By: Mark Waid (writer), Marcio Takara (art), Nolan Woodard (colors), Ed Dukeshire (letters) & Shannon Watters

The Story: Max Damage finishes his building project and faces a old-time enemy.

What’s Good: SPOILER WARNING…      Plutonian finally shows up at the ending of this issue.  It’s taken a long time for us to get to this point (almost 2 years) but it was high time we saw this interaction between the hero-gone-bad and the bad-guy-made-good, even if I can even understand why it took so long.  Whereas it was pretty easy to show the concept of a hero going to the dark side (just show him killing innocent civilians), it is much harder for a writer to demonstrate that a villain has really become the good guy: saving one little old lady isn’t going to cut it.  Max Damage has been on quite a journey over the last couple of years and it’ll be interesting to see how this next phase of his life plays out.

And, that’s especially true now that a certain underage former female accomplice is back on the scene.  Having Jailbait back might be a real treat because Waid wrote her so well in the early issues.  We’ve seen Max’s moral absolutes be applied to just about everyone else around him, but will he be quite as fast to punish a character like Jailbait when he knows that she is really “his fault”?  Can’t wait to see that….

There’s a lot to look forward to in this book.

What’s Not As Good: Again, the stakes just feel really small and I find that I just don’t care about Coalville.  You could compare it to someplace like Gotham City in the Bat-books.  Clearly Batman could do bigger things that bust crooks in Gotham, but as a reader, we really understand why he feels the need to stay in Gotham.  Part of that is because of his parents, but part of it is that we’ve gotten to know Gotham over the years and we feel badly for its citizens.  That’s what’s missing about Coalville.  Why has Max chosen this place to make his stand?  Why should we care about Coalville when we’re lead to believe that the rest of the world is also screwed up (or worse as the villain notes that Coalville has a semblance of civilization)?  What horrid things are happening here that make it impossible for him to move on to a bigger problem?  Those aspects of the story need more development.

The visual storytelling in this issue gets a little choppy too.  There were several places in this issue where I was flat-out confused about what was going on.  The page with Hate Crime on it was a good example.  Even though there is an establishing shot of a building, I don’t think I know what that building is so seeing it doesn’t help me.  Guess it’s Max’s lair?  Then we see Hate Crime getting smacked around by an unseen assailant, but it isn’t clear that she is INSIDE the building (versus being in an alleyway) until we get to the final panel of the scene showing the assailant blasting through the roof (Oh…they’re inside).  If it seems that I’m harping on a small item, it comes from the fact that the art isn’t great.  It’s a little too soft, undefined and undetailed for my tastes.  But, I can roll with that as long as the storytelling is impeccable and this wasn’t.

Conclusion: Not the strongest issue, but it does promise big things to come.

Grade: C-

-Dean Stell

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