In Review: Alters #9

Action, the strange, and a lot of heart make this a book you can't stop reading.

The cover: Chalice is on her knees crying, while Morph comes up behind her, pieces of him peeling off him, sailing away as though blown by a breeze. This is a trippy cover by interior artist Leila Leiz and interior colorist Leonardo Paciarotti. Chalice is wonderfully detailed and Morph, in this incarnation, is absolutely bizarre looking: I cannot take my eyes off of him. The colors really come off the page, with the empty white background helping considerably. This is definitely an eye catching cover. Overall grade: A+ 

The story: This installment is titled “Sister, Brother” and it’s terrific. The title can be seen on many different levels. First is Charlie’s relationship with Morph, who’s left the hospital. In a previous issue, Chalice accidentally broke his neck, he’s been in the hospital ever since. Realizing he could escape permanent paralyzation by using his powers, he’s employed them to leave his bed, but condemned himself to live only a few weeks. Paul Jenkins has Chalice anguished at what she’s done to her ally, but he forgives her, though she can’t forgive herself. They’re watching the villains who took Sharise’s son Latavius last issue, trying to figure out a way to rescue the kid without him getting killed. Morph has an idea and the pair leave to talk to the Chief. After this, Charlie goes to visit her friend from childhood, Darren, to tell him about one of her changes. How Darren reacts is the emotional center of this book. Their conversation is very realistic, with the back and forth engaging. The resolution was good, and it’s about time that Charlie had something go her way. This level of honesty continues with the group’s efforts to save Latavius, with Charlie and the altered mother Sharise reaching an agreement. Pages 12 through 20 have the heroes making their play and things do not go as planned. This is to be expected in a superhero book, but Jenkins puts some good surprises into the events. It was neat to see the protagonists working as a team, each squaring off with an opponent, helping the other when needed. Morph’s contribution had me nervous, given he’s working as the clock count downs, but Jenkins had the ultimate surprise on the final page — That’s how you write a cliffhanger! Overall grade: A

The art: Leila Leiz does some excellent character work on this book. Charlie, whether out of costume or dressed as Chalice, looks terrific. The work on her hair is great. I love her long locks and how they begin to billow when she’s agitated, or pulled back when she’s talking to Darren. I also like the emotional range of the character, from distressed in the opening to focused during the fight. As much as I love the look of Charlie, Morph steals the book. I haven’t seen a hero drawn so strangely since Richard Case was illustrating Doom Patrol. I couldn’t look away from Philip, even when he was in his most human form; he’s both freakish and awe inspiring. His design is fantastic. Darren is another winner of character. He’s the non-Alter of the book and he’s real in his look and his reactions. Sharise is the second most normal person in the book and with this issue she gets a costume: it’s simple but perfectly apt for her ability. The fight sequence captures motion wonderfully, with everyone in action, and a neat use of a portal. The final page’s last panel has someone doing something new and it’s the perfect visual. I’ve praised Leiz’s character work, but her settings are also good. The rooftop opening looks great and the location where Charlie and Darren have their conversation is very realistic, giving their talk the seriousness it deserves. And how about that perspective in the third panel on Page 4? Very nice! A warehouse is the locale of the finale and it’s tops. I was glad to see big windows, that create big shadows, unopened crates, and chains hanging from the ceilings. I’m loving Leiz’s style. Overall grade: A

The colors: The first three pages are set in a exterior at night, but every element of the art stands out strongly thanks to the work of Leonardo Paciarotti. I love Morph’s beautiful skin against the blue night sky. Chalice’s violet costume and blonde hair also has her receiving focus strongly because of her colors. Both of these characters, and the others, have some great tone work done on their flesh. There’s also some good illumination from the lights at night, with them receiving warm glows. The blonde streaks in Charlie’s hair give a great depth to them. The work done on Darren’s shirt is terrific. Yes, I’m complimenting the work on a man’s shirt — It looks good! The battle is dominated by violets, on Charlie and Sharise’s clothes and the portal that opens. I like how the sound effects are given bright colors to make them pop off the page as well. Paciarotti is doing a strong job on this book. Overall grade: A

The letters: Ryane Hill provides this book with dialogue, whispers, Charlie’s diary entries, sounds, yells, and the three word tease for next issue. I really like the use of whispers in this book, with the one that ends Charlie and Darren’s conversation really putting some emotional punch into what’s said: big emotion done with tiny words. I’ve mentioned in previous reviews how much I enjoy the font used for Charlie’s diary entries and they continue to be really cool. Hill is aces. Overall grade: A

The final line: Action, the strange, and a lot of heart make this a book you can’t stop reading. The artwork stylishly creates reality and the bizarre existing side by side. I love the story. I love the visuals. I love this comic. Overall grade: A

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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