Writers: Mark Waid & Scott Beatty
Artists: Butch Guice (p), Michael Perkins (i)
Publisher: CrossGen Comics
The book opens with Simon & Emma moving through an underground cavern, as they follow a trail that was made by Simon's former partner/current nemesis, Lightbourne. As they arrive in a massive cavern that Simon correctly guesses is directly below the city of Partington, they find Lightbourne is waiting for them. What's more they discover that Lightbourne has constructed a massive mechanical device, that is designed to wash out the support structures beneath the city, and the resultant collapse will effective destroy the city, and kill the population that currently calls it home. As Simon places Emma in charge of sabotaging the machine, we see Simon busies himself with directly confronting Lightbourne, but we see that while Simon might hold a better grasp on his sanity, Lightbourne proves to be the superior fighter. We also see Simon's attention is momentarily diverted when Emma is washed away by the waters that are flooding into the cavern. As Simon manages to use the device to blast Lightbourne out of his safe room hanging above the flooding chamber, we see the issue ends with Simon reviving a waterlogged Emma, but the two discover Lightbourne still has some fight left in him.
This issue created a bit of buzz with the online community after Mark Waid made mention of the idea that even though he's credited for coming up with the plot for this issue, he states that the plot used bears very little resemblance to the one he submitted. Now if this is true then this issue marks our first look at what to expect with Scott Beatty at the reins, and while I greatly enjoyed his work on a Green Lantern 80 Page Giant from a couple years back & the "Robin: Year One" miniseries he co-wrote with Chuck Dixon, Scott Beatty has made his mark on a couple crossovers that I found so-so, and Secret Files that I almost never buy, as they're too much buck for too little bang. This makes him a bit of an unproven quality, but Simon & Emma have been nicely established as characters, so I wasn't overly concerned about his arrival. If this is indeed his first issue, than other that feeling that his dialogue could get to the point a bit quicker that it does, I'm happy to see that this book can survive the departure of Mark Waid. I do hope that the more mystical aspects of the CrossGen universe remain as background elements however, as the previous issues have established a nice groundwork for this book the function within.
Whether it was intentional or not, this issue's rather impressive set piece is sure to remind evoke memories of Sherlock Holmes' encounter with Professor Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls. However, while this did lend a degree of urgency to the encounter, when it was over I couldn't help but feel that the struggle was overshadowed by the sheer spectacle of the place where the battle was playing out. I mean Lightbourne's devious plan to undermine the very foundation of the city of Partington is a big idea, and when the machinery starts unleashing the water, the whole affair becomes a rather chaotic mess. I mean the reader is left to wonder why Emma didn't use her power to at the very least save herself, and why Simon is so dead set on having it out with Lightborne when the city destroying device looks to be the far greater threat. One would think that with the lives of an entire city at stake, Simon would expend more effort on stopping the device, instead of engaging in simple fisticuffs with Lightbourne. Now since the issue does end with a cliffhanger, we might very well learn Simon has been systematically destroying the device all along, but in this issue his obsession with Lightbourne seems too extreme.
This issue did serve to convince me though that this book couldn't survive without Butch Guice's art & Laura DePuy's coloring work, as they are irreplaceable parts of this book. I mean, this issue is set in a massive cavern, and features a villain who has come up with a plan that involves undermining the foundation of an entire city. To this end we have a situation that calls upon the artist to convey the sheer enormity of this plan, and right from that opening double-page shot of Lightbourne's machine, Butch Guice is firing on all cylinders. However his work reaches new heights when the water start rushing in, as when Emma is struck down by that wave, and Simon topples off Lightbourne's control chamber, the art had me riveted. The same goes for the scene where Simon uses a barrel, a rope & a stick to take out Lightbourne's little chamber of safety amidst the chaos, as that's a wonderfully simple trick, with an explosive result. Butch Guice is also making wonderful use of his double-page layouts, with the sequence where Lightbourne is blasted out of his "tower" being the highlight of the issue.
Scott Beatty's arrived a little early, but thanks to the last issue ending with a cliffhanger of sorts, we see he's able to pick up the ball and keep the book moving forward quite nicely. Now the action does present Simon as a bit too obsessed with his feud with Lightbourne, as he looks to be perfectly willing to let Emma & the city of Partington die so he can exchange barbed comments & fisticuffs with his hated enemy. The dialogue also lacks some of the punch that we saw under Mark Waid's hand, as the back & forth between Simon & Emma in the opening pages doesn't flow quite as smoothly, and Lightbourne's villainous ranting later in the issue isn't nearly as biting as it needs to be. Still, the set piece that this battle takes place within is very impressive, and while the conflict is a bit confusing in sections, it does have itself enough thrills, chills & spills to keep one fully invested in the material. Plus, Butch Guice & company continue to make this one of the best looking titles on the stands.
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!