by Chris Roberson (writer), Mike Allred (art), Laura Allred (colors), and Todd Klein (letters)

The Story: Gwen closes in on the murderer while one of the vampire paintballers gets a little too murderous.

What’s Good: This is a big improvement from last month’s issue that assuages most of my concerns regarding this series.  One of the key reasons for this shift is that unlike last month, which was all set-up, there actually is a definable plot.  The murder mystery provides for some intrigue, particularly in its introduction of a shadowy character who seems to be the killer (and possibly a mummy).  Things are already looking to be more complicated than they seem.

Gwen’s poking about into the victim’s life also gives Roberson a chance to better show how her “powers” work, or rather, how annoying they can be.  He does a great job of integrating the victim’s mind into Gwen’s thought processes.  While clearly not a sentient being, the victim’s “voice” often informs, or interrupts, Gwen’s own internal narration.  At times, it even attempts to finish her sentences and Gwen has to seemingly restrain herself from speaking the words out loud.  It’s a creative way of showing the victim’s intrusion into Gwen’s mind and it’s good fun.

Speaking of Gwen, she’s more likable than she was last month.  Her narration seems less forced, with Roberson clearly less concerned with making her seem as cool as possible.  What results is a more natural feel to the character that better suits a strong protagonist.  She also has a conversation with the victim’s child that hits the right notes, juxtaposing the child’s innocence with Gwen’s awkwardness.  Supporting characters Ellie and Scott also have strong, and surprisingly serious, outings as Roberson touches upon the heavy burdens that both bear due to their “conditions.”  Roberson also continues to impress me with the comedy he injects into the most minor characters; Scott’s work friends are just as fun as Gwen’s.

As far as the art goes, everything retains that kooky, detailed pop art style, with Gwen’s face in particular being satisfyingly emotive.  There’s a real sense of “world” here, with everything having a sort of surreal, fantastical atmosphere.  I also loved Allred’s depiction of Gwen’s powers, as things grey out and go grainy when she grabs onto her victims thoughts.

What’s Not So Good: There seems to be two plots running parallel to each other right now and, as is often the case when a writer goes this route, one plot is noticeably more engaging than the other.

While Gwen hunts for a killer, a pair of monster hunters go after one of the vampire paintballers.  The problem, however, is that major characters Gwen and Ellie are tied up in the murder mystery, which makes it automatically more interesting.  The hunters and the vampires are far blander and aren’t quite capable of carrying their own story.  The vampires seem fairly standard, while the hunters have the tried and true “master and apprentice” dynamic.  Other than the paintball gimmick, which has already worn off on me, it’s really standard stuff.  Even Allred’s designs for them feel less inspired.

While Roberson has got me caring about Gwen and her detective work, I honestly could care less about the vampires or the two hunters.

That being said, Roberson seems to suggest that Scott might get pulled into this secondary plot, which would do wonders for it.

Conclusion: I really hope readers give this book another chance.  This was a much better issue and carried much of the energy that the first issue should’ve had.

Grade: B

-Alex Evans