If you’re a Jessica Cruz fan, you really don’t want to miss this issue.  Our last sight of her, at the end of the prior issue, was heartbreaking. But the most intriguing things are coming out of that ending! Darkseid crushed Jessica and activated Sepulkore, triggering the creation of a pocket universe. What happens next further develops Jessica Cruz, expands the scope of the arc, and… I loved it. In this comic, we’ll discover that there are more players on the board than we knew, and they may not have the same agenda. All this makes for an unpredictable journey ahead.

Issue #13 opens with a page of dialogue from Vic, which confused me because we last saw him under Darkseid’s thumb. I was a few panels in before realizing Cyborg’s words are really part of a message he recorded before the last issue’s big battle. His words express a deep trust in Jessica, which offers an excellent contrast to the bickering between the characters we’re about to meet.

Cut to a research station built by the Zamarons near the Ghost Sector. We first see the research station from the outside. The exterior shot of its gray hull appears all too similar in tone to the browns of the asteroids around it, but a patch of bright color by the station draws the eye. When we move into the station, the intricate details of the backgrounds convey that this is a technologically advanced facility, but don’t distract from the dialogue or action– probably because of their muted hues. Aboard the station is everyone’s favorite felinoid Red Lantern, Dex-Starr, as well as a Zamaron technician named Hax, and a mysterious man who goes by the name Okkult. Okkult, who seems to be in charge, wears a helmet and a uniform outfitted with metal bits that caught my eye. I liked the way artists Will Conrad and Cliff Richards and colorist Rain Beredo gave those bits (and Vic’s armor on the opening page) a kind of soft glint, with a little color shading, that looks believably metallic. Okkult’s team tries to use an ancient machine called the Summoner to find and retrieve New Gods to help fight Darkseid. Instead, the only living being they retrieve is Blackfire…

Blackfire’s anger at being yanked away from Tamaran and the general distrust among Okkult’s team set the stage for conflict to come. The only character others seem to trust at all is Hax, who may not deserve it. They’re a dysfunctional group united for a common purpose. That plot device is popular because it often works so well. Of course, we won’t know how it works here for an issue or two, but it has potential. With characters who don’t like or trust each other, regardless of their shared goal, it will be entirely believable when or if someone balks.

Then something unexpected happens, something several characters assured us could not happen, in the last panel of the book. We don’t yet know what it means for the story, but it’s a real moment of triumph for the character involved– I wanted to sit up and cheer! I’m hoping it’s a sign this character will gain power and prominence, but we’ll have to wait and see. The panel is in the spoiler pane below if you just have to know.

Spoiler

As I said above, I liked the use of detail and color in the settings. I also liked the blue-white energy effect around the Summoner as it operated. Afterward, the use of brown wisps and pale specks around those it retrieved gave a good sense of residual energy dissipating.

 

The few panels of the fight scene shifted from one character to the next smoothly, and the overall story had no jolting shifts between angles. However, when it comes to the people, I would’ve preferred fewer group shots and more close-ups, with more expression in the faces. Only a few of the close-ups we have convey much feeling. Most are pretty bland. In the panel below, for example, Blackfire’s threatening to kill people but looks only mildly irritated. Her expression is more what I would expect from someone who has just found a fly in her iced tea than from someone angry enough to commit murder. In contrast, George Pérez’s Blackfire, the original, does look explosively angry. (Seeing the original also reminds me how much I miss the lion-mane hair Pérez gave Kori and Komand’r,  but that’s a whole other matter.)

 

I liked the art despite my minor quibble about the faces. I don’t mind having a story that isn’t part of the main plot if I can see how it’s going to connect, and the characters’ determination to stop Darkseid promises that connection. The new characters are interesting albeit not entirely likeable, and I think that mix has a lot of potential.

Recommended if…

  • You enjoy a story with broad scope
  • You like uncertain alliances
  • You’re a Jessica Cruz fan

Overall:

I enjoyed this story a lot, which surprised me because of my problems with the prior issue. This time there was no excessive use of captions, wasted exposition, or stretching of the story by using more panels than a sequence requires. Even though we didn’t see Darkseid or the Leaguers with him, the overall story feels as though it’s moving along. And the ending is… dynamite.

Score: 8.5/10


Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.