By: Charles Soule (story), Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque (art), Dan Jackson (colors)

The Story: It takes only one goat to devastate the American military.

The Review: With every issue, I grow less confident that Soule will be able to deliver the level of complexity a story like this deserves. This isn’t Independence Day. This is a story about the dark and scary secrets driving the political machinery most of us only have a superficial understanding of. This is also the story about a practical response to an impossible threat. Both stories require more nuance and understanding than even a dedicated Wiki search will provide. They require insider knowledge.

It’s become fairly apparent that for all his intelligence, Soule has at best a passing understanding of how politics work. It explains Stephen’s complete lack of subtlety in carrying out most of his impulsive decisions, and it also explains why he so rarely receives advice from others. He reaps the consequences of that in this issue, but even the fallout seems minimized and free from complication. We’re talking about his entire stockpile of advanced weaponry, the fruit of years of labor and incalculable resources, and the debriefing takes only a page. His national security advisors are apologetic, but strangely casual about it all, and Stephen’s response is only a weak imitation of authority: “More when you have it,” he says pointing a stern finger, “And by when, I mean now.”

Sadly, Stephen is only the final extension of a series where every character seems to operate with unspecialized intelligence. Let’s consider how the Project Monolith stuff was blown up in the first place: some soldiers, in a fit of cultural sensitivity, simply allow a grinning shepherd to march right into a military complex, with his entire train of pack animals, without making a single inspection of their load, without even attempting to monitor him, all so he can retrieve an errant goat. And no one in the complex full of our best and brightest stopped to ask the shepherd why he was just unloading and leaving his pack there? Contrived does not even begin to describe this scenario; idiotic comes only slightly closer.

And what about Pritchard, ostensibly the “smartest goddamn person” anyone on the Clarke‘s ever met, only just now figuring out that the aliens are merely retaliating for all the boneheaded things the humans have done up to this point: entering their territory, breaking into their ship, destroying one of their own, etc. I’m also being kind when I say it’s not the most prudent idea for Jack to try fighting an enemy capable of blowing up a moon with his tiny crew (only half of which are military, one of whom is MIA) and largely conventional Earth weaponry. Attempting to communicate first would have been the most logical—and standard—step, but better late than never, I suppose, even if the contact revolves around Donald Trump’s Art of the Deal.

Unfortunately, it’s when the story takes a steep dip that the art rises a little. Alburquerque’s much more comfortable drawing inanimate objects and tech than people, so this issue works well with his strengths. The Clarke‘s space battle isn’t terribly inspired, but there’s a care and detail in the respective ships that make them look convincing. To his credit, Alburquerque also scales back the emotional broadness of the characters—somewhat—so their reactions to the surrounding craziness is easier to take.

Conclusion: A series of truly stupid developments very nearly upsets the fragile credibility of the story.

Grade: C

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – On the bright side, the near-death situation finally allows Manesh to cop a feel on Kyoko. Mission accomplished on several levels.