In Review: Toil and Trouble #5

You know the story, but not what went on beyond the view of mortal eyes. Highest possible recommendation.

The cover: Macbeth opens the door to King Duncan’s bedchamber, the sinister influence of the witch Riata emanates from his ember red eyes in the form of crimson smoke. The dark deed is about to be, unless witch Smertae can intervene. The moment before the infamous killing is excellently captured by Kyla Vanderklugt. The red trail of smoke leads the reader to find the character’s eyes consumed with fire. The colors of his possession match his cape, drawing the reader to follow the length of the garment, which leads to the knife that will be used to kill a king. I love the look of the setting as well, with its wooden door and hanging tapestries. A terrible moment captured wonderfully. Overall grade: A 

The story: Under the influence of Riata, Macbeth has gone mad, imagining daggers before him. Fortunately, Smertae has arrived on the scene and challenges sister Cait to proclaim that their elder sibling has violated their oath and meddled with the mortal and his future. Cait says nothing, hoping that the two sisters would come together, making their family have the same bonds it once had. Smertae will have none of it and demands a Harrowing, a battle between witches so that one’s will shall prevail over Macbeth’s destiny. Such a decision brings Cait to tears, her hopes for reunification dashed, but she calls for a Harrowing, with the fate of the mortal as the prize. This is a phenomenal issue. Mairghead Scott has done a sensational job on the previous issues, having the witches’ tales intertwined with the classic Shakespearean play, but now the witches’ really take over, as Riata and Smertae have a battle to end all battles. The two shape shift into different animals, in different environments, until one mortally wounds the other. The winner then speeds to Macbeth’s side to spur him on or deter him. Back and forth they go, showing readers the real reason the title character of play struggled before making his decision. Which of the sisters will win is doubt until the very end, and the ultimate winner does something more shocking than kill royalty. I can’t help but wonder what Scott has left for the sisters and the doomed man. Overall grade: A+

The art: The visuals of this series have been terrific from the get go, but Kelly & Nicole Matthews have truly outdone themselves with the battle of the sisters. Before the first blood is split, Smertae’s arrival comes on the opening page filled with diagonal panels: this shows the level she must sink to so that she may stop her sister, and it shows how unnatural Riata’s interventions have left the mortal world. The emotion on Smertae is top notch, going from anger, to shock, to fury once she realizes Cait’s inability to assist her. Cait, too, emotes wonderfully, with Page 3 showing her realization that she is partially to blame for the state of her family. Riata has always been evil, but now that she has gone so far as to make Macbeth mad the look of glee on her face shows her despicable nature. The spell casting on Pages 4 and 5 are excellent and the coloring vibrant and dangerous. I grew up reading Doctor Strange comics when I was young, so to see magic evoked that is different from that past is wondrous to see. The top of Page 5 is perfect, while the transformation in the final panel on the page is so freakish, it’s impossible not to linger too long on the illustration. Underwater sequences in this series have been great with their coloring, and this issue is no exception: the water ripples on the characters make these scenes so much more believable. The first victor’s visit to Macbeth is spooky for its artwork, but beautiful for its coloring in violets. The winner of the second round is a wonder in its opposite coloring, achieving an exact opposite tone with readers. The final three pages are a wonderful climax for the issue and the series, with artwork being powerful and the coloring a strong punch. The visuals by Kelly Matthews and Nicole Matthews are beautiful and terrible to look upon. Wow! Overall grade: A+

The letters: Big kudos must also be given to letterer Warren Montgomery for his work on this book. Though the artwork has been created to provide ample space for his text, it must be unnerving to decided what of the visuals to cover and what to remain seen. Montgomery creates dialogue, a whisper, narration, sounds, a heartbreaking denial, vengeful dialogue on the last page, and the Act’s conclusion. I love the flair he gives to the opening letter that begins each page’s narration, and that cry of denial rang through my soul. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Highest possible recommendation. You know the story, but not what went on beyond the view of mortal eyes. Spectacular story with impressive visuals. I cannot recommend this enough. Overall grade: A+

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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