By: Nick Spencer (writer), Riley Rossmo (art), Jean-Paul Csuka (colors) and Kelly Tindall (letters)

The Story: In which we learn that Madder Red’s reformation may be a part of a larger plot.

Quick review: This issue was a little disappointing.  It wasn’t in any way “bad”, but it lacked the snap of Issue #1 and failed to live up to that issue’s promise.  What made that first issue so special was the deeply demented nature of the central character: he was murdering lots of people and even after reforming, he was doing weird stuff like licking the barrel of a mugger’s revolver.  Madder Red was just really creepy!  That issue never missed a chance to be weird and because of that, we paid very close attention.

In this issue we slow way, way down.  Most of the scenes are of the “talking heads” variety as we start to learn more about what might be going on with Madder Red and why he is “reforming”.  It just wasn’t as memorable.

So, am I down on the series?  Maybe a little bit, but no series that has an electric Issue #1 deserves to be dropped after a ho-hum second issue.  Perhaps Nick Spencer is just a clever guy?  Maybe he needed to lay down some background for his story, but he didn’t want to make that first issue slow?  Maybe he’s feeding us our needed vegetables in this issue and the mayhem will reconvene in issue #3?  We’ll know soon….

The art was interesting.  I’m a huge Riley Rossmo fan, but this issue didn’t really play to Rossmo’s strengths.  When I think of Rossmo, I think of electric action and manic scenes where all of the scratchiness of his art plays to the benefit of the story.  Rossmo does his best work when a page has big open panels where his characters can act out.  Unfortunately, this issue is mostly talking heads and that just isn’t what Rossmo’s strongest suit.  Heck, it isn’t most artists’ strong suit.  Rossmo can do talking people, but he’s better if he has enough room on the page for the characters to be walking around, leaning on walls, gesticulating, etc.

Conclusion: A little frustrating after a gangbusters first issue, but this series still has a lot of good karma because that first issue was SO good.

Grade: B-

– Dean Stell