Having spent a fair amount of time establishing the current status quo since the last of the Subspecies films, the previous issue in this new series written by Cullen Bunn and Jimmy Johnston (aka Jimmy Z) left us with an interesting twist on the story of hero and villain — just when you think you’ve killed the bad guy, and you have just killed him yet again, he doesn’t just come back one more time, but he comes back in four forms. Yes, you read that right!
Michelle, our hero, does what any person with common sense would: she gets the hell out of dodge and hops on the first train out of town, forced to leave the life she had spent so many years carefully constructing. And to her (unpleasant) surprise (at first), she’s joined by one of the Radus. It turns out that a previously unexplained aspect of the vampires being able to create their own “mini-mes” (which is helpfully, and rather grossly, demonstrated to us) is what actually caused the creation of the five Radus (down to four after the events at the end of the last issue) when the “original” died at the end of the last film. Basically, five aspects of his personality were split into five new forms — charm, pure evil, brute strength, physical ugliness, and good. The Radu that stalled for her at the start of the issue and has since joined her on the train is the “good” guy. As Michelle is deciding how to process this, the train they are on is attacked by the Ugly Radu in a fairly vicious manner (please note that I’ll be giving these guys my own names for the duration of the review for ease of reference). Michelle snaps and she tries going after him but is held back by Good Radu, who is able to dispatch of Ugly in what seems to be permanent fashion. The duo then proceeds to set up shop in a museum and hide out for the remainder of the day. While in hiding, they learn about a historic and ominous-sounding Festival of the Undead, which they attend only to stumble to an unwelcome discovery, setting up the final issue.
I guess I was a bit tough on the last issue since I thought the backstory took up a bit too much time. Fortunately, there is much more time spent on action and plot movement in this issue. The scenes on the train are a particular highlight and reveal some interesting backstory on how the five Radus came to be, although truth be told, given how easily the Ugly one was dispatched, I’m not sure whether we should see Pure Evil and Buff Radu as much of a threat. I like Michelle’s wry sense of humor, but was a bit disappointed that we didn’t get much character exploration beyond what we had already gotten in the last issue as it seems like she is just permanently anxious, angry, and fearful. On the other hand, I do like how the writers show what it takes to trigger even the Good Radu and at least he doesn’t seem as one-dimensional as Michelle is coming across.
I actually decided to do a quick re-read of issue #1 after completing this issue and suddenly some of the scenes that didn’t seem to make sense at first made much more sense now. The other downside to this issue is the fact that we had a few opportunities where they could have made the story more complex, beyond just “Michelle running away to save herself and destroy her enemies” again – perhaps something involving the train, hideout museum or the festival – but it appears all were just tools to set up the final showdown. For example, I would have loved a scene on the train where Michelle walks out to find Ugly cornering a passenger, and when she tries to convince the passenger to come to her, seeing Michelle also as a vampire freaks the passenger out who happens to stumble into the waiting teeth of Ugly. Then perhaps the line where Ugly tries to get Michelle to “embrace her destiny,” so to speak, may hold more weight since she’s being rejected by those in the very world she’s trying to protect. But I’m guessing this sort of a scene was probably not considered due to timing constraints.
The art continues to remain stellar. In fact, one of my biggest pet peeves in comic book artistry is “distant” panel shots, where we have a shot of the characters or the action shown to us from a distance. Multiple times, Logan makes it work and his attention to detail never wavers. In fact, he takes it a step further with the “Little One,” who is small but well put together. The other thing that is fantastic about the art here is how there are small little touches that could easily be ignored but are addressed no matter how mundane they appear — for example, a sequence in the museum where sunlight accidentally penetrates the hideout, Good Radu starts burning, and he casually obtains water to put the fire out. In another sequence, Good Radu cuts off his finger to generate a Little One, and watches as it slowly grows back. All these actions are done without any reference in the writing, while the rest of the story moves on, demonstrating just how good and thoughtful art can actually take a huge burden off the writer sometimes. This also helps to create a sense of realism, despite the fantasy/horror setting.
As it approaches its conclusion, this miniseries still hasn’t pushed the envelope too much just yet by introducing any sort of major complexity (and may be running out of time to do so). But thanks to more action than before and art that truly services the story, it has set itself up to go out in a blaze of glory.
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