Writer: David Schwartz
Artist: Sean Wang
Publisher: Image Comics
This second installment of Meltdown has all the features and players that made the first issue so fantastic, and even has the wherewithal to add an extra element to the proceedings. Unfortunately, the added element is typical melodrama of the sort we see every night in front of the tube. Whereas issue #1 had a nice balance between humor, drama, and mock documentary, issue #2 is consumed by Calís desperate situation and his surviving legacy. Itís an installment filled with revenge and redemption, two concepts we see way too much of in this day and age of terrorists and foreign wars. Maybe David Schwartzís goal all along was to produce an uplifting heroic tale at a time when we need one, rather than the civil wars we have seen in the pages of Marvel Comics.
Unfortunately, the intimate feel that made the first issue such a standout is diminished in the second issue. Issue #1 led me to believe I was witnessing some rare comic book magic I havenít seen in years, but I have to admit my overall disappointment with this finale, since I expected the extraordinary and received something fairly standard. Still, this issue is much better than most comics on the shelf right now, with deft writing and the incredible artwork of Sean Wang.
The pacing of this issue fits with the impending doom awaiting Cal, as the story alternates between fast and slow pacing throughout. The three events that catalyze issue #2 are the final battle with Calís arch-nemesis Maelstrom, Calís efforts at the scene of a train derailment, and Calís final act of heroism. In between, we have dramatic scenes that can be described as both powerful and overly-manipulative. The best of these scenes occurs between Cal and Amara, who I thought was a great secondary character in the first issue of Meltdown. Cal goes to her in his final moments of existence to make restitution for his wrongs toward her. When one of her first reactions to his appearance is, ďIíve forgiven you, you know,Ē I thought, ďOh boy, here comes the weepy finale.Ē Fortunately, Amara displays her overall strength and willfulness, two characteristics that she displayed ably in the first issue. Instead of crying about Calís confession of death, she defiantly says, ďYou finally come to your senses and came back to see me after all these years, only to tell me that youíre leaving again, this time for good? Thatís cruel.Ē Cal realizes that he canít simply load his problems onto Amara, looking for a sympathetic reaction. He hurt her very badly when he left her, and it shows clearly in this exchange. Cal repeatedly goes on about the reasons for why he left, which only fuels the fire (no pun intended) that has been burning in Amara all this time. In the end, all Amara needed was an apology from Cal, which he gives her before he leaves for the final time. Itís a moving scene that fits with the characterizations in issue #1. Unfortunately, the exchange between Cal and Sandra Ramirez beneath the rubble of a collapsed building reeks with manipulative sentimentality, as Sandra looks at Cal as a role model and is one of Calís biggest fans. Yes, itís a nice, neat, and way too convenient way to end this fine mini-series.
The true shining star of this second issue is the same star as the first: the incredibly rendered artwork by Sean Wang. Once again, he pulls out all the stops to make this tale an homage to super-hero comics as well as an entity all its own. His finest work comes near the end of the issue, as Calís life flashes before his eyes prior to his final destruction. As Sandra is pulled from the wreckage by two other supers, Cal recalls his life in backwards order, featuring images from earlier in the issue and from Issue #1. Whatís great is that the images seem smaller and smaller as he reaches the end, almost like a personal Big Bang in effect. All the flashbacks are ringed in red, like hot coals added to a fire out of control. The consequences are inevitable: there is no saving Cal in the finale. Once again, Wang creates an idealized, colorful world of the super-heroes separate from the realistic, gritty world that Cal dies in. The artwork in these two issues of Meltdown is a wonderful addition to Wang's already fine portfolio.
Yes, even with all of my griping about the lackluster melodrama, this issue still rates highly on my personal scale, making it one of the highlights early on this year. Itís definitely worth the six dollar cover price for the artwork alone. If you loved the first issue of Meltdown, chances are youíre going to dig this second issue, though without the overall enthusiasm from issue #1.
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