by Jeff Parker (writer), Dan Panosian & Gabriel Hardman (art), Elizabeth Dismang & Sotocolor (colors), and Tom Orzechowski (letters)

The Story: The final battle is waged between the Agents of Atlas and the Great Wall.

What’s Good: M-11 really comes off as the star of this issue.  In fact, the robot is more fun this month than he’s ever been.  A lot of humor comes from Ken’s placing a personality microchip into the robot, leading to some utterly ridiculous rhyming trash-talk from the usually silent M-11.  The revelation of who M-11 is impersonating was also unexpected and enjoyable.  All the more wonderful still was how the chip ultimately led to M-11 showing perhaps the most sentience we’ve seen from him in the series, proving that there really is a personality and character underneath all the metal.

Naturally, this issue also has a good deal of action, and it’s all gloriously rendered.  A lot of this is thanks to Elizabeth Dismang’s efforts on the colors, making it all take on a particularly fiery hue.  Again though, M-11 steals the show, with by far the best action scene of the book.  The robot brawl/boxing match is all kinds of awesome, with M-11 bringing back some classic Menacer robot quips.

Beyond M-11 though, the other character who really shines this month is Temugin.  The character has spent a lot of the series as uneven, unlikable, and oddly underpowered for his skills, and while the last point isn’t rectified, the other two definitely are, as Temugin becomes a strangely engaging character that I really had no problem cheering for.  I’ve always been a sucker for formerly villainous characters showing heroic qualities, and ultimately transitioning form bad guy to bad ass.  Temugin’s actions are some of the most heroic this issue and the sequence is almost heartwarming.

What’s Not So Good: While he’s a good artist, I still don’t like Panosian on Atlas.  While last month’s issue was glorious thanks to its being heavier on the Hardman side of the team than the Panosian side, the opposite is true this time, and the comic suffers as a result.  Hardman is perfect for the series, and is just a league above Panosian, whose angular, cartoony, and at times pin-up styled artwork just doesn’t jive with the comic.  His angular faces in particular at times feel just a bit too comical.

I also have to add that the first third of the comic is an incredibly frustrating experience overall.  Opening this month’s issue, I actually felt as though I missed a book, and it’s irritating and disorienting.  Last month, Atlas was holding their own against the Wall, but at the start of this issue, Atlas is crippled and near a route.  Huh?  Worse still, last month ended with the cliffhanger of the newly upgraded M-11 showing up to kick ass.  Now, this book opens up as though that never even happened.  Why even bother with last month’s ending and the extended mad scientist scene if the upgrades accomplish nothing and are never even to be shown in use?

Lastly, I’m wholly disappointed with Jade Claw.  As a former lover of Jimmy, she had such potential as a character.  Instead, Parker seems sadly content with keeping her a completely one-note character who sounds like any clichéd female villain.  There’s absolutely nothing that makes her special and the character’s voice is monotonous and unchanging.

Conclusion: Great character moments in a flawed issue that sadly hints at future story-arcs that probably will never come.

Grade: B –

-Alex Evans