In Dark Woods, the Right Road Lost
Credits: Larry Hama (writer), Andy Smith (penciler), Sean Parsons (inker), Comicraft (letters), Mike Rockwitz (colors)
Summary: At the Citadel of the Universal Amalgamator, M-Plate unveils a girl strapped to an altar. M-Plate demands Synch copy her powers. Elsewhere, Dirtnap guides Banshee, Husk, and Penance into a strange, cold dimension. They find warmth inside a train, which they take to the Citadel. Meanwhile, Elwood the Pooka, Chamber, and Jubilee continue their search for Synch. They fall from the sky into a world named “Moria,” landing on train tracks just as their teammates’ train races into the dimension. On Earth, Chief Authier gives Skin and Emma advice on how to deal with a Token, before taking Dorian and Weasel to Mr. Timmons’ diner for community service.
Continuity Notes: The diner has a “WC” room, a la the Landau, Luckman, & Lake warp chambers. When Skin and Emma check inside the treehouse, they find Tracy having a polite tea party with Artie, Leech, and the Token. Last issue, the kids were shackled with energy-chains. Also, Police Chief Authier seems to have lost interest in finding Tracy rather quickly.
Miscellaneous Note: The title of this issue is a reference to Robert Pinksy’s translation of Dante’s “Inferno.”
Review: It’s another issue of wacky dimension-hopping, not-so-capably rendered by fill-in artist Andy Smith. Hama’s script is filled with images that a credible artist should’ve had a field day with (such as the Snark, a monster that resembles a T-Rex until four eye-tentacles emerge when Chamber blinds it, and later runs around without its head when Chamber really lets loose), but Smith is way too green to pull this off. Even overlooking the subpar art, the story’s essentially a mess at this point. If the point of this story is to reveal M’s long-awaited origin, why is so much of the focus on Pookas, Tokens, Snarks, Chimera and her Plasma Wraiths (who have disappeared in-between issues), alternate dimensions, teenage punks, cosmic trains, LL&L warp chambers, and Dirtnap? The story has split off into so many diversions, it’s hard to focus on any one thread and care anything about it. Some of the character work is still nice, such as Banshee explaining the concepts of honor and loyalty to Dirtnap when he questions why they’re risking their lives for Synch, but even this moment makes little sense. Dirtnap started this arc as a villain, suddenly helped the heroes last issue by taking them to another dimension to find Synch, and now abruptly questions why they’re on this dangerous mission and wants out. Unlike some fans, I don’t mind a Wolverine character like Dirtnap showing up in the book, but at least try to keep whatever character arc you have in mind for him consistent from issue to issue.
Credits: Larry Hama (writer), Terry Dodson (penciler), Rachel Dodson (inker), Comicraft’s Liz Agraphiotis (letters), Felix Serrano (colors)
Summary: Banshee hits the breaks and narrowly avoids running down Elwood, Chamber, and Jubilee. When the train accelerates to escape a giant spider, Dirtnap falls out of a window, but is rescued by the team. At the Citadel of the Ultimate Amalgamator, Chimera is reduced to ashes when she questions M-Plate’s plan to amalgamate the entire universe. The train finally reaches the Citadel, but M-Plate captures the heroes. Elwood boosts Dirtnap’s power, allowing him to swallow M-Plate. On Earth, Tracy explains that the Token can help Gen X find their friends, while Dorian and Weasel enter the restricted WC room.
Continuity Notes: Hey, Chimera's back. The enchained mutant girl from the last issue is identified as Gaia, and according to the recap page, she’s supposed to be the protector of the Citadel. She claims that her galaxy was wiped out when she refused to let others use her powers for evil. She also says that her chains are her responsibility and she isn’t “meant to be free.” According to Tracy, the Token was originally “miffed” that the students were trespassing on his property, but after talking to him, they’ve become friends.
“Huh?” Moment: On the opening splash page, Banshee is described as “co-member of a group of fledgling mutants.” I assume they meant “co-teacher.”
Review: Well, Terry Dodson’s arrived, so that solves the “ineffectual artist” problem that’s plagued the series for over six months at this point. The book’s still crazy, though, and not in the charming or cheerful way I’m sure it was intended to be. Although the various threads are starting to come together, the story isn’t much different from the previous issues. If you really like seeing a divided cast go on wacky alternate reality adventures, goofy anthropomorphic fantasy characters, and a vaguely defined villain and his/her vaguely defined plan, this is for you. I’m sure I would’ve enjoyed this arc more if Dodson drew the entire story, but I still think it’s a questionable idea that’s dragged on for too long. Although the Lobdell issues had their share of silliness, the stories still left room to focus on the cast. Hama does work in some characterization, such as Synch’s interaction with Gaia (she’s angry he briefly went along with M-Plate’s plan after he/she threatened Synch’s teammates; he responds that “the universe and all sentient beings is too abstract a notion compared to the suffering of my friends”), but there are so many threads going on, the characters are definitely taking a backseat to the plot.