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

The Story: The battle between Malia and Dara comes to its bitter conclusion.

What’s Good: I usually don’t discuss an issue’s ending at the beginning of a review, but this month’s cliffhanger stands as one of the biggest twists in this series.   I haven’t been this stunned by a comic in quite a while.  I’d like to say “jaw-dropping,” but that just isn’t good enough.  This will absolutely blow your mind and have you rethinking past issues.  That the Lunas held off on this massive turn of events until the second to last issue is a huge gamble on their part, for which I can only respect them.  It would have been easy enough to cruise through to a formulaic ending, but now, I have no idea what to expect.  I need that last issue.

Big twist aside, this is a solid outing for the Lunas.  A particular highlight, however, is the flashback.  It’s been something a formula during these “boss battles” or particular hard times for Dara to have a flashback relating to some moral lesson taught to her by her family.  However, the last few outings, these flashbacks have fallen surprisingly flat.  Not this month, however, which sees the Lunas back in form.  The scene this month is well written, though kept simple, and is touching enough to hit all the right buttons.

Beyond that, the Malia/Dara dynamic remains strong and a bit more intriguing, and heated, than the dynamics Dara shared with Zathros and Knossos.  Malia feels more complex as an antagonist due to her relationship with Demetrios.  When she tries to goad Dara by calling him a liar, it’s hard not to think that she’s speaking from personal experience.

As far as the art goes, this is about as solid as you’re liable to get from the Lunas, though a bit more understated than might be expected, given the circumstances.  I didn’t have any problem with that, however, as the action still flowed well and I rarely have a problem with getting more dialogue than splash pages and am glad that the Lunas didn’t go as splash-heavy as they easily could have.

What’s  Not So Good: While the twist at the end of the book suggests that this isn’t the last big battle for Dara, the fight between her and Malia did feel a little underwhelming and overly brief.  After last month’s rending of reproductive organs, I guess I just expected something a little more extended and creative.  I suppose the Lunas aren’t much of a believer in fight banter and prefer to keep dialogue and action separate.

This also means that while the Malia/Dara back and forth is engaging, there isn’t quite enough of it.  Ultimately, I feel this came at the cost of making Malia into to simple of a bad guy.  I would’ve preferred something a bit more tragic and bittersweet given her past relationship with Demetrios.  It’s just a bit of a missed opportunity by the Lunas.  Instead, it’s just another case of cheering Dara on.  The Lunas had done everything in their power to set Malia apart from her brothers, making her a bit of a harder kill on an emotional area and garnering sympathy for her.  I feel that over the past few issues, this one in particular, they went back on that a little in order to keep the plot moving swiftly onto the next thing.  The emotional wounds are presented, but they aren’t really fully utilized or explored.

Conclusion: A cataclysmic twist balances disappointing character work.

Grade: B

-Alex Evans