by Joshua Luna (writer, layouts, letters) and Jonathan Luna (art)

The Story: Malia further manipulates the media and public opinion as Dara races to New York City to confront her.

What’s Good: It’s great to see an issue of the Sword on the racks again.

The opening scene may very well be the strongest bit of the book.  I enjoyed the Lunas’ putting Dara’s previously indisputable hero status into question.  It really adds a very unique tone to this final arc, while also encouraging the reader to look back on the rest of the series.  We’re forced to re-examine Dara’s progress, and it’s hard not to be struck by how much she’s changed and what she’s become.  That said, the Lunas leave much of this up to the reader, and I do feel some of their trademark flashbacks would have further augmented this element.

I also enjoyed Julie’s suggestions of the Sword almost being some sort of addiction.  It adds a darker feel that the book definitely benefits from.  Certainly, it adds another layer of complexity to the series.

On the action-front, there’s a scene involving Dara’s battle with a pair of fighter jets that’s a great deal of fun.  While I know not everyone is a fan of the Lunas’ work, they do know their way around an action scene.  It’s insane, bordering on over-the-top, but as with many of the Sword’s better action scenes, it works all the better for these reasons.

Justin’s dialogue was also particularly strong this month.  As the series grows darker, Justin provides that necessary comic relief, very effectively deadpanning the book’s grandstanding while highlighting many of the more impressive, super-powered moments.

What’s Not So Good: While the action sequence is good, there are a few botched faces on Jonathan Luna’s part.  One headshot of Julia crying out is unforgivably bad.  At other times, characters’ faces simply don’t carry the emotion they should.  When characters are caught in more rueful, subtle emotions, Luna often draws them far too close to a neutral expression.

Also, I can’t help but be irritated by Joshua Luna’s writing of the “crowd dialogue.”  Luna has opted to present the crowd noise around Malia in the form of a few select quotes being bubbled without a speaker.  This is already a bit ham-fisted on his part, but the actual content of this pseudo-dialogue can unfortunately only be described as moronic.  The quotes just sound far too stupid and thus expose themselves too fully for what they are: Luna’s method of capturing developments in public feeling regarding Malia and Dara.  This “crowd noise” is a weak method of accomplishing this as is, but Luna’s poor writing of these faceless characters doesn’t help any.  I wish he stuck purely to the newscasts.

That being said, Luna’s actual dialogue in this month’s newscasts isn’t great either.  As was the case with the crowd’s dialogue, the quotes are simply too obvious in their authorial purpose.  For this reason, they lack believability and the people speaking feel more like narrative tools than human beings.

Finally, while the Lunas have really done well with their use of flashbacks throughout the series, this is not one of those times.  The flashback isn’t bad, but it’s nowhere near the standards the Lunas have set for themselves.  The moral lesson is weak and uninspired, and the whole situation depicted feels clichéd.

Conclusion: An inoffensive issue that is a bit rough around the edges.

Grade: C+

-Alex Evans