Writers: Ian Edginton, Chuck Dixon
Artist: Sergio Cariello
Through the dark Grinbor Forest, Mordath rides alone, seeking out a dreadful mystic. For here, within the primeval wilderness, resides the troll witch, Marta. For what purpose does the mighty Lord of Quin seek out this demented hag? Mordath has grown weary of his passionless mockery of a life; he seeks to regain the vitality of youth and the warmth of life. He wishes to leave behind the cold emptiness of his undead half-life, and Marta is the only person with the mystical insights to aid him. But what is the price?
Meanwhile, Gareth and Cassidy have survived the cataclysm from the end of last issue, but the woods are a charred wasteland around them. And where's Arwyn? What happened to the Bow of Ayden? Has the quest come to a tragic end? Things look dire for our heroes.
"Things of shadow, things of dread, these are the ways I earn my bread."
There's an interesting story in here, but it's so unpolished that it falls far short of its potential. The plot is interesting, with some excitement in the opening scene and a chilling revelation at the end. It's well paced, with a clever scene change involving Gareth and Cassidy bridging Mordath's journey and his confrontation with Marta. However, the action scenes are stiff and the compositions are just a bit too unvaried. There are a few standout scenes, like when Mordath stands over his fallen enemies, a silhouette of death before the orange sky. It's a shame that such quality couldn't be maintained throughout the issue.
Character portrayal is decent, although a bit too blunt, as shown when Gareth uncharacteristically blurts out his feelings to Cassidy. All of the characters are consistent but lacking their finesse and distinctive nuances; clumsy dialogue is the culprit here. Exacerbating this problem is the overly unrestrained facial expressions and stance arrangement. This results in a shallow and obvious characterization that borders of the stereotypical.
The setting is well considered, from the fallen ruins of the forest to the charred carnage of the Skarnhime battle. However, the artwork is too heavy and feels rushed. There is no visceral sense of being there, which has been one of the primary strengths of this title. For instance, when Gareth awakens and first views the battlegrounds, the big two-page spread lacks dramatic intensity, due to the hefty line work and less than dynamic composition. Likewise, the colors aren't compelling either; I want to see some cinders and flame to break up the monotony of the spread.
All of these failings come down hard on establishing a mood. There should be a sense of dread and inevitable futility when reading this issue, but the final execution is such that the reader hasn't been pulled deep enough into the story to care. This is like a rough draft; all the basic elements of a good story are there, but it hasn't been finished. There's no mood to hold the reader's interest. It's a disappointment.
"I tire of this half-life. This mere existence."
This title has fallen upon hard times. With Edginton and Land gone, I feel that the heart of this title is gone. It's a mere shadow of what it should be. This title has amazing potential, wonderful protagonists, a compelling antagonist, a rich setting, and powerful thematic exploration. It pains me to see this wealth go to waste.
I've been with this title since the beginning, and it's had the typical ups and downs. However, with CrossGen in shaky condition, I don't have confidence that this title will receive the quality care that it deserves, a belief that this issue confirms. Therefore, I cannot recommend this issue.
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