Writer: John Arcudi
Artist: Tan Eng Huat
The book opens by explaining the story of the demon that Doom Patrol has stumbled across, as we see the creature is collecting he souls of victims it manages to drive to suicide. As this demon works at adding Doom Patrol to its impressive collection of condemned souls, we see Cliff is busy making a deal with one of the demon's underlings who we see has grown tired of his master, and is looking to stage a little rebellion. As the younger members of Doom Patrol work to keep themselves alive, we see Cliff arrives with a small army of demons ready to overthrow their master, but Cliff isn't ready to play Braveheart for this group, as he has the team getting the heck out of Dodge at the first opportunity. We then see him decide that it would be best if neither demon had themselves a collection of souls, and we see Doom Patrol heads back to free the condemned. While they do manage to pull off this rescue, and Cliff destroys the device that held sway over them, we see before the head demon departs he lets Cliff in on a secret that leaves our fearless robotic hero visibly shaken. As the book ends we see Cliff is left to wonder if what the demon said is true, and if it is than the character is fundamentally altered.
This issue is nearly as much fun as the previous issues, as a large part of the issue was focused on developing the villain that Doom Patrol were up against & explaining his plan, while Doom Patrol weren't given as much panel space as they've had in previous issues. Now the demon's back-story is fairly interesting, and before he makes his escape one member of the team has their status quo undergo a very solid shaking. However, one of the principal reasons I've found this book so enjoyable, is that John Arcudi has developed one of the most delightful collection of characters since Giffen & DeMatteis' run on the Justice League, and as such having the focus shifted elsewhere resulted in a less entertaining reading experience. Still this issue still has its moments, from Ted's running subplot involving his mother & the cell phone, to his rant later in the issue about how it doesn't pay to be fighting obscure demon creatures, when it gets zero media attention. There's also the nagging questions that are lying beneath the surface, like the idea that Ava does believe Cliff is a carrier of evil, and the unsettling insight we gained on Kid Slick last issue, which is sure to raise its ugly head soon.
This issue does offer up a fairly interesting twist on the rather familiar question that Robotman has been dealing with since he made his first return from the dead, as in this issue we see a demon suggests something that Cliff is likely terrified to discover just might be true. Now true this demon could very well be lying through his teeth, but then the question becomes what's the real reason why Cliff was spared the nightmares that inflicted the others. However, if the demon is telling the truth then Robotman has become an infinitely more interesting character as we now have to ask what exactly is he? Is he merely a machine that's deluded itself into thinking it's human? Is the unanswered question about Cliff's brain being a dried out husk due to it's exposure to the elements actually more important than we had been led to believe? It's rather surprising how quickly things can turn on their head with a single revelation, and while I'm not sure John Arcudi is going to make the next big step, it's certainly interesting to note that he's set it up so that he could. This question has been around since the character's debut, but looks like we might be getting a very unexpected answer.
Tan Eng Huat continues to deliver some top notch work on this book, as his style is decidedly unique in the way it handles the action scenes. It's always nice to find an artist who is willing to experiment with the way that the action is delivered to the audience. I love the way that he incorporates the sound effects into the art itself, and the way that the panels themselves often reflect the impact of the given situation (e.g. the panel borders are shattered when a character slams into them). Now I realize that Tan Eng Huat is following in the footsteps of innovators like Jim Steranko & Walt Simonson when it comes to these artistic touches, but it's nice to see that the groundwork that was laid out is still being used, and that Tan Eng Huat is proving to be such an adept practitioner of this style. The art also does some great work conveying the emotional states of it's cast, as Ted's slow burn over his mother & her incessant phone calls is perfectly captured in that panel on page sixteen, when he finally loses it. I was also surprised by how effective that one panel was where Cliff is told why he was able to escape the suicidal urges of the demon's song.
The big selling point of this issue is a very solid little moment where Cliff is made aware of a rather unsettling truth about himself, and while this idea may prove to be false, the mere suggestion that it might be true is enough to grab my attention. The issue also offers up a fairly entertaining tussle with a collection of demons, but truth be told the cast of Doom Patrol are infinitely more interesting, so the pages devoted to the villains aren't as strong as they might've been. Still, the issue is pretty solid entertainment, and the issue does bring to the surface a very big question about one of it main characters that I can't wait to receive the answer to. The back-story that our villains receive is also nicely messed up, as we learn how they are able to collect their supply of condemned souls, and why it's likely that Doom Patrol is likely to see this collection of baddies again. Plus there's also the art of Tan Eng Huat, which continues to impress.
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