me think them a suspect. This is what any reader wants from a mystery. 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.