Now led by the possessed General Glory, the Untitled’s plans are in full swing as they’ve successfully opened a portal to the Chamber of the All! While Essence and Artemis are still across the city, Jason and Bizzaro are already on site, having witnessed it opening themselves. It’s up to the team to stop the Untitled before whatever they’re trying to summon breaks free!
The first impression I got reading this issue was confusion. There is a definite lack of clarity regarding a number of new elements presented, in addition to some of them feeling like they came from left field. Which on a first read can make a head spin. After a second read, more of the pieces fall into place, but even when looking at the text closely these elements really only gain clarity from the context of having read the story twice. I’m all for reading books a couple times to catch all the details and enjoy them more than once, but when I have to in order to understand what happens, there’s a problem with the execution.
That’s not to say the entire story is a confusing mess. The first half is the strongest, and there are a lot of elements that are coherent. The story focuses on three main areas: Artemis’ reunion with Mistress, The Chamber of the All, and attempting to give readers reasons behind the Untitled’s actions. The execution is most successful with Artemis, and only grows less with the other two.
Let’s jump into Artemis and Mistress’ portion. I mentioned in my last review that I’d rather have seen their reunion happen in an arc of its own, and I still feel that way. I think it would have given Lobdell more time to really show us Artemis without her weapon and what the accidental breaking of their bond really did providing a chance for further insight into Artemis, who she is, and who she’s becoming.
Still, this section is done the best out of anything else in the book. The few scenes we get that are dedicated to the two of them interaction, while short, are enough to display this bond. Lobdell opens the issue with a flashback showing the moment Mistress chose Artemis, giving us a look into the reason she was chosen: her selflessness even in the face of terrible odds. That gives us a good enough reason for Mistress’ quick return. The two do have a strong bond and when Artemis really needs her, Mistress will be there.
Pantenella and Mercer’s pencils work really well here. The flashback gives us a vibrant image of Artems determined, both in action and expression, to protect innocents. Then, back in present day, there is an especially tender panel between Artemis and Mistress that, along with the conversation going on, really shows how close they are. Mistress has a fond expression on her face that really does illustrate how happy she is to be reunited with Artemis, and that they both value the other.
Moving on to the Chamber of the All, or rather Jason and Bizzaro’s side of things in said chamber. A lot of time is spent in this location, but despite that not much really happens before the team regroups. Jason saves General Glory by stabbing him with an All Blade and then the general proceeds to re-explain the history of the Untitled. The only useful information we get out of these sections is that the Untitled made a deal with “the devil” in an attempt to survive being wiped out by the All Caste.
The third idea the issue focuses on is an attempt to give readers answers. This is tied in a bit with General Glory’s explanation earlier. During the conversation with Mistress, Essence attacks her and without warning Mistress magically warps them all…somewhere. I can’t tell you where because there’s no text on the page indicating where they’ve gone, the only clues we get are the characters confusion and the fact that the background is decidedly different. This scene is confusing because there’s no lead up to the change in location, no explanation of why, and no clear answer of how Mistress changes their location, it’s just a poof of smoke and boom they’re in a different city.
This is to put them in front of S’aru the guardian of the Chamber of the All, who turns out to be the one who’s betrayed the All Caste but was actually acting as a double agent. Except, that S’aru contradicts himself within the text. He tells Artemis and Essence that yes he was the traitor because he never believed the Untitled would succeed. Then just a short while later he admits to being a double agent to get everyone into the Chamber to destroy it and stop the Untitled– see what I mean by the story having confusing elements?
This reveal is totally out of left field. S’aru has appeared one other time in this run, and that was for a few rather forgettable panels back in issue #34. What’s worse is the fact that he’s literally made to magically appear just when the story needs him to with no rhyme nor reason to why Mistress would know about him, or that he was important. No one beyond Essence was looking for a traitor, and even Essence was only hunting Jason. The narrative doesn’t give the characters a chance to sit and consider who else might be involved, even though it really should. As the protector of the Chamber, S’aru should have been someone Jason immediately wondered about when the Untitled cracked open a portal to it, if just to introduce the character. The whole thing feels rushed to give answers and create a sort of quick unity that brings everyone together for the big fight teased in the next issue.
Once S’aru brings the team together things don’t really get much better. With the group together and answers provided the tension and energy levels should be high. Instead they stand around in the Chamber to chat. There is some time spent planning their next steps which makes sense, but there’s also a few random asides that don’t quite fit the tone. There’s a lot of time given to having Bizzaro try to convince General Glory to stand back and let them fight, which is actually a nice scene, but it seems out of place. This conversation would have worked better set right after Jason turned General Glory back to normal, when the danger was highest for the man, not here when they should be actively trying to stop the end of the world. Jason and Essence also have an aside. I think it’s warranted that they talk, but stopping to do that in the middle of what should be a moment of tension doesn’t hit the right story beats for me.
Something else that hindered the pacing is the fact that scenes in the Chamber of the All are devoid of backgrounds. There’s a few good shots of the chaos that is the Chamber, filled with detail and energy, but other than that, most of the panels there are either empty aside from smoke or dotted with the occasional monolith. When the majority of the issue takes place in the Chamber, the lack of anything going on in the background during conversations both reminds readers of the fact that the characters are not going anywhere and gives off a feeling of stagnation. Just showing off the weirdness of the Chamber could have helped liven things up. Or doing something to add movement like having them pace around, would have helped increase the energy in the issue, and offset that stagnant feeling a bit.
What should be an exciting charge into battle at the end instead continues the confusion. The characters spoke of having a plan –one Jason wouldn’t like– but there’s no time given to what this new plan actually is. The team then breaks with Bizzaro, leaving him to hold down the fort while they move forward, and generally leaving me confused as to where this is going next.
- The relationship between Artemis and Mistress interests you
- You’re willing to suspend disbelief over some questionable elements
- You’re a fan of All Caste storylines
This issue really just didn’t do it for me. While it attempted to move the narrative forward, I think that overall it was too busy and convoluted. The dissemination of key information associated with the plot was messy and at some points just straight up random. I should be excited for the team to dive into a fight with Trigon, but instead I just want to move onto other things.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.