By: Mark Waid (writer/creator), Diego Barreto & Damian Couceiro (art), Zac Atkinson & Archie Van Buren (colors), Ed Dukeshire (letters), Shannon Watters (associate editor) & Matt Gagnon (editor)

The Story: Cary/Survivor may have a plan to power up to yet another level, Plutonian and Bette Noir get reacquainted & the surviving human government’s do something.

What’s Good: The arc of Cary/Survivor is really interesting as this series has really become about moral grey areas and whether “absolute power corrupts absolutely”.  One of the great reveals of this series was when Survivor powered up after his brother was killed by Plutonian because it turned out that the brothers shared a finite pool of power.  That enhancement allowed Survivor to smash Plutonian and become the alpha dog of the Earth, but we’ve watched him struggle with that power as Waid has made it clear that Survivor isn’t a bad man, but he might be willing to do bad things to achieve good ends.

So, now that Plutonian has returned with a gang of uber-powered psychopaths from around the galaxy, Survivor needs power up again and goes to confront his OTHER brother (the fact that there is an “other” brother is a little cliché, but I’ll roll with it…).  The other brother has left superheroing and become a priest and the confrontation between the two reminded me very much of the scene with Tuco and his brother in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Tuco wouldn’t tolerate his brother’s sanctimony because it was Tuco’s life as a bandit that allowed the family to eat and survive and gave his brother the luxury of being a priest instead of providing for him family.  Tuco’s lines, “You couldn’t do what I do.” and “You did your thing and I did mind, but my way was harder.” really ring true here.  Can his brother have moral superiority when he has the powerset to do so much more, yet he is “wasting” his time helping one victim of the Plutonian at a time?

And there’s also the issue of whether Survivor will kill his brother the priest to level up again?  That’s really a question of the ends justifying the means.  I’ll be curious to see it play out because you know Waid isn’t afraid to do something shocking.  And….it would be a pretty big power-up for Survivor.  When Brother #1 died, he went from having 1/3 of the family’s power to 1/2; and that allowed him to smash Plutonian.  If the priest dies, he’ll go from 1/2 to ALL the power and would probably be able to take Plutonian’s gang out.

It was also tragic to see Bette Noir getting back together with Plutonian.  She just reminds me of that lady we’ve all known in out lives who just can’t make a good decision to save her life.  Even though she’s basically a likable person, she sure zigs when she should zag a LOT.

What’s Not So Good: I really can’t get behind the art too much on this issue.  There are places where the line art in the first part of the issue is pretty good, but the coloring throughout really isn’t working for me.  Too many of the pages are dominated by an overall hue whether it is blue, green, reddish and I really don’t like that type of coloring because it makes the panels monotonous.  I also think some of the colors choice just don’t seem right– too aggressive.  I enjoy black-and-white comics, and I’d like an colorist to have a reason for everything they make a color and not just make a page blue and then color some details onto a.  And, there are storytelling problems such as the scene where Bette tries to drop a building on herself.  I had to look at that scene several times to figure it out.  This series misses Peter Krause a LOT.

And then there was this scene at the end of the issue with the surviving US government doing something.  It was obvious that it was something bad, like fixing all the world’s nuclear missiles at Plutonian despite the civilian deaths that would occur, but why devote 6-7 pages to that scene if the specifics of the action are going to be that unclear.  Actually, now that I’m looking at this scene for the 7th time, maybe they were releasing something?  That would be a kinda cool concept, but it still doesn’t explain why the storytelling has something so clunky.

Conclusion: Some cool concepts and Waid is pulling few punches in this exploration of morality.  This series will always have relevance as long as Waid is willing to take it to places that Marvel/DC wouldn’t touch.  There’s good stuff here, but the art and visual storytelling are holding things back a little bit.  Better art makes this a solid B book.

Grade: C-

– Dean Stell

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