Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Atari Force Month: Issue #11 Review
Let's start with Tempest, arrested at the end of last issue, and now locked in a dimly-lit cell and kept on a disorienting, disabling drug called scopadrone to keep him from phasing himself to freedom. He appears to slide in and out of awareness, struggling to regain control of his own mind and body so he can warn the world about the Dark Destroyer. The world doesn't want to hear him, though, so he remains a prisoner for now. Only Professor Venture shows Tempest any care or concern, visiting him more as a mother than mentor. She cradles the scared and broken boy in her arms, and fights for his rights and his freedom. It gives Venture as a character a distinct sense of purpose she's been lacking up to now, and underlines the tragedy of what Tempest is going through.
Hunter also brings up Rident in this conversation, wondering where the hell he is, and I have been thinking the same thing for several issues. The time for Rident to make his move was probably somewhere back around #8, after the initial encounter with the Dark Destroyer had wrapped. But it's been longer than that since he's appeared on panel, and Hunter's throwaway line is the only reference to Rident in just as long. He wasn't the strongest member of the cast, and as far as guys with a stick up their ass who are after Atari Force, I'll take Hunter over Rident any day of the week. But no character deserves to be shoved aside and abandoned completely, so fingers crossed that Rident will return.
Predictably, Blackjak is working for the Dark Destroyer, but I give Conway credit for getting that out of the way in the first scene. It's not the cliffhanger, it's the opener, not played for surprise because it's not a surprise. What makes that scene buzz is José Luis García-López's art. He kicks off the excellence right on the first page, depicting many members of Atari Force sleeping in their rooms. Some are peaceful, some restless, some alone, and others in groups. It is a quiet, intimate, inviting opening page, establishing a brief calm before the immense storms of the issue's narratives.
Conway and García-López, as well as inker Bob Smith and colorist Tom Ziuko, fire on all cylinders and then some for the length of this battle. It begins with something simple but earth-shattering, and ends in about the most tragic imaginable way (save, perhaps, for one of the two lover/combatants dying). For just a moment after realizing his betrayal, Dart stares at Blackjak, the man she thought she knew, thought she loved, and he stares at her right back. García-López draws out the tension and melancholy of that moment with a series of small close-ups of Dart and Blackjak's faces done in silhouette, with a tiny, shadowy image of them standing before each other in the middle. Then, beneath this small and quiet row, there is a half-page image of Blackjack punching Dart square in the jaw, a blow that hits harder for the weight of its surprise than the actual impact of his fist.
Dart and Blackjak knock each other around for a page, during which Dart says that she doesn't believe Blackjak will shoot her. She is confident that she still knows the man he really is inside, and that that will keep her safe. She is, sadly, wrong, and in another startling half-page image, Blackjak takes his shot right at her heart, psychically and metaphorically.