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Archenemies #3

Posted: Monday, June 26, 2006
By: David Wallace



ďChapter Three: Past RepeatingĒ

Writer: Drew Melbourne
Artists: Yvel Guichet (p), Joe Rubinstein (i), Rick Hiltbrunner (colors)

Publisher: Dark Horse


With this issue of Archenemies, writer Drew Melbourne shifts his focus away from the city apartment unknowingly shared by his central hero and villain characters, Ethan Baxter and Vincent Darko, and moves them out into the country for the funeral of Vincentís father. However, this being a superhero book, things soon descend into violence, as a showdown between the Underlord, StarFighter, and the Masked Circle overtakes proceedings. Itís a welcome change of scene for a series which was threatening to get a little bogged down by its restrictive location, but it also signals a move away from the concentration on personal relationships and character quirks which has made the book so much fun to read. The issue doesnít suffer horrendously as a result, but thereís a definite feeling that Melbourne is choosing to branch out and explore the wider canvas of his Archenemies universe rather than to focus on his key hero/villain relationship.

From the bookís first page, thereís a sense that Ethan and Vincentís interplay is developing beyond its outright antagonistic roots, as Ethanís offer to drive Vincent to his fatherís country house leads to a mellowing of their relationship, and allows him to be introduced to his roomateís extended family. A couple of fun scenes with Vincentís sexy, sassy sister introduce a possible new love interest for Ethan, as well as providing yet another foil for Vincentís po-faced and melodramatic antics, and we also get some insight into Vincentís difficult relationship with his dead father. As the book heads towards its big centrepiece, however, a lot of this character work is jettisoned in favour of a large-scale action scene at the funeral service. Whilst itís nice to see a book like this have the ambition to tackle a throwdown which features so many different characters and various individual conflicts, the action does get a little muddled in places and fails to flow in the way that a good, clear action sequence should. Part of this is likely down to Yvel Guichetís artwork which, despite being very comfortable in its style and well-suited to the material, isnít always the easiest to follow when it has to carry the story for extended periods of time. However, there have also clearly been difficulties with the writing of the scene too, as Melbourne candidly attests in the issueís supplementary material at the back: multiple characters are thrown around without making much connection to the reader, and the exact point of the fight isnít ever really made 100% clear thanks to the under-developed plot thread concerning the mysterious ďMasked CircleĒ which has been running since issue #1. Thereís also confusion over whether Ethan and Victor are aware of each otherís secret identities, as whilst I was convinced that last issueís storyline was based on Victorís knowledge of Ethanís life as Star Fighter, this issue suggests that that maybe wasnít the case after all.

Melbourne and Guichet are clearly trying to accomplish a lot with this book, and I can only applaud their ambition and innovation in crafting a distinctive title in an already overcrowded marketplace. The elements of the book which do work, work well, and Iím looking forward to seeing the more character-based elements of the story come to a head in the concluding issue #4. However, itís clear that the team still has some way to go if they want to pull off grand action sequences to go with their superlative superhero soap-opera.



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