"The Greatest Generation"
The best of this week's Number of the Beast can be found in the fight between the Paladins and the Authority. It's not just a slug-fest. Beatty sparks the dialogue with frequently witty commentary, and all combatants are in character.
Chris Sprouse, Story, Geraci and Rench make each little tiff memorable through a respect for anatomy and the resonance in the heroes' visual characterizations. They in addition execute the comedic timing paying off Beatty's joke set-ups.
While I couldn't care less about Lieutenant Welles' health, the way in which Beatty reverses her high-speed lobotomy, from last issue, relies upon the science fiction context of this super-hero touched world. If the writers and editors of DC "proper" comprehended what a shared universe means, Babs Gordon would have had her spine healed a long time ago. Beatty displays more cognizance and creativity than his colleagues. He imagines how super-heroes would affect the real world. In the real world, Lieutenant Welles would have remained a vegetable. In a world where super-heroes exist, she gets a second chance.
I find it ironic and horribly sad that the Authority's cosmos is kinder than the Justice League's sphere of influence. I also find it ironic and horribly sad that when the Authority lock up the Paladins, they still appear more heroic than the mirror universe Avengers in Avengers/Invaders; there our "heroes" imprison the time-lost Invaders and experiment on Toro. What champions of good! The Authority seem more effective and valorous than the JLA and the Avengers. There's something seriously flawed in these fictions. How far have you fallen when parodies attain the ideal?
Despite such assets, the whole of Number of the Beast fails to entertain. Padding comprises the remainder of the chapter. Beatty laid out clues in previous issues. It was unnecessary for him to spell them out here. We didn't need to actually see the High being bottled. Scenes of his cloning are superfluous. The moments where McCandles betrays the Paladins and suborns the alien behind the VR tech that secured the Paladins are gratuitous wastes of space. The reader has already deduced what's in the stuffing. Neither do these repetitive visuals lend more power to the underlying ramifications. McCandles' actual portrayal in this issue of Number of the Beast is in fact far less potent when compared to what his hate-filled words annotating the sketches in the back of the past chapter indicate.
More time should have been spent focusing on the battles between members of the Authority and the Paladins. More dialogue could have been generated to accompany the battles, or Beatty could have just cut an issue or two by combining scenes to make it a four to five issue mini-series rather than eight. Beatty explains what doesn't need explained, and he leaves one particular important plot-point a frustrating mystery. How do the clones create a wormhole by bombarding their brother with eye-beams? How do eye-beams that appear analogous to Superman's vision powers equate with warping the space-time continuum? How do the relatively autonomic clones even know how to do this?
This issue of Number of the Beast is definitely only for the fans of these particular characters, Beatty or Chris Sprouse. As a comic book story, it leaves much for which to be desired.
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