Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artists: Adrian Alphona (p), Craig Yeung (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
As Nico struggles against the newly revealed vampire Topher, we see she puts on a pretty fairly showing, but the arrival of Alex is what allows her to get back to the safety of their headquarters. However, Topher is quick behind them and he makes pretty quick work of the young team. However they manage to emerge as the winners when Topher moves in to drink the blood of one of our young heroes, only to discover the blood is toxic.
There's some nice moments of insight in this issue with most of them revolving around the powers of the characters, as we see them involved in their first real battle, aside from the escape from their parents. We learn that Gertrude's mental connection with her pet velociraptor is a two way street and that when it is injured, the creature's pain is directed back to Gertrude. We learn that Molly's mutant gift pretty much drains her completely so that she can sleep right through a heated battle. We also get a curious little moment where we see Alex was willing to give up his one chance of figuring out what his parents big secret is in order to save his teammates, and since Alex believes the book is something that Topher would be interested enough in that he would leave them alone, one has to wonder how much has he managed to piece together. We also see Karolina is in a rather worrisome place as the way her encounter with Topher plays out we see she not only having a difficult time coming to grips with the recent discoveries she's made about herself and her parents, but she's displaying suicidal tendencies that hopefully the others will take note of before it's too late. We also see that Nico's teammates might want to take a step back when the magic staff emerges from her body, as it's ejected with enough force that Topher is sporting a gapping hole through the center of his chest. All in all this was a pretty informative issue.
I found the colors on this issue were a little too muted, and the attempt to visually convey the idea that Nico was covered with dirt looked a bit odd. However the art tells the story in a clear, visually engaging manner, and the book does a wonderful job delivering its big action sequence. From Chase's blast of fire as he attempts to fry Topher, to the explosive finish where Topher discovers he's ingested bad blood, the art has a wonderful energy to it. The art also does a pretty fair job when it comes to the facial expressions of the cast, as I loved Nico's expression when she discovers Topher is a dirty old man, and Karolina's expression when Topher is about to bite provides a nice look at the notion that the character is actively terrified. This book also continues to deliver some truly lovely cover visuals, and while it would be nice to see the covers reflect the story inside, the poster worthy shots of the cast are quite eye-catching.
It's never a good thing when the big climax of an issue comes about from a stroke of dumb luck, as happens to be the case with the discovery that one of our case members has vampire destroying blood. Now I realize that we had been given some signs that this cast members blood wouldn't be palatable to vampires, as we've seen that her powers are solar powered, and her alien heritage is sure to throw a wrench in the works. However, the fact that her blood was not only distasteful but that it causes the villain to be completely vaporized left me a bit disappointed, as itís a rather undramatic finish that's stumbled across through sheer chance. It also doesn't really reflect all that well on the team, who are little better than punching bags, while their big victory comes about from one of their members giving up without even putting up a fight, and it's only through the after the fact discovery that her blood is toxic to vampires that allows the team to walk away from this fight. Now I like the fact that these characters are inexperienced rookies, and I agree with the decision that many their early victories should largely result from moments like this, but frankly I found myself struggling to not see the writing as anything more than Brian K. Vaughan taking the easy way out, rather than playing up his group by having them really work for this victory. Plus the various defeats that the others suffer were a bit repetitive.
The idea that our cast were essentially handed their heads in their first real fight, and that the only reason they are able to walk away from this fight is through a lucky accident doesn't exactly reflect all that well on the team, and the ending is delivered in such an abrupt fashion that I was a bit disappointed. However, I do like the idea that the book isn't shying away from the idea that these teens have just discovered their powers & gathered together to form this team, and as such their attacks are largely ineffective, and the idea of teamwork hasn't even registered yet. The book also does a nice job of making Topher into a cold, calculating villain who is able to easily manipulate the emotions of the young team, and the scene where Nico learns Topher's true age was a very amusing scene that nicely reflected the age difference. Still, I would've liked to see a victory that wasn't quite so reliant on dumb luck, and Topher ends up looking like a bit slow on the uptake, when he doesn't get a little concerned that a victim is willing offering herself up to him.
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