By: Jeff Lemire (story), Steve Pugh (art), Timothy Green II (pencils), Joseph Silver (inks), Lovern Kindzierski (colors)

The Story: And just when your ruined world can’t get any worse, enter an evil sorcerer.

The Review: I’ll let you in on a little secret: I actually dislike reviewing issues that are mostly fighting sequences—actively dread them, really.  Unless the superpowers involved are fairly spectacular and innovative, I find it very hard to say anything about them.  They tend to reveal more about the artist’s strengths than the writers, and they rarely do much to inform the story, unless of course the characters engage in some awkward exposition in the middle of it all.

And I’ve already made plain my general dissatisfaction with the Rot horde as enemies.  As mindless, one-note creatures, they serve as nothing more than pure cannon fodder, stuff for our heroes to mow down indiscriminately.  Even the Rot-infestees don’t seem all that different from the normal type of Rotling, except for the fact that they wear clothes.  Since they pose so little challenge, it doesn’t take that much effort from Buddy and his gang to slaughter them, and leaving little for me to comment about on the issue’s first act.

The most valuable thing to come out of the battle is the decision to get proactive and hit Arcane directly.  A slow death with no hope of things getting better doesn’t sit well with anyone, as Black Orchid states: “I don’t know, maybe we start to rebuild.  Maybe we die trying.  Either way, staying here and just surviving is not enough anymore!”  Of course, we all know this is a last-ditch effort that will probably accomplish little more than killing off the few remaining heroes, leaving Buddy (and Swamp Thing) to finish the job by themselves.

Unlike Scott Snyder, his comrade-in-mischief on Rotworld, Lemire doesn’t overcome the bland predictability of the storyline with pretty words or strong character moments or compelling world-building.  Instead of getting to see the current landscape of America now that the Rot has taken over, we skip right ahead to the ruins of Central City, which looks no different from the ruins of any other place left on Earth.  The only genuine moment of excitement pops up at the very end, which seems a waste of most of the issue to me.

Frankly, I have little reason to get invested in the flashbacks to Maxine’s story in the past either.  Socks has warned her so many times that she’d have to face up to her responsibility as avatar that this all seems like a major “I told you so” opportunity to me.  Still, you pity her for her age (Socks reminds us she’s still four years old, even if unlike any he’s ever seen), and you don’t relish the thought of anything horrible happening to her.  But the evidence indicates that something does; how else would she remain alive in Rotworld?

Though his thin pencils and relaxed approach to figures call to mind Travel Foreman’s amazing work in the early months of this title, Green just doesn’t have the same taste or sophistication .  It just looks mostly sloppy and uncontrolled, inspiring little real horror or emotion.  The only virtue of Green’s work is it makes Pugh’s art shine by comparison—which is not to say Pugh’s work isn’t fine in itself.  He does draw some impressive-looking characters, only awkwardly positioned at times.  And at least we can always count on Kindzierski to give each artist, different as they are, the most appropriate colors to make them look their best.

Conclusion: Highly uneven art and a story losing its momentum results in a mostly average read overall.

Grade: C+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – I admit, I was very amused by the fact that all the Rot-infested heroes in this issue consisted of Liefield-written characters.

– It also amuses me no end that in a world where every green thing has died, Constantine has been forced to finally quit smoking.