Previously on Dark Spaces: Wildfire:
We met Crew 513 — aka Ma, Brooks, Zinn, Ramos, and Sawyer — an all-female team of inmate firefighters (and their C.O.) battling the deadly Arroyo Fire. But amid the endless destruction, the team had hatched a plan: rewrite their fates by robbing the fortress-like home of Brooks’ former billionaire boss. (The prize? Crypto, baby.) As far as beginnings go, it was loaded with potential, with writer Scott Snyder setting up a story that could burn down the world or simply go up in flames.
Last time around, Snyder spent ample time setting up the story itself (or, as I like to call it, “pulling a Prestige“). And while it was a generally compelling hook, it did mitigate some of the story’s overall sense of flow. Things felt sort of bogged down, and not nearly enough happened in #1 to feel like it’s a true, adrenaline-spiking heist story. This time, though, Snyder’s whole approach worked more effectively. Issue #2 all but breezes by, and by the time we get to the end some 30 pages later, there’s been a lot accomplished from a narrative standpoint. That pace and greater sense of achievement — we’re actually in a real life-or-death heist, baby! — really makes for a thrill ride that addresses some of the core issues with the debut.
I think by spending less time building the world, and leaning into some of the story devices that he’ll eventually use, Snyder gave himself the chance to tell the story beyond mere exposition and narration. Plus, this story just works better when we’re not thinking about the structure here and it all just sort of plays out accordingly.
A Little Face Time
One of my bigger concerns with the story is that, for being a very people-heavy narrative, there was only a real focus on the Crew’s C.O., the hard-as-nails, ever-matronly Ma. But there’s quite a few moments in issue #2 where we get to see more of the Crew at-large. Sure, some of that comes with a great “monologue” from Ma, who details some of the reasons why the crew is willing to risk it all and the life-changing opportunities that lie ahead. But the rest comes in other, quieter moments.
Like, when the crew encounters a mountain lion and her cubs on the way to the billionaire’s house — rather than scare or fight it off, they opt to let them go, in a really stunning moment that feels like a powerful analogy for the stories of redemption surrounding these women. And the same goes for an impromptu fashion show that happens just after they break into the house, including Ramos’s dead-on James Bond impression. It’s simple, but we get to see some real humanity and understand the kinds of people within this situation and why things may go the way they inevitably do.
This issue feels like the first moment the book recognizes the robust humanity in a way that’s more about showing rather than telling, and it really increases our connection with the Crew and the fear/worry/hope that comes with their trials and tribulations.
I mentioned in the review of #1, as well as a little earlier in this piece, about Snyder’s approach to writing. Like the aforementioned Prestige, he uses the four phases of a fire to help structure the whole story. In issue #1, it felt like a novel decision, and that gimmick wasn’t really engrained enough within the story itself to truly land. This time, however, the whole thing works, as we enter the ignition phase where a destructive fire can actually be a beautiful and healing experience for the landscape. If that’s not a perfect analogy for this issue, and its focus on the emotional potential percolating throughout, then nothing is. I think to some extent, things finally started taking off given that something like this literally feat just needed the space to build momentum.
But at the same time, I think this may be the most direct connection between the fire analogy and the happenings in the actual story, and I wonder if this device can build up in terms of emotional potential or if it may feel overused by the time we get to issue #3. In the meantime, though, it felt like a perfect coalescing of ideas that showed the greater potential of this story.
Up Close and Personal
If there’s anything that truly blew me away from issue #1, it was the work of the art team. (That’d be artist Hayden Sherman, colorist Ronda Pattison, and lettering from AndWorld Design). Sherman got plenty of chances to show off, with huge, sweeping fire shots and lots of hard-hitting action (of the fire-battling variety). Pattison’s colors kept pace the whole time, really adding a sense of beauty and an almost otherworldly quality to the whole affair.
This time around, this story’s shift to the “personal” level meant more detailed, decidedly intimate shots. You’ll miss the grandiosity, but there’s plenty of more tense moments, like when the Crew nearly botch entering the security code. The expert inclusion of their faces was just as compelling and breathtaking as any sweeping shot. The same goes with some moments from the night before the heist, or the aforementioned fashion show; it was a great way to show the humanity and make the reader engage with everyone head on. Pattison’s colors continued to shine, with different hues and shades attached to different characters and moments to play up both a sense of individuality while emphasizing those shared connections. It felt great to see the art and story line up more, and it’s a perfect place to be for this specific book.
A Final Thought
The issue ends, very much in the vein of these capers, with a sturdy twist. I won’t spoil it too much, but it involves a new player and a champagne closet. It’s a very human moment for a midstream climax, and whatever happens next could help this series come into itself in terms of character development and pure story prowess. It took a bit longer, but things are finally heating up.
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