By: Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti (story), Cat Staggs (pencils), Tom Derenick (inks), Jason Wright (colors)

The Story: They may be fighting zombies, but at least they’re doing it on a yacht.

The Review: For the Walking Dead fans, what I’m about to say is akin to blasphemy, but I’m getting pretty sick of zombies or any of their facsimiles.  I don’t know what has suddenly propelled them into the popular zeitgeist, but whether they’re your traditional zombies in The Walking Dead or The New Deadwardians, or Black Lanterns and Third Army drones in Green Lantern, watching mindless, unkillable beings infect others has gotten quite tiresome.

Which is why the appearance of zombies in this issue, even temporary ones, drew a groan from me.  Funerella (still a horrible name) already has plenty of formidable powers to her credit, including accelerated molecular degradation and, apparently, imperviousness to being killed.  The ability to make lumbering undead from scratch just seems like a cheap way to generate distractions for Dane and Jen.  The fact that the zombies return to normal upon some unspecified circumstance makes you look at our heroes’ killing them in a more questionable light.

Alone, Funerella makes for a rather bland mockery of a supervillain (“What?  Not fair!  I only wanted to kill you.”), so having the issue essentially boil down to one, drawn-out fight sequence with her from beginning to end results in a pretty dull read.  After one already long tussle with Funerella, Gray-Palmiotti switch settings, only to commence another battle with the death queen.  It’s a painful reset, made even more painful by—spoiler alert, I guess—Funerella’s return at the end of the issue, meaning we’ll have to deal with her a third time in the final issue.  Blergh.

Other draining problems abound.  I’m sick of being reminded at the beginning of every issue what’s happened before.  It’s as if Gray-Palmiotti think there are folks reading this series other than the diehards (or chagrined, committed reviewers) who’ve stuck with this mini from its debut.  Here’s a tip: we know the basic facts already and there’s absolutely no reason to pander to us every issue for the sake of some hypothetical late readers.

Better to spend some time actually getting back to the plot at hand and trying to rally up enthusiasm for Jen’s vendetta for the Binder family, in whom we’ve already lost most interest.  Or perhaps Gray-Palmiotti can polish their character work, about the only redeeming feature of this title—or at least, it was.  Their thin, sexual humor has gotten both old and juvenile.  When Jen grabs him to phase them both off a boat, Dane protests, “Hey! Watch the thumb, lady.”

“You know you love it.”

“Not as much as you think.”

The appearance of the Ray and his inevitable involvement in Dane and Jen’s mission is unexpected, and clearly (along with the upcoming Human Bomb mini) signals a move toward yet another Freedom Fighters get-together.  The question is: do any of us really care to see that? The Ray was an entirely forgettable parody of liberal values, and Phantom Lady isn’t turning out much better.  It’s quite disappointing; I rather like the Fighters, but I don’t really want to have to deal with a poorly crafted, politically ridiculous version of them again.

I’m always particularly amazed at how DC an assign its really talented lady artists to dogs of projects. Whatever I felt about Nicola Scott having to draw J.T. Krul’s Teen Titans, I feel the same here about Staggs’ work on Gray-Palmiotti.  It seems like a complete waste of her pleasantly grounded figures and lively action sequences, particularly the way she makes Phantom Lady’s shadow powers twist and bend, as if with life of its own.  Wright applies a warm, mild pastel finish to Staggs’ characters that makes them appear like flesh-and-blood figures even in dark settings.  Clearly, this art deserves bigger, better material.

Conclusion: Against my better judgment, I think I’m trapped in seeing this series through its end, even though this issue has sucked away any confidence I had that I’ll enjoy it.

Grade: C

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Uncle Sam is young and black now?  I suppose it’s a reflection of the fact that “Obama” is president of DC’s America now.  Or it could be the philosophy that you can make any character radically new by turning him from white to black.

– Jen was so right in bemoaning Dane’s mixture of genius and stupidity.  What kind of moron asks his opponent how her powers work as she’s actively trying to kill him?