Memento Mori. Translated from Latin, the two words communicate the rather complex sentiment of “remember that you will die.” The fact that no villain (or perhaps gritty, pouch-and-bandoleer sporting '90s hero) has used this moniker was as unbelievable as the title Bulletstorm having never been used for a major videogame until 2011. Peter David makes one helluva debut for the somewhat pretentiously named (and I more mean the villain is pretentious, not David) villain, and makes sure that he earns the haughty status that such a name would come with. There’s a very subtle menace to the character, he’s not exactly “friendly” in the way that some villains try to be, but he seems amicable and even likable. He’s the sort you’d like to see at a party, though perhaps not INVITE to one. He has a certain grim charisma. We see the immediate fallout of his first encounter with X-Factor, but more importantly, we see the fallout of a certain member of X-Factor’s encounter with the CEO of Serval Industry’s wife Angela. This issue continues the series’ tradition of laserlike focus on its characters, giving us a very narrow storyline with a solid core. The characters, of course, come off amazingly well, this is one of those books that you could just post the dialog and, for the most part, it’d be easy to tell which character said what, even to whom.
Carmine Di Giandomenico has done an incredible, consistent job on linework for ten issues now, and that is something that deserves recognition. He manages to do a great job blocking and arranging characters in such a way that the focus falls where it should and the action is always easy to follow, even when it involves crazy Segue-jetpacks. We even get a great use of lighting to communicate motion, though this time it’s from the Warlock-cycle (you’ll see) rather than Quicksilver. Lee Loughridge’s colors, as always, do a great job communicating the tone and tenor of the issue, viewing every page and, in some cases, panel through an effective filter that acts as a great shorthand for the general mood of the scene. It’s almost like stage lighting and just as effective.
At last issue’s climax, the team had been blown up inside a house, which at this issue’s start lies in ruins. And no one seems even hurt, they’re all just shaken up. I’m not sure exactly how Mori’s powers work, but NONE of the people involved have ANY kind of invincibility and while Polaris can erect a barrier, there’s no indication she did. This is central to a larger complaint about the book, which is that while I adore the characters, I feel the stakes in the plot are minimal. The team’s only really felt like they were in true danger once, and that’s of dying or even failing. The interesting thing about a team THIS varied is that they have a tool for every situation, but it’s also a weakness, especially when the story is written in such a way that something like an explosion that destroys a house has no effect on them.
I’d read this book for the characters alone, and that’s what I’m going to keep doing. If the plotlines remain reasons for these people to stay together and interact with one another, I can be alright with that. The art is certainly strong enough to support this as a mostly character-driven book, and it’s bright and wondrous to boot, and the writing remains delightful and upbeat. If each arc ends with a shrug and a “Here we go AGAIN,” I’d actually be fine with it.