Writer: Scott Beatty
Artists: Butch Guice (p), Mike Perkins (i)
Publisher: CrossGen Comics
The book opens in the coastal town of Baleen where we see Emma arrives posing as an under-sister of the cult Druidica, as it wouldn't do to have the famous partner of Simon Archard showing up in town. We then see that Emma is in town to investigate why the town of Baleen has seen a higher than normal rate of ship wrecks occur off its shores. We also see that Emma operating under the impression that Simon's already in town, but given he's also in disguise we see Emma has to wait for Simon to make contact with her as she has no idea who he is. Never one to sit on her hands, Emma quickly takes to investigating the mystery of the sea wrecks, and we see her investigation brings her into contact with the town's grave digger, who seems to believe that the shipwrecks are not the result of a curse, but rather the ships are intentionally being lured onto the rocks by the harbor lights. We also get another pretty strong indicator that this theory is true, as a recently released criminal has returned to Baleen, and he's quite anxious to see the loot that was removed from the ships that were deliberately sent into the deadly rocks. As the issue ends we discover Simon has found himself a spot within these criminals, and to earn his place among them he has to do away with the overly curious young woman who has recently arrived in town.
Scott Beatty's first solo issue is a pretty solid effort, as while I'm interested in the situation back in Partington, it's always fun to see this book take its show on the road, as Mark Waid's visit to the "vampire" town was my favorite story of his run, and I have high hopes for Scott Beatty's opening arc. The idea that these townspeople have been deliberately sinking vessels so they could rob them of their cargo is a nice twist on the usual vanishing ships mystery, though I do have to wonder why any good sea captain would take their ship into such a dangerous region, and one has to also wonder why none of the men serving aboard these ships have made it off to tell their stories about the harbour lights that deliberately lead their ship into the reefs. In any event the story is still an interesting adventure and Scott Beatty also makes good use of Emma, as Simon spends most of the issue in disguise, and he doesn't emerge from his role until the final pages, and by then the two characters simply don't have time to engage in their usual back and forth banter. As it stands this issue relies on Emma to narrate the action, and under Scott Beatty's hand, Emma is still a delightfully engaging character.
Scott Beatty lets us in on the solution to the mystery of the sinking ships a bit too early, as right from the start we know the vessels are being deliberately wrecked, and while it's an admirable effort to mislead us on his part, I must admit I was also aware right off that Simon was the felon who had makes his recent return to the fishing village. I mean, we have Emma openly wondering about Simon whereabouts, and wouldn't you know it at the exact same time a nefarious criminal makes his return to the city, and this criminal quickly entrenches himself into the plot the townspeople are involved in. Now I'll admit the final pages to this issue do offer up a fairly shocking twist, as we see Emma clues into Simon's secret identity just in time to be caught by the others involved in the criminal activities that has brought our two heroes to this region. I also must confess that I have no idea how Emma & Simon are going to extract themselves from this rather dicey situation, as while I guess Emma could use her time stopping power to free herself, Simon's final line to her would seem to indicate he has another plan up his sleeve, though to be completely honest I have no idea what it might be.
Butch Guice continues to deliver the best work I've ever seen from him on this book, as I don't think there's an artist working today who is doing a better job of capturing the various environments that this book takes the reader. This issue is set in a harbor town that has been cursed by the fact that an extraordinary amount of ships and their crews meet a grisly fate off their shores, and the art does a great job capturing the sense of forlorn that hangs over this town. From the opening page where we see how the ships meet their dooms on the dark & stormy seas, to the sequence where Simon has to prove his loyalty to his fellow criminals by dealing with Emma, Butch Guice's art does a wonderful job of capturing the sense of forbidding in both of these scenes. There's also the great little scene where we see Simon is taken into the basement to be shown the ill-gotten gains that these people have amassed, as not only does this sequence do a great job of showing us how utterly evil these people are, but it also makes great use of its candle light source to cast ominous looking shadows. There's also the fog encircled graveyard, the encounter in the shadows that Emma has with Simon, and the sense of urgency that is created with that final page.
It's nice to see that this book can not only continue to keep moving along at a nice clip after losing Mark Waid, but also that Scott Beatty has recognized the elements that made this book such an enjoyable read. This issue gives a lion's share of the spotlight to Emma, as Simon spends most of the issue in disguise, and while this does rob the book of the amusing exchanges between it's two lead characters, Scott Beatty does a nice job of playing up Emma's strengths as a character. She's strong willed and intelligent, but we also see that her tunnel vision when it comes to proving her self as Simon's equal will often blind her to the fact that she's put herself in a situation where she's in "grave" danger. In fact by the end of this issue Emma's inability to restrain her enthusiasm quite literally places her six feet under. Now the mystery of why the ships were going down was revealed a little too early in the game for my liking, but this issue's cliffhanger certainly grabs one's attention.
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