If I sounded more than a bit cranky last time we were here, it’s because I was. Not that I expect fiction to reflect reality exactly—of course I don’t—but I don’t like it when writers dumb things down to make their own work easier. We already suffer from excessive oversimplification in our daily lives, and anyway, the best fiction isn’t afraid to tackle complications. When comics avoid that struggle, it only drags down the overall credibility of the medium.

Okay—end rant. Whew! Almost worked up a sweat, there. Getting back to this issue, Soule continues Stephen’s hilariously inept course, minimizing the most crucial issues of his presidency to focus on pointless distractions. Having just suffered one of the most serious military setbacks of his presidency—a base full of impossibly advanced weaponry just got nuked, for heaven’s sake—he decides the most appropriate response is to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Congratulations, Stephen, for catching up to the real world, three years too late.*

That’s why you really appreciate Soule putting in the still-recovering Elijah’s no-nonsense assessment of Stephen’s presidency as it currently stands. In a single panel, he sums up everything we’re thinking: the enormity of the disasters that have already struck, the potentially massive damage of the disasters to come, and the mostly useless defenses Stephen bought by the DADT repeal. His conclusion? “Truthfully, sir, I love you, but I think you’re fucked.” I agree, except for the love part.

After all of Stephen’s impulsive, heavyhanded decisions of the past few issues, you can’t help feeling like he’s getting exactly what he deserves—him and his wife. After slutting up to Higgins in #9, Isobel gains absolutely nothing as the congressman goes ahead and charges Stephen anyway. Any person with common sense could have seen this coming. Isn’t it obvious that one shouldn’t put too much faith in a politician’s promise, much less degrade oneself and cheat on one’s spouse to secure it?**

At least the crisis on the Clarke is marginally less self-inflicted, though equally as huge as the one happening on Earth. With their ship crippled, leaving them only days to survive, the crew has few options. Attacking has proven out of the question and fleeing is impossible. The only choice left is to hope the aliens come through, and it takes drastic action on Gomez’s part to make that happen. On the plus side, they’re now where they should have been in the first place: deep within alien territory, on the verge of finding out what the visitors are up to.

Would you believe that in the entire issue, the only two characters who act sensibly are two unnamed soldiers who survived the bombing of Base Hurricane? After burying their dead (who, ridiculously enough, actually do get names), the soldiers decide to use their remaining, irradiated lives to track down the sumbitch who did it. Unsurprisingly, you’re more interested in where this mission of vengeance will lead than Stephen’s political fortunes.

Alburquerque reaches a new artistic low in this issue. I had thought his characters were starting to look better, but then I saw Willett’s outrageous chin in this issue. He looks like Beware the Batman aged fifteen years and turned alcoholic. It’s a caricature attempting to look grim and gritty, and it just looks silly. On the other hand, the slight ugliness of his style works to make Astra’s heart attack that much more horrific; between her eyes bulging inches out of her socket and her flopping tongue, she looks a bit like she’s getting possessed like that little girl in The Exorcist. The scene awakens your compassion as much as your disgust, which is more than can be said for the rest of the art.

– Minhquan Nguyen

 

 

Grade

C-

Conclusion

The plot and art are reaching a critical mass of shallowness.

Some Musings: * As for Gomez choosing that moment to come out, it's like, so what? Good for him, but kind of meaningless in a scenario where everyone's about to die.

** Also, it's a little disturbing that the strongest move Isobel makes in the series thus far is to sleep around.