By: Justin Jordan (story), Jesús Merino (art), Nathan Eyring (colors)
The Story: The difference between Slade and Eclipso is like night and later that night.
The Review: For any of you interested in the reviewing experience, let me just say the obvious that you never want to be in the awkward position of recognizing a writer’s talents, but concluding that his story is kind of lame anyway. While you can definitely appreciate the rhythm and flow of Jordan’s writing, the plot itself has been less than inspired, with definite shades of editorial mandate.
It’s very, very hard for me to believe, given the mission statement and tone Jordan set up for this series at the start, that he ever intended to feature the Black Diamond and Eclipso as the primary plot device and antagonist for his first arc. After all, Team Seven is a gang of highly skilled fighters and shooters; what do they really know about fighting demonic possession or demons themselves? How can they use their mercenary know-how to defeat things that bullets can’t touch or simply bounce off of?
That’s why their encounter with Eclipso feels like such a huge waste of time for them and their talents—and for us to have to read it. It’s essentially Essence (pun attack!) who makes the evil spirit’s defeat possible. Her undefined spiritual powers are the only thing that seem to have an effect on the otherwise invulnerable demon; she summons a crowd of angry ghosts to distract him long enough for the team to regroup; and she ultimately gives the team the weapon that manages to bring the creature down.
What’s left for our soldiers to do? They end up serving as mere bait, their so-called “plan” being nothing more than waiting for Eclipso in a jungle clearing—no guerilla tactics for these folks, apparently—and firing willy-nilly for several panels, long enough for someone to backstab him. Not quite the strategy of the best warriors America has to offer.*
Eclipso himself is hardly more subtle as an opponent. He spends most of the issue basically stalking towards people and looking imposing, at least when he’s not grabbing people by the throat (his favorite display of strength) or shrugging off bullets. Essence may get as shrill as she wants about the threat he poses if he reaches the outside world free, but we have no basis to believe that except for her insistence.
In fact, Eclipso doesn’t actually succeed in killing or really harming anyone in this issue (except maybe a few ghosts), and he only indirectly is to blame for Slade’s big wounding. His takeover of Slade’s body might have been intended as a source of tension, but since we have as little sentiment for the guy as his teammates,* we can hardly care what happens to him one way or another. That’s why it only seems odd for Amanda to declare she won’t leave him behind, rather than a show of genuine personality. Maybe if we’d seen more of where Slade’s psyche was in all this, we’d have more reason to get invested in his possession.
Or maybe if Merino decided to make the actual possession of Slade clear from the art instead of drawing Eclipso simply as he is. Anyone who reads this issue without any prior experience would simply think Eclipso is a separate character; they’d have no idea he’s using someone else’s body to get around. Frankly, Merino is a competent artist, but not a very dynamic or stylish one. I’m not sure Eyring’s cheerful color palette does anything for Merino’s friendly-looking figures either on a supposedly edgy title like this one. Here’s a question for both: why does Eclipso show up later covered in blood when the only thing he fought were ghosts?
Conclusion: A pity, because Jordan can write better than some other folks on the DC staff, but his talents are wasted here. This is more of a case of boredom than outright terribleness, but either way, this book is officially Dropped.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: * Or is it? Given how we as a society handle so many other problems, maybe that is the best strategy we could have come up with.
* Except for Fairchild, whose attachment to Slade is strangely obvious—especially since the affection doesn’t seem entirely mutual.