Current Reviews


Doctor Spectrum #4

Posted: Wednesday, December 15, 2004
By: Jason Cornwell

"Full Spectrum, Part IV of VI"

Writer: Sara "Samm" Barnes
Artists: Travel Foreman (p), Nelson DeCastro (i)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

As the entity inside the crystal that has embedded itself in Joe Ledger's hand searches through his memories to discover if Joe Ledger will make a good host, we see this search unearths a young boy who accuses him of murder. We than learn that during his service in Vietnam, Joe Ledger's unit was involved in an ambush in which a civilian was struck down, and when the upset child of this victim threaten his unit his a gun, Joe killed the child. Needless to say the crystal entity is delighted with the discovery of this dirty little secret.

First off I have to give credit to any writer who makes use of a song by John Prine as he's one of my personal favourites so seeing one of his songs used in a comic to enhance the impact of a scene left me quite happy. As for the actual story there is a pretty compelling mystery in these pages as we see a young boy emerge from the shadows of Joe Ledger's mind calling him a killer. However, the explanation for this accusation will feel pretty familiar if one has seen any film set during the Vietnam War, as the recurring idea in almost all these films is that the civilian population got caught in the crossfire with an alarming frequency. However, I must confess I was genuinely surprised by the scene where Joe Ledger gunned down the child, as it happens in such an abrupt manner that I was left wondering what to heck happened to the scene where he attempted to reason with the distraught child. The issue also offers up some interesting moments in the real world as we see there is another group with a vested interested in Joe Ledger, and that they are able to get an ally on the inside to report back to them on any interesting details involving the comatose Joe Ledger. There's also a plot development that I must confess I didn't see coming, and that is the seeming death of Doctor Norton, as it makes General Bradley's comments in the opening pages sound even more ominous. The issue manages to make good use of its disjointed structure to sell the idea that this story is largely set inside Joe Ledger's head.

Travel Foreman's work is quite solid when it comes to the delivery of people and objects that are important to the story, as the characters are quite expressive, and there's never any sense of confusion when it comes to the actual delivery of the material. Where the art is a bit weak though is when it comes to the backgrounds. Now I'm willing to accept the lack of background detail during most of the scenes that are set in Joe Ledger's mind as the empty void does focus one's attention on the important developments. However, the scenes that are set in the real world, are a bit of a let down, as we see these characters are moving through some of the most flat, unimaginative environments I've ever seen, and the establishing shot of the destroyed hospital is one of the crudest looking pieces of art I've seen in a comic. I'm not asking for Bryan Hitch level of detail on the backgrounds, but this minimalist effort is quite disappointing.

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