The cover: Shiny! This is not a gimmick cover, like other companies are doing with 3D Motion covers this month, but actually applies to what happens this month. A positively twisted image of Barry Chase, a.k.a. Flyboy, is laughing manically in the reflection of a broken mirror. Has he finally gone off the deep end and become a full fledged villain? Or is there still a chance for his redemption after what he’s done in previous issues? If you’ve been following this series, you already know the answer. Fantastic cover by Tom Mandrake, providing art, and Hi-Fi, on colors. Wow. Overall grade: A
The story: This is a scary title, “The Calm Before the Storm.” It’s been used a million times before on other books, but J. Michael Straczynski is not using it lightly. If this story is “calm” it’s going to hit the fan horrendously soon. Barry is trying to trace Thomas Winchester’s funds to find out where he is, so he and Julia Moonglow can find him and kill him. Moonglow reveals she’s been getting money for them by robbing armored trucks. As the two wait for the computer program to run through all its possibilities they decide to go to Vegas. Meanwhile, in his secret location, Winchester realizes someone is checking into one of his bank accounts. He’s not too worried, but he’s not thrilled. He thinks back to his meeting with his money manager and how his funds were set up for his “death.” I’ve been entirely sympathetic for Winchester in the run of this series, but something is revealed on Page 5 that had me curse out loud. Once again, Straczynski has twisted this story around, changing how readers think of characters. It’s an absolute joy to read and absolutely maddening to follow because no reader is ever safe with how they feel about individuals, as something is always shown to put a spin on their backstory. Pages 6 – 10 were a gut punch…and I’m running out of guts for Stracyznski to keep punching. The remainder of the book goes to Vegas, following our lead and his girlfriend. Something happens that brings Barry into a new light. There is also the best use of the F-bomb that I’ve ever read at the bottom of Page 18.The final page was great. Everything is changing, and you better let go of all you hold sacred. Overall grade: A+
The art: I’m continually impressed with the visuals of Tom Mandrake. He is able to create a realistic world that any reader can relate to, yet bring fantasy into his reality seamlessly. Take a look a Page 1: the first three panels are tight close-ups of Barry following the money trail on a computer. Moonglow walks into these panels, closer and closer, until the bottom half of the page shows that she’s been using her abilities to rob mints on wheels. The point of view in this fantasy panel is high in the sky, looking down at her as she twirls the truck about, its money spilling out of its backside, and its lone human driver flailing as he falls to the ground. The linework on the swirl of energy she uses to empty the truck is both beautiful and disturbing, because no reader should really find this lawlessness and death lovely. However, Mandrake is able to make it both simultaneously. The Vegas scenes also start in reality and then become fantasy and ends in chaos. That final panel on 17 is disturbing. There can be no going back, and the visuals solidify this. Page 19 is a wordless splash page that is amazing. Mandrake brings the horror to the real world. Overall grade: A+
The colors: Hi-Fi masterfully manipulates readers’ emotions with their work. Check out the incredible violets on display on the first page as Moonglow uses her powers. Winchester’s sailing off into the sunset is a cinematic quality. The Vegas sequence is the show piece for them. The cool teals of a casino’s interiors slowly morph into bright, primary colors to match the energy of the characters. When the lights go out, what can be seen brightly should have been avoided at all costs. A superior job, yet again! Overall grade: A+
The letters: Dialogue, story title and credits, a broadcast transmission, and sound effects are provided by Troy Peteri. I’ve never focused on his story titles and credits before, but they are really sweet. They add a classy introduction to the book that lure readers into a false sense of serenity. And I also must say that the DING sound effect was a great addition. Overall grade: A+
The final line: This book is like an out of control serpent–It twists constantly, leaving you gasping at each unexpected turn. Highly recommended. 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.