Writer/Artist: Paul Grist
Publisher: Image Comics
There's a hint of Seven Soldiers to this issue, as Paul Grist brings together a number of disparate story threads, some from as far back as the first, self-published, Jack Staff series. Grist is a dab hand at this kind of thing, having made use of the same kind of structure a number of times before, but this is certainly the most wide-ranging and elaborate example seen thus far in this title, and it makes for a great deal of fun as we discover, among other things, what the Eternal Warrior's destiny holds for him, what happened to Kapitan Krieg during WWII, and why a thinly-veiled Alan Moore has been hanging about for the past few issues. It's not presented in a strictly linear order, either, making for a richly layered narrative that rewards second and third readings.
But the cleverness of the interlocking plots and subplots is not the only high point here; Grist does some excellent character work, particularly with Krieg, portraying him as sympathetic and noble, despite his wartime allegiances, and there's a real sense of poignancy as his story concludes.
Grist's art is on top form this issue too, as befits the climactic feel of the story; he's one of the best visual storytellers in the business today, and the big extended fight scene with Krieg this issue is a cracking bit of comics, full of movement, iconic imagery, and even some clever trickery with the medium. My only criticism of the visuals is that the demonic entity introduced this issue (although as it's Jack Staff, one wonders just how long the entity has been around unseen) labours somewhat under an unimaginative design, especially surprising as Grist's character designs are normally much more evocative.
If you haven't been following this series, then this issue's plot may leave you lost and bewildered; that said, Grist's involving storytelling means that this is self-contained to some extent, as the high stakes of the battle are abundantly clear, and the battle itself is conveyed with such skill that it should be enjoyable even to those who've missed out on the story so far. This really is a great superhero comic, and if you've not been a reader so far, then you've been missing out.
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