“Hearts of Darkness”
Writer/Artist: John Byrne
Inker: Doug Hazlewood
Less talky, more active (though quite why we need to see Rita fall through the same wall for the third or fourth time in three issues is unclear; it’s not THAT great a composition; are all future issues going to hinge on that moment as well?), as the Tenth Circle storyline finally wraps up in a neat, tidy, totally formulaic package.
Not gonna say a lot about this one, except that it’s much better than the first issue. We get a flashback to Larry Traynor’s origin, which makes it pretty clear that Byrne has a thing for Hal Jordan. Still, it’s well-handled, if a bit hokey.
We also get more team interaction, with focal moments for Faith, Nudge and Grunt. The battle with the uninteresting Vampire-possessed meta-humans is prolonged and disappointing. If “Rubber Maid” is meant to be an updated Madame Rogue, she’s a total misfire. Stealing the powers without the personality is not the way to go. Meltzer does better in one panel of Identity Crisis with his perved-up Phobia, who seems updated but remains recognizable.
There’s a by-the-numbers set-up of the next plot, as roughly inserted as all of the plot directions in this story, and a highly predictable denouement that for some reason takes even Batman by surprise involving the worst character Byrne ever created (a creepy dimensional warper/MacGuffin, too annoying to merely be mediocre).
While I praised a similar cover on Byrne’s JLA arc (where all the heroes are surrounded in tight full-figure formation by their foes), it doesn’t work as well here with less-iconic characters. Some of that might be remedied next issue when these “newcomers” get costumes. A lot rests on how Byrne handles Cliff Steele, too, because he’s usually the focal point for these outings. That might change with Rita alive again, though, as she does show a lot of welcome attitude and spunk, especially on the final page when she criticizes the Chief.
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