Writer: Tony Bedard
Artists: Paul Pelletier (p), Dave Meikis (i)
An enigmatic Resistance Leader is imprisoned upon a prison world. This person could be a valuable ally in opposing the Negation Empire. Our heroes decided to take a risk, fighting their way into the heavily guarded facility to free the captive. An unpleasant surprise awaited them within the vault, a dreadful Lawbringer, an enemy of vast power. Now, the magician Mantua must face this dire foe alone, the success of their mission and the lives of his friends rest upon his shoulders.
But he's become unstuck in time.
Instead of picking up directly where the last issue left off, we start this episode with astonishment. Instead of the gruesome Lawbringer, Mantua's children and wife, all recently deceased, stand before him. Instead of the dismal Negation prison, he finds himself back on his beautiful homeland of Ciress. And then he's back, struggling against his hideous opponent. But, wait! The scene changes again. He's suddenly a child, learning from his old mentor. Then he's with his newfound friends upon the prison world from which they escaped months ago.
Mantua finds himself bouncing through time, and along the way he remembers the core teaching of his people.
It is our risks and our sacrifices the define us.
This is a powerful tale in every aspect of storytelling. The plot, characters, setting, mood, and theme all focus towards the creation of a poignant issue. Flashbacks and disjointed scenes are tough to pull off. Bedard does it right, using the disorientation of the protagonist as an immersive point of view. As Mantua slowly comes to an understanding of his situation, so too does the reader, experiencing his dawning awareness of the action necessary to defeat the Lawbringer. This is an intricate plot that reads with impressive smoothness and expert pacing.
As skilled as the plot is handled, the character portrayal is better. Mantua runs an array of emotions, from confusion to determination, from fear to bittersweet joy. His love for his family and friends, his bravery before adversity, and his mental acuity are all brought into the spotlight. His strong personality is underscored by lucid dialogue.
The art is the perfect compliment to the writing. Pelletier's panel composition is remarkable, controlling the pace and flow of the story. In the prison scenes, the prominence of sharp diagonal lines and forms creates a feeling of being thrown into disarray. This contrasts sharply with the more sedately balanced "flashback" scenes. The setting detail is equally powerful. The majestic architecture of Ciress placed in contradistinction with the rubble-strewn prison establishes the overall mood of the story; clashing the awful "now" against a beautiful "then" and potential "later."
Meikis' inking is also top-notch. His fluid and bold line work adds great drama to the action and peaceful refinement to the talking scenes. However the true star of this impressive creative team is the colorist, Laura Martin. This story can just about be expressed through color alone. Ciress is a place of lush and bright colors, gold, sky blue and bronze. The Negation prison is concrete gray and drab olive green. At the climax of this story, we are dazzled with a radiant yellow that leaps off the page, as it gloriously slices through the darkness.
This is a wonderful issue. The pure craftsmanship of comic book storytelling is displayed with perfection here. From the cliffhanger-defying opening scene through Mantua's tale of discovery to the surprise twist at the last scene, this is an excellent read. I highly recommend this issue.
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