Well this is it. The end of the road. The last issue of a book that was frankly miraculous to have ever shown up on the shelf in the first place. Does anyone else have Green Day’s “Time of Your Life” stuck in their head?
Writer: Christopher Yost
Artist: David Baldeon
Color Art: Chris Sotomayor
Letters: VC’s Chris Eliopoulos
Cover Artists: Stegman & Delgado
Editor: Tom Brennan
Senior Editor: Stephen Wacker
THE STORY: Kaine and Aracely take down bad guys as a team in Mexico and flash back to what happened in Houston after last issue’s cliffhanger. Basically everyone fell out of the building but Kaine saved them with a big web, but then Shathra attacked and Kaine mutated into his monstrous “The Other” form to fight her. After his friends had seen him like that they all recoiled except Aracely and the two left together. They are now in Mexico looking for her parents and randomly meeting coyotes who like to say “Mictlan rises.” Fade out on our heroes on the beach with a margarita.
MY THOUGHTS: Rarely have I met an issue that is such a dichotomy. Good writing meets glaring production errors all smashing together into one rushed finale for a book that deserved better.
Before anything else I have to address the incredibly poor production of this issue. First and foremost I must question why the price was raised to $3.99. This entire series to this point has been $2.99 per issue and this issue was even solicited at $2.99. I would understand if it was an extra-sized finale, but it’s not. I counted and there are only 20 story pages like any other issue of the series. So this smacks of a cynical staff that knows the regular readers are going to pick up the final issue no matter what and decided they’d take the opportunity to squeeze another buck out of them. It rather feels like getting slapped in the face right at your LCS counter before you ever even open the issue.
The biggest, most glaring and distracting errors in this issue come in the scene when everyone is falling from the building and Kaine’s trying to save them. 1) Aracely’s name is misspelled as “Arecely” twice in one page. 2) She is evidently in two places at once when Kaine’s narration reads “Arecely is closest, then Wally. Arecely and Annabelle, they’re too far away.” Aracely is actually in his arms for the second sentence when he says she’s too far away. It’s actually Annabelle and Zoe who are too far away, but who can blame Kaine for the mistake when none of us would remember Zoe’s name, either? 3) When Kaine and Aracely are on the ground and Annabelle and Zoe are stuck in the air in Kaine’s web, Aracely all of a sudden turns into Annabelle in the art of one panel, and it’s in a panel when she happens to be referring to Annabelle by name.
Then there’s Burnham’s name on the cover but not credited inside the issue. Now, considering the general level of writing in this issue is higher than we’ve seen on the past several issues with Erik Burnham as co-writer, I’m given to believe the inside page that claims Chistopher Yost as the sole writer. But it’s just another example of the quick and shoddy production of the issue that Burnham’s name wound up on the cover (and if I’m wrong and he actually did co-write, it’s a much bigger error to have left him off the inside credits page).
So all of that adds up to what should be a special final issue that really feels like it was rushed out the door as quickly as possible with minimum oversight just to get it out and finish the series off already. And THIS is the issue they charge us an extra dollar for. Maybe the rest of you readers find this stuff easier to overlook than I do, but particularly the large and frequent errors in the mid-air save scene really mar the reading experience for me.
But even for all these problems there still is good to the issue. As I mentioned already, the general quality of writing here is higher than we’ve seen since…well, since the last time Yost was writing solo. The scene transitions, the action, and the lines all just feel much cleaener and frankly more professional and skillful than what we’ve been getting. The ‘flashbacks from Mexico’ device could have taken the wind out of the Houston scenes (and I was worried about exactly that at the beginning), but rather than let it seem like the Houston stuff doesn’t matter because it’s already over, Yost adds tension to it by having Kaine and Aracely simply refer to “what happened” in Houston in an ominous way that makes you wonder who died. In the end, though, nobody died and that’s something else I appreciated. It would have been very easy to massacre the supporting cast on the way out the door just to give Kaine more angst, but after spending 26 issues (remember there was a point one!) building up these characters that would have been an absolute shame. Even if they just sit on the shelf for the next several years, at least they’re still there for a future writer if one should choose to revisit them.
As for the actual events that ended Kaine’s time in Houston, I’m very conflicted. On one hand, pretty much every subplot was referenced and wrapped up. On the other, just like last issue, there was just a LOT crammed into a small number of pages and it’s hard to call that satisfying. Shathra shows up and gets defeated. Wally kind of forgets the whole “I’m arresting you for murder” thing and lets Kaine go. Zoe spends the issue hanging in a web having already done her piece in her tiny amount of time last issue when she fired the rocket to set the ‘plummeting to Earth’ thing in motion (hopefully she was taken into custody when she was able to be removed from that web). Donald is not seen or heard about (ya ok with that gaping stomach wound, buddy?). And, perhaps most randomly, the idea of Kaine’s “The Other” persona is very suddenly revisited to bring down Shathra. And it seems to establish that he actually has the Hulk-like ability to shapeshift back and forth from that form now (albeit not in his control, also like the Hulk). So yes, nearly every loose end gets at least mentioned (nearly…poor Clutch) but at the cost of any of them really having an impact.
As for the Mexico scenes, these are probably the strongest of the issue. Yost definitely shines when he’s just writing the relationship between Kaine and Aracely, and I can see why he wanted to work several pages of that into his goodbye to the series. Not a lot is revealed in these scenes, but considering they’re the best part of the read I can’t fault that. We do get 2 more big teases to the Aztec hell subplot that’s been running with Aracely for the entire series, though, and that feels incredibly odd considering this is the end. I realize both of these characters will be continuing on in New Warriors, but further teases in the final issue just feel out of place and only serve to remind us that this, the oldest of all these subplots, we never got to.
The art by David Baldeon once again is serviceable but unimpressive. It tells the story but aesthetically it’s only decent, with some pages looking very sketchy compared to others and the characters sometimes just looking off. Considering the production of the issue, though, I wonder how quickly Mr. Baldeon had to work. Frankly, if Marvel really wanted to justify that extra dollar, it would have been nice to have Ryan Stegman back for the final issue. Were that the case I really wouldn’t have minded.
GRADE: C- It pains me to give this finale issue such a low rating, but there’s no way I can give it higher with the production errors it has and the general feeling of slapping together an ending out of too many threads that don’t go together. Still, even though it’s been on a downward curve for months, I will miss this book.