"Purple Reign, Part One: Of Mice and Maze"
Writers: Fabian Nicieza
Pencils: Tom Grummett
Inks: Gary Erskine
Colors: Chris Sotomayor
Letters: RS & Comicraft's Albert Deschesne
Publisher: Marvel Comics
$2.99 U.S. / $4.25 CAN
As Songbird and the Swordsman find themselves targeted by pretty an angry mob who are under the control of the Purple Man, we see the Thunderbolts arrive to deal with this looming crisis. However, we see the problem only becomes worse when we see the Swordsman falls back under the control of the Purple Man, and the Thunderbolts suffer some pretty serious damage by his hand. Than just when everything looks to be spiralling out of control the House of M hits these pages.
In today's industry this book stands out as a bit of an oddity in that Fabian Nicieza has too many plots vying for the reader's attention. I mean there's the plot involving Songbird being framed for a massacre, and the Purple Man gaining control of the city's population through the water supply. We have the mystery of the Swordsman and his less than successful battle to free himself from the Purple Man's control. Add to this the decidedly shocking developments that play out during the final moments of the battle, and the book being pulled into the House of M crossover, and I can't help but get a little frustrated at this book's decision to treat its big plot ideas like clowns emerging from the tiny car. I mean I don't want to make too much noise about Fabian Nicieza overloading the plate, as he's proven to be quite good at resolving the various plots threads that he introduces, but there are moments where this scattershot pacing of the book makes it a little difficult to follow this title, and I feel sorry for any reader who entered this issue cold. I also have to say that the Swordsman's habit of running his sword through people is starting to get a little old, and the explanation of how Purple Man managed to survive his own encounter with the Swordsman's blade was a very weak. In fact it doesn't even make sense when remembers that the art clearly showed readers the sword running clean through him, so unless the Purple Man has added illusion casting to his bag of tricks than Fabian Nicieza still has some serious explainin' to do. Still I'm not going to get hung up on such a minor detail, as it's rare that a super-villain's exposition for how they managed to pull off their return from the dead could ever stand up to much scrutiny so why should this time be any different. I will say that Fabian Nicieza certainly knows how to deliver a nice punch to the gut, as this book gets pulled into the House of M right when it's the most inconvenient for it to do so, and I have to say I rather admired his willingness to pull the rug out from under his own story.
Tom Grummett turns in some powerful looking visuals, such as the double page spread that opens the book where we find Swordsman and Songbird fleeing an unruly mob. The Thunderbolts also get an impressive double-page introduction into the issue, as that's a lovely looking team shot. There's also a nice intensity to the more shocking moments in this issue, from the explosive quality of the scene where Atlas finds himself unable to contain his energies, to that jaw dropping panel where we get a look at what put that look of horror on Songbird's face. In fact the art does a lovely job of playing up the shock value of those final pages as we see the Swordsman goes to town on the various members of the Thunderbolts. The transformation into the House of M reality is also nicely conveyed by the art as it has a nice abrupt quality about it, and it serves to give the final page even more impact. I also rather enjoyed the cover image as it nicely captures the basic premise of the issue with a rather easy to understand bit of symbolism.
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