Friday, October 10, 2014

Terminal Hero #3 Review

This was a perfect example of why I like to read at least the first three issues of any series before deciding whether or not to drop it. I had some reservations about and disappointments over the first two installments of Terminal Hero, and while it's by no means perfect, issue #3 made some course corrections and additions that I liked a lot. I'm finally actively looking forward to more of this comic, which hasn't quite been true up to now.
     Piotr Kowalski and Kelly Fitzpatrick's art continues to be the main attraction, and there's some new stuff in the visuals that's right up my alley. Primarily villains, or villain-esque characters, anyway. One is the Tumor Kid, who's either literally Rory's (supposedly cured) tumor with newfound sentience and its own body (that looks just like Rory), or is a projection of Rory's mind. Either way, Tumor Kid is himself covered in tumors, off-and-on and in varying amounts. Sometimes they form an overpowering mound that takes up most of his flesh, sometimes they're more subtle, and when we first meet him they're not visible at all. It seems to be the case that the more aggressively and angrily Tumor Kid acts, the larger and more widespread his growths become. So at his most evil, he also looks the most sickening, a simple and direct means of establishing his horridness.
     The other new villains are Mia and Minesh, the couple Raza hooked up with some of the same Treatment Q drugs that gave Rory his powers, right before Rory killed Raza. We learn Minesh has, between then and now, prevented himself and Mia from actually using Treatment Q on themselves, but here she finally convinces him to try it, and the results are terrifying. Neither Mia nor Minesh have canxer, so there's nothing for the treatment to actually cure. All it does is unlock crazy powers in the pair, who immediately take violent advantage of that. For one quick but stunning page, we see Minesh and Mia indulging themselves unashamedly in their new abilities, with her gleefully committing murder by hand while he watches, levitating nearby, in the grips of some kind of ecstatic trip or trance state. Their last line in the issue is Minesh saying, "Pray this is just the beginning..." and I do. It's a little terrifying to consider what these characters will look like as they develop, but I'm excited for it nonetheless. Kowalski does a superb job setting them up as legitimate threats in a very small space, as does Peter Milligan, who only gives them two one-page scenes, but make them some of the most memorable parts of the issue. It is Fitzpatrick's red-orange-brown palette on the page I described above that really drives that moment home, though. Whenever Rory's superpowers have kicked in before, the colors have stolen the show, and it happens tenfold with Mia and Minesh.
     Milligan continues to generally have things race forward, as evidenced by how quickly he ramps up Minesh and Mia's roles. On the other hand, the A-plot seems to be slowly down, if only slightly and/or temporarily. Rory begins his life as Chris Walker, a guy he killed by accident last issue and switched places with through his mind powers. Rory finds he quite enjoys Chris' life—his kids, wife, career, and spirituality all suit Rory, and even seem to help him fight off his nightmares. Tumor Kid is still around, threatening to ruin everything, but it's still not clear how real he is, so Rory continues to fight for this new, calm, unexpected happiness he's stumbled into. That's exactly the kind of hook this comic has needed; Rory's experimental-cancer-medicine-based powers weren't ever enough to convince me this was a story with legs, but now I'm eager to watch it go the distance. I don't know if Rory will necessarily get to remain Chris for much longer, because it seems like his government handlers are already on his trail, but this is the first time Terminal Hero has introduced a new status quo in the beginning of an issue and still had it in place at the end. And Rory joining the Walker family as an impostor is the most interesting version of his life yet, so I'm pleased Milligan is giving it some more time and room to grow, even if it only ends up being part of the next issue. If these are the kind of ideas this series will be generating as it advances, and Milligan can get better at pacing them with ever so much more patience like he does here, Terminal Hero might yet become a truly great comicbook.

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