by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Neil Edwards (pencils), Andrew Currie (inks), Paul Mounts (colors), and Rus Wooton (letters)
The Story: Johnny, Ben, and the kids go to Nu-World for a vacation but what they find there is a far cry from being a resort.
What’s Good: Probably the best thing the issue has going for it is its generic tone. The book is a wacky, retro sci-fi adventure. While Nu-World has become a dystopian mess, Hickman uses this as an excuse to fill the issue with a scuttling, disembodied brain and a hero with a goofy helmet blasting apart robots by the dozen with his ray gun. It’s cheesy, but definitely fun, like a bad 70s sci-fi flick. There’s also a depiction of a pseudo-scientific, transcendental sort of mass suicide that sort of reminded me of Logan’s Run with astronauts. I’m probably alone on that, but it’s cool nonetheless.
I’ve never been a fan of the kids, but Hickman actually made me enjoy their presence. Both Val and Franklin have a comical way of undercutting Ted Castle and his planetary problems, but in different ways. Val makes it all seem so simple through her intellect, while Franklin approaches the situation and his circumstances on an entirely different level, as a child would. There’s a beautifully paced sequence where he offers a grieving Ted Castle a sandwich, tugging the heart-strings while providing a laugh.
Through his wacky sci-fi hijinks and his use of the brain and the kids, Hickman takes what could’ve been a heavy-handed, grindingly tragic affair and turns it into something much more light and fun. That said, by the time the issue ends, he still gives a little glimpse of the epic nature of what actually unfolded, finishing the book with a beautiful retrospective montage, narrated in a simple fashion that metatextually breaks the comic into its component parts and making it seem all the grander in retrospect.
What’s Not So Good: Despite all this, under perhaps a more cynical lens, it’s hard not to be very well aware of the fact that this issue was more or less written to serve a simple purpose: sweep Nu-World under a rug. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for it, but it can be a bit frustrating when a writer’s purpose is so abundantly clear. The comic is as much a story as it is a means to an end.
Of course, if Hickman is writing this issue solely to be done with Nu-World, that also means that several characters are treated cursorily, perhaps not with the respect they deserve. There’s not one but two character deaths, both of which are insultingly brief, abrupt, and underwhelming. Like Nu-World itself, it’s clear that Hickman just wanted them out of the way. The Nu-World characters have little page-space, don’t flesh themselves out much, and basically show up just to remind us that they’re there.
Furthermore, while the art isn’t atrocious or anything, Neil Edwards is a far, far cry from Dale Eaglesham. His artwork just feels very generic, with little sense of individual style or flair. It does the job without attempting to do anything more. Edwards also struggles with headshots. Two panels in particular, one of Johnny and one of Psionics, are total botches.
Conclusion: Enjoyable for what it is, but it creaks a little at times due to the weaker art and Hickman’s obvious motivations.