By: Mark Waid (writer/creator), Peter Krause & Diego Barreto (art), Zac Atkinson (colors), Ed Dukeshire (letters) & Matt Gagnon (editor)

The Story: Will Plutonian and his merry band of super-criminals escape from the galactic insane asylum?

The Non-Spoiler Upshot: This is very much an event-driven issue, so while I’ll get into specifics in the sections below, I’ll leave this section spoiler free.  This is a pretty sharp issue.  Plutonian has already gathered a pretty neat set of villains to help him when he escapes, but he adds one more dude this issue who has a really neat powerset.  This issue also gives some closure to what precisely Quibit and Modeus are up to.  Quibit continues to get a few funny lines and this story arc has completely redefined him as a bit of a bad-ass compared to the dishrag he was earlier in the series.  We also get left with an outstanding, “Oh crap!” ending that does a great job of selling the next issue.    The biggest flaws are a few places in the second half of the issue where the storytelling gets a little jumbled and I wasn’t precisely sure what happened.

What’s Good (Full spoilers): This issue ended the story arc at just the right time.  While it was fun seeing Plutonian push through this insane asylum and run into all kinds of wacky villains (many of whom are part of his team now), it was time to end it and bring him back to Earth.  I’m pretty sure that the last image shows him on Earth and I’m really looking forward to that story.  The folks of Earth have just started to get their feet back under them from the devastation that Plutonian visited on them the first time.  Now he’s back– with friends!  And standing against him will be the Paradigm, but they’ll have all sorts of issues given that (a) their leader (the Survivor) is emotionally unstable and (b) they granted amnesty to most of Earth’s super-villains if they helped with rebuilding.  Wouldn’t it make sense that all those villains would flock to Plutonian’s side now?

I also really liked the power-set of the new character, Mallus.  He has tachyon-powered fists and can punch people back in time.  How cool is that?  Remember that last issue Waid introduced Cutter, a lady who cuts herself and uses telekenesis to transfer the wounds onto her enemies.  I just love to see a creator flinging neat ideas around like they’re disposable because it tells you they’re not worried about running out of material.

Peter Krause nails it again on art.  He does the first half of the issue and it is just spot on.  We already know that Krause does great anatomy but what is really cool is that he’s starting to experiment more in terms of panel designs and layouts.  If you’ve been reading my reviews for this series for long, you know that this is an area where I’d picked at Krause because his work was so fundamentally sound that I thought he could benefit from mixing it up, so it’s really neat to see that happen.

What’s Not Quite As Good: I felt like this issue needed a touch point back on Earth.  We’ve been getting those little reminders here and there of what is going on with Survivor and the rest of the Paradigm, but if someone just picked up this issue, they’d be kinda lost.  This was a really full issue, but it seems like a skilled writer like Waid could have found a way to make it happen.

While I liked Diego Barreto’s art, I thought that the story-telling in the last few pages of the book got really jumbled.  Granted, that final scene is chaotic as hell, but there were a few places where I really didn’t know what was going on.  Like, what was with that green hand that fell on the floor?  I think the Modeus robot fell apart, but I’m not 100% sure. [Note: I’m also not 100% sure what the hell is going on with Modeus and the Modeus robot and Sam, et al.  Is the robot really Modeus????  I’m confused.]

Some of this ends up not really mattering, because the upshot is that Plutonian is on Earth with his gang of villains, but if those panels aren’t going to be clear, we could have used those panels to touch base with the folks on Earth.

Grade: B

-Dean Stell

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