Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Terminal Hero #4 Review

Obviously this review is coming in pretty late. This whole blog is running late these days. I meant to do a Dirty Dozen on Hinterkind weeks ago, which is like the easiest thing I ever write, but somehow I never got around to it and now issue #13 is out. Don't fret, though, because I think I'm just going to do a piece on that title for PopMatters instead. I've got lots of reasons for my tardiness that aren't worth getting into, but please don't think Terminal Hero is the only comic I'm neglecting. On to the actual review!
     It finally hit me in this issue that Terminal Hero isn't a narrative with a strange pacing problem like I've thought all this time. It's more like a thought experiment in comicbook form, and therefore it intentionally rushes from one idea to the next, since its top priority is idea generation, not storytelling. Part of my realizing this was the phrase "thought experiment" being used in the dialogue, and the rest came from the fact that this issue represented yet another sudden turn in the direction of Rory's life. I've been thinking of the constant status quo shake-ups as Peter Milligan moving too quickly through the narrative, but now I'm convinced that what he's doing is letting all the ideas he has for this central concept (a guy suddenly getting unlimited power from his cancer treatment) spill out of his head freely into the comic. Rather than finding a specific interesting angle an then developing something around it, Milligan is looking at all the possible the angles one by one, and that's fine. It's not what I expected and maybe not even what I'd prefer, but at least I feel like I get it now.
     While I was having that minor epiphany, here's something that confused me: I thought Mia and Minesh were a couple, but evidently he's never seen her naked before, since she reveals her body and its many self-inflicted scars to him in this issue. So now I'm not clear on what their relationship is, exactly, or how they even know each other. Maybe we were told that when they originally met with Raza, but I can't remember seeing any explanation of who they are to one another, which I'm assuming is why I assumed they were romantically involved. I'll have to go back and find out what their connection is before issue #5 comes out.
     The moment where Mia exposes herself is handled nicely by Piotr Kowalski, who continues to be a great fit for this book. His ghost Dr. Quigley, who is essentially the center of the issue's main conflict, is somehow even more terrifying and gross-looking than the original Quigley, who was an unnerving, over-inflated freakshow in his own right. I think it's the paleness that really pushes the ghost version over the edge, so kudos to Kelly Fitzpatrick on that one as well. Terminal Hero found its look right away, so I won't continue to praise the art repetitively in these reviews, but some other visual highlights from this issue were Rory running through the woods with while freaking out and letting his powers do the same, and the moment where the agent in charge of handling Rory—I forget her name right now...I think of her as "Sir" because that's what the other agent calls her in like every one of his lines—looks at the table full of alcohol bottles and prepares herself for some big-league drinking. She hasn't been developed much at all aside from being a fairly typical hardass secret agent type character, and while someone like that having a drinking problem isn't exactly new ground, I was glad to get some insight into who she is when she's off the clock. Of course, it was Milligan who chose to include that scene, but Kowalski made it work in a single panel, perfectly capturing the resignation in her face, the surrender she finally allows herself. It's an important bit of characterization done efficiently.
     I don't have tons of new stuff to say about Terminal Hero #4. Basically, it was much like the previous three issues, except that the rapid-fire tempo of the series finally clicked for me this time, whereas it has always rubbed me the wrong way before. That makes me look forward to what's coming down the pipeline more than I ever have previously, and Rory being on a collision course with Mia and Minesh now only adds to that anticipation. Maybe Terminal Hero #5 will be the one that makes me fall in love.

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