Writer: Jon Lewis
Artists: Pete Woods (p), Andrew Pepoy (i)
The book opens with Robin tracking the device he had planted on the disturbed young man to a subway station. However we see before Robin's arrival this man has crossed paths with the woman he had attacked in an earlier issue, and with this woman unknowingly emitting an airborne contaminate that feeds this man's delusions, we see her mere presence drives this man to increasingly hostile behavior. As Robin arrives on the scene he finds a fairly intense situation waiting for him, as the man has a piece of broken glass held to the woman's throat, and he's demanding to talk to the purple girl, who us readers know better as Stephanie (aka. the Spoiler). However before Robin is forced to act, Stephanie arrives on the scene and she is able to convince him to release the woman. As Tim & Stephanie are busy comparing notes however we see the disturbed man succumbs to yet another nightmarish vision and in his bid to escape he ends up diving on to the third rail of the subway tracks, where he dies before Robin can rescue him. The issue ends with the woman being placed into the hands of S.T.A.R. Labs who will attempt to nullify her mind altering ability.
This issue does explain away the more confusing elements of Jon Lewis' first arc on this title, and what we're left with once all the clutter is clear away is a fairly simple story of a disturbed man falling under the influence of a woman who unknowingly produces a airborne contaminate that inhibits one's self control. However, while this issue is fairly easy to follow it also suffers from a resolution that undermines all the buildup that has been used to reach this point. I mean there's a point in this issue where the reader finds Robin is involves in a very intense standoff, and one has to wonder what he's going to do to resolve this crisis. Then the tension is almost immediately dissipated when the single demand of the frantic man is met, and he releases the woman. Then when the crisis seems to be resolved, the man suddenly suffers another delusion that inexplicably has him leaping to his death on the third rail of the subway tracks. This in turn leaves me to wonder what exactly is Jon Lewis trying to tell us here, as the idea I came away with is that if we stick with his extended story arcs we'll be rewarded with an ending that presents Robin as an ineffectual hero.
I will give Jon Lewis credit though for his densely written material, as unlike writers who have adopted a similar verbose style (e.g. Chris Claremont), one does have a reason to resist the urge to skim over the text picking out the relevant information, as Jon Lewis does devote quite a bit of his text to expanding on the little details that one doesn't need to know, but it's certainly interesting to know. I mean that opening page is a wonderful example of Jon Lewis using his text heavy style to bring together all the elements he's introduced in the previous issues, and offer up a clear presentation of what we're suppose to know thus far. There's also the letter that our mystery woman wrote before she dropped out of the picture, where we get a look at what made her leave her job as a prominent expert in the field of astronomy & embrace an untested theory that was scoffed at by her peers. There's also some nice little side information like learning how Robin would know that this man didn't start the fire, or the journal entry on the final couple pages as we get the Spoiler's take on the situation, and see her thoughts on how Robin blames himself for how things played out.
Pete Woods is a nice match for Jon Lewis' writing style, as even when half the panel is buried behind caption boxes & word balloons, his art is able to fit a wealth of visuals into a very limited space. The art is packed with detail, and it does a great job of simply telling the story, as the ideas are clearly presented, no matter how unusual they may seem. There are sections in this issue that call upon the art to show us how a young schizophrenic views the world, and in a rather disturbing sequence we see the danger of the third rail is masked by an idyllic river. The art also does a great job building up the tension of the scene where we see the disturbed young man threatens his hostage with a shard of glass, and we see the indecision on Robin's face is perfectly captured. In fact it was largely due to the strength of the art during this sequence that left me so disappointed when the Spoiler arrived on the scene to ease the tension. The art also does a nice job of the follow up scene as the young man leaps to his death, taking an innocent bystander with him, as we see Robin race to save the lives of both men. This issue also has itself a great looking cover.
A rather disappointing finish to Jon Lewis' opening arc on this series, as after a fairly slow, but well constructed buildup, this issue rewarded us with a fairly intense standoff that had my utmost attention, and it resolved it in such a perfunctory fashion that I almost felt cheated. I mean I realize Robin can't win them all, and there will be times when despite his best efforts things will end badly. However, I dislike the way this issue has Tim acting like he's stuck in slow motion when the situation calls for decisive action. I also didn't care much for the way that the hostage situation was resolved, as there's very little dramatic appeal in a hostage situation when the demands that are made by the hostage taker are almost instantly met. Jon Lewis has established a slow, almost leisurely pace during his first arc, and while I can accept this change, I do hope that his future big climatic scenes are stronger, as this issue is a bit unsettling.
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