In Review: Alters #5

The first arc wraps up quickly with Chalice truly belonging to a group.

The cover: An orange silhouette of Chalice dominates the cover. The cross over her left eye bleeds down to the bottom of the page where there are five full figured silhouettes: Octavian’s Gateway Army. Behind them in dark orange are several skyscrapers. The entire cover looks like it’s been done on a piece of loose leaf paper, as there are holes in the left side, plus the image has been damaged by water or time. An intriguing image by Brian Stelfreeze that teases much without giving anything away. Overall grade: A-

The story: “Sixty-one Seconds” by Paul Jenkins ends the first story arc of Chalice. When last we left our heroine she was captured by three of Matter Man’s subordinates: Patient Nein, Cottonmouth, and Bombardier. They want to make a deal with her: they want her to take down their dictatorial leader. How is this possible? Nein reveals that Matter Man’s “powers last for only sixty-one seconds. One single minute. After which he becomes as weak as a kitten…It’s just a question of knowing which sixty-one seconds he’s actually using. Get it wrong, and you’d be dead before you could count to one.” Once getting this information the question becomes does Chalice believe them and will the Gateway Army? Returning to her allies, Octavian reveals something that could stop Matter Man, but it could also be used against Chalice. A plan is hatched to lure the villain out and the heroes then strike. This was the rematch that Jenkins has been leading up to since Matter Man took out the heroine so easily before. It’s a violent fight and it ends in a surprising way. Things could have ended solely with fisticuffs, since that is the traditional super hero way, and there are plenty of punches thrown, but the penultimate page has things take a turn, and then things are over. That’s the only flaw in this issue, the incredibly quick ending. Yes, this arc is done, but I would have liked a little more in the end. It seemed rushed. That said, when Alters returns, I’ll continue to pick it up. Overall grade: B+

The art: The visuals on this book are very fluid, with smooth lines curving about stylistically. Leila Leiz’s art reminds me a little bit of Cynthia Martin’s Star Wars work for Marvel. There’s a lot of exposition on the first four pages, but Leiz really moves the point of view around well, while clearly showing the reader who each character is. The anger on Chalice’s face at the bottom of Page 1 is palpable, and that anger returns — though it is now confused — in the final panel on 4. The device shown on 6 looks great; it’s a high tech instrument, but it’s been rendered rather simply, which nice hides what it’s capable of. The point of view and the reactions in the top panel on 7 are sweet! Showing Charlie from two different sides on 9 nicely fills in new readers who this character really is. Matter Man and his crew’s arrival is dramatic, as is Charlie’s transformation into Chalice. The fight has Leiz using panels of unequal sizes, which makes the battle seem more rapid and chaotic. The villain’s power up on 14 is the most manic this character has ever looked, which makes his look on 15 all the more startling. Things go graphic on 17, and let’s be honest — that is the level of gore that would occur during a fight like this. I love Chalice’s reactions in the final three panels on 19. And though I thought the book’s story wrapped up too quickly, the final panel of the book shows two characters comfortable with who they are, and that’s something this book has tried to show. Overall grade: A 

The colors: The colors on this book border on pastels most of the time. This is very different from most hero books, as it gives the actions a passive quality. The first page is violet heavy due to Chalice’s costume, but the backgrounds are in a light pink — not a color one associates with a villain’s hideout. Only the cream colors of Nein’s hoodie change the palette on these pages. Tamara Bonvillain gets to put some darker colors into the surroundings at the headquarters of the Gateway Army, with that top panel on 7 using colors to strengthen the point of view. The final setting returns to pale violets, which does have some of the art blobbing up with it, such as when Matter Man is alone in a panel. Things improve when the grass becomes dominate in the panel, as the greens allow the violets and yellows to really pop off the page. Overall grade: B-

The letters: Ryane Hill creates dialogue, whispered dialogue, narration, sounds, yells, and the final four words. Seeing Hill employ a unique font for Charlie’s narration really sets it apart from the book’s other text. It instantly alerts the reader that the story has shifted to Charlie’s point of view. The sounds on this book are powerful, with ZZRRAAK and POP being incredibly audible. Hill is aces on this book. Overall grade: A

The final line: The first arc wraps up quickly with Chalice truly belonging to a group. This is a typical super hero conclusion, but I enjoyed it and look forward to reading more adventures of Chalice and the other Alters. 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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