The covers: Four to track down on this weekly. The Main cover is a stunner from interior artist Andy Kubert and interior colorist Brad Anderson. Deimos and Warlord are going at each other, the villain with magic building up in his fist and the hero with his sword. What’s really cool is that the pair are fighting atop a triceratops that’s storming through a jungle setting. Both characters look great, the dino is fantastic, and the coloring is spectacular, with that background orange setting off the images wonderfully. This cover is definitely roaring into readers. The first Variant cover is by Tony Daniel and Sandu Florea with Tomeu Morey. It’s a slick point of view shot from the floor looking up. In the upper left is Deimos, who’s joined hands with Telos, who’s coming up from the lower right. They’re locked in combat while behind them Brainiac observes and waits to see who will triumph. Spectacular details and bright colors make this a stand out; I’m really liking the violets in this. The next Variant is by Jerome Opena with Dean White doing a nice homage to the Detective Comics #38 which featured the first appearance of Robin, though this cover has Damian Wayne-Robin bursting through the ring, while an Adam West Batman looks shocked at the teen’s entrance. Cool idea for a cover, though Robin is not in this issue, save one panel. The final Variant is by Ivan Reis and it’s a sketch cover of Cyborg. It’s cool to see this piece in just the pencils, but, like the Opena Variant, this character does not appear in this issue. I like this cover, but putting Krypto and Beppo on the cover makes just as much sense. Overall grades: Main A+, Variant Daniel A+, Variant Opena B-, Variant Reis B-.
The story: If you’re a fan of Mike Grell’s classic Warlord series, this issue is going to hit you hard! Jeff King’s story “Liberty?” opens up in Skartaris as Telos, Dick Grayson, Green Lantern, Superman, Yolanda Montez, Machiste, Shakira, and Flash watch Deimos as he summons Brainiac. As Telos demands the freeing of his master, the evil wizard allows Telos to see his past and how he came to be the being he is. As the minion of Brainiac hits the floor, overwhelmed by the truth, Travis Morgan, aka Warlord, and his wife Tara travel to their castle, only to encounter more lizard men. Things then take a surprising turn with this couple before the action is rejoined underground with the larger group of heroes. This issue finally establishes who’s the big bad and it hints at how the DC Universe is going to be rebuilt. I liked the drama with the Warlord, but was saddened at what occurred. There is the birth of a new hero, the deaths of several, and the convergence looks to be moving beyond its “fighting cities” premise. Hooray! Overall grade: B+
The art: The visuals of this book greatly improve with Andy Kubert taking over the pencils and Sandra Hope providing inks. This makes perfect sense, as Kubert was a penciller on the original run of The Warlord. His character work is amazing. The bottom panel on Page 1 is a group shot of all the heroes reacting to the trouble that readers aren’t yet privy to, and he clearly shows all the characters so that they can be easily identified as the book goes on. The top of the second page shows Deimos and Brainiac and it’s screaming out cosmic danger. The double-paged splash that makes up Pages 4 and 5 is a great way to show Telos’s origin: it’s lavish, primitive, futuristic, and screams Galactus making a herald, but that’s the way the story is written and that’s what is delivered. When Morgan appears it’s like a step back into time, since Kubert and Hope perfectly capture the look of Grell’s artwork. In fact, Pages 14 and 15 look like “found” pages from the past. The dinosaurs look amazing and has me hoping that the pair might get called by IDW to do a Jurassic Park comic at some point. 19 and 20 are my favorite pages of the issue, and they focus on the Warlord and Deimos. The first is a spectacular entrance, while the other is a gut punch of a surprise. I admit it, I gasped. I though, ‘They’re not allowed to do that in comics, are they?’ Kubert and Hope did and it’s amazing. I also like Pages 26 and 27 for showcasing some of the other big name heroes who are encountering difficulties in their own cities. This book looks great; I can’t be any plainer. Overall grade: A
The colors: Depth is created in this comic by the adept use of colors by Brad Anderson. The opening pages has the heroes standing out strongly due to the bright colors of their costumes, but on the next page, rather than going for a equally strong color to show the magic in play, Anderson goes for a pale color scheme. This is a clever choice because it makes Brainiac look as though he is death personified, and his energy sucks the colors out of Deimos, making him almost an equal threat. Pages 4 and 5 are superbly colored to show the sequence is a flashback by the wash effect used, but there’s also a lot of power in play when Brainiac makes the scene. Page 19 shows how a slight fading of objects in the distance creates a nice depth effect to the work, as objects in the foreground, characters and flying debris, are brightly colored to show their closeness to the reader. The entire book is full of examples like this, but this page gives the strongest example of this technique. White is a stunner of a color on the next two pages, but that would be spoiling something major. Can Brad Anderson color every comic? Overall grade: A+
The letters: Scene setting, dialogue, yells, one character’s loud words in the closing, and the story’s title and credits are all accomplished by Travis Lanham. He’s doing an excellent job, but I really want–need–some sound effects on this book. Overall grade: B+
The final line: This was the best issue so far, with one character picking up a fallen hero’s identity, while several characters meet their fates. The multiverses are finally converging. Overall grade: A-