By: Nathan Edmondson (writer), Scott Clark (penciller), Dave Beaty (inker), Andrew Dalhouse (colorist)

The Story: Don’t think of it as an abduction, Cole, but as a free trip to the stars.  Free, I say!

The Review: I must say, you have to give credit to DC for taking such major efforts to integrate their Wildstorm acquisitions into the fold and get them some attention.  True, none of them have really taken off as a pop hit, but it’s not for want of trying.  They all have very solid creative teams on board, and it’s clear editorial is working overtime to keep their plots running parallel to each other, prepping for a fairly significant crossover at some point.

But all of that will come to nothing if the stories themselves don’t sell.  While Voodoo has been a solid read throughout, Grifter has mostly hemmed and hawed and meandered until it’s lost all sense of direction.  Perhaps that’s fitting, given the roaming nature of our star, and the fact that he himself has little idea of what’s going on and few options for his next moves.  Even so, that doesn’t excuse the title for being so thin on plot at this late stage of its story arc.

Frankly, Edmondson has been downright stingy in the information he’s given us.  A lot of what we know is couched in such stubborn vagaries that even speculation is mostly futile.  After all this time, we barely know anything more about the Daemonites than we did at the start of the series.  Even the reveal about their intention to capture Cole and offer him to “the Black Curate” is so obscure, it’s hard to get all worked up about it.  In fact, it’s underwhelming to think they’ve gone through all this trouble just to obtain a human sacrifice.  Rather simple, if you ask me.

That said, Edmondson does drop a few important bits we should hold onto.  Tsavo offhandedly mentions something about “Cole Cash’s mind-reading,” which clues you into why he’s so valuable to both the alien invaders and U.S. military.  And Carver, the lady Daemonite who took Gretchen into custody, claims she’s been “eradicating filthy, petty creatures like [Cole] for four hundred years.”  That kind of throws a wrench into the whole alien invasion theory, doesn’t it?  Why lurk around on the planet for that long, doing nothing, if conquest is the goal?

It doesn’t help that Edmondson frequently makes some bad storytelling choices by taking us into scenes mid-conversation, often skipping clean over the substantive parts, like he does with Sofia’s background.  All we get out of her is she worked at Q-Core at some point and suspected the presence of foreigners in the company, but we don’t know the how, why, when, where, or what of any of that.  It almost feels like she spontaneously divined all this information just in time to provide Cole with some much needed support—and ammo.

Maybe Edmondson should consider cutting back on the tough-talking blather in favor of dialogue that actually moves the plot forward.  So much of the issue is spent on such insightful exchanges as the following: “How about we sit and chat one-on-one?  …I’ll put you in your place—”  “Amazing.  Even you don’t know what you are to us.  You spend so much time on your own behind that mask, you’re blind to the truth around you.”

Clark, while competent and capable of some attractive imagery, doesn’t have Cafu’s sense of drama.  The range of expression on the characters runs the gamut of A to C, switching between deadpan, frowning, and chilly smiles with little variation in emotion.  While the action has some good energy to it, there’s a posed quality to it that sometimes makes the characters’ movements look stiff and awkward, like Sofia’s implausible dodge of the Daemonites’ energy attacks.

Conclusion: While the general tone and idea of the series works, the actual story parts needs serious development.  If the climax of this arc fails to capture my loyalty, I’ll regretfully have to consign this title to the Dropped List.

Grade: C+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – I don’t know what Sofia needs the cash for, but I know Cole’s not gonna get it by conning upper-middle-class single women out of their shopping money.