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Number Of The Beast #8

Posted: Friday, July 25, 2008
By: Ray Tate

Scott Beatty
Chris Sprouse (p), Karl Story with Andy Smith (i), Johnny Rench (colors)
DC Comics
The Pentagon exploited alien tech to duplicate the High, Number of the Beast's Superman analogue. His witless duplicates decimate whatever they can. The Authority, The Paladins, Grifter "and the rest" attempt to stop them. Will they be strong enough? Well, you're not going to find out in this supposed final issue.

I really didn't want to give any Number of the Beast chapter the lowest score possible, but I'm left with no other option. I have only the barest idea what's going on in the "finale." I have almost no clue as to who the additional characters are.

I knew the Authority, at least the old Mark Millar/Frank Quitely team, but changes were made in the group's roster. Different incarnations of the Doctor, no pun intended, and Jenny Sparks stood in the ranks. Beatty explained them through their dialogue and their actions. Even if you didn't know Midnighter, you could have figured him to be a badass by the way he duked it out against The Midnight Rider, his opposite number in the Paladins.

The superfluous characters comprising I'm guessing the Wildstorm Universe are given far too little time to introduce themselves to the reader or be moderately effective against the High's doppelgangers. We have no reason to cheer these ciphers. They are in the spotlight long enough to usurp the roles of the Paladins. Such a lack of focus leads to an across the board shallowness in the characterization.

Most of the heroes simply react to High-copies thrown at them or die at their hands. Occasionally, Beatty gives the reader a glimpse of what could have been. Thrush for instance has a moving moment with Falconette. Engine Joe gets the best lines. These brief instances of humanity and heroism are sufficient enough to be the germs for a story, but the editors at Wildstorm actually no longer seem interested in fostering writing that crafts a single good story with a beginning, middle and end.

With this issue, the editors reveal that Number of the Beast is in fact a mere cog in a bigger machine. The book ends with the High sitting atop the Statue of Liberty's head and watching the firestorms and floods he cannot stop. I believe the phrase "what the f---" is appropriate.

I wanted a simple story featuring new characters that had an old school flavor. The first few issues lived up to my expectations. Beatty actually surprised me by creating multifaceted heroes. Chris Sprouse's inventive designs made each of these players unique. I was starting to form an attachment and care what happened to them. I hoped that the mini would lead to a Paladins series. The potential has been squandered.

Wildstorm now copies DC's nauseating paradigm. You can't simply have heroes adventuring any more. You can't even have a couple of harmless team-ups. No, no. Besides spines, everything has to be connected. It all has to be a Big Stupid Event that feeds into another Big Stupid Event and then another. The story is never going to end, but my brief association with Wildstorm has. I feel cheated.



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