Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Electric Warriors #3 Review and Spoilers

Biting Off More Than We Can Chew…

Written by: Steve Orlando

Art by: Travel Foreman
Colours by: Hi-Fi
Letters by: Travis Lanham
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: January 16, 2019

A state of post-flu weakness – light-headed, enervated, lacking appetite, gullible – might actually be the ideal condition in which to read a Steve Orlando comic. Too feeble to rant and rail against the excesses of the script, one tends to just let the story flow on, absently noting its inconsistencies and heavy-handedness while not being able to summon up even the smallest shred of indignation about how silly it all is. And so it has been with Electric Warriors 3. Last month's cliffhanger is about to be resolved. And a couple of significant mysteries are about to be revealed. (The mysteries themselves, that is – any explanation of them is some way off yet.) Buckle up, pilgrims! It's going to be a ludicrous – and curiously chewy – ride…

We start with our weirdly anachronistic (and anachronistically severe) Firestorm chewing the fat with his Gil'Dishpan… well, that's the thing, isn't it? What precisely is the relationship between ol' flamehead and that august aquatic race? We're still not 100% sure at this point, so I'll go for 'partners'. That said, Firestorm makes it clear that the diplomacy by single combat thing was his idea and that his purpose in coming up with it was, in his mind at least, honorable. The single combat that is taking up his attention at present is, of course, the one between Earth's two representatives – Ian 'War Cry' Navarro and the octopus-girl Kana whose nom de guerre is 'Deep Dweller'. Given how protracted Ian's first bout was, this one is over pretty quickly. Reluctant to kill Kana because she literally saved his life last issue, Ian nevertheless gives in to the pressure of tribal politics and explodes her head with focused blasts of sound emanating from his palms. Ouch.

While that somewhat perfunctory resolution to a fight that I thought would mean more is taking place, elsewhere on the Warground the fight between Vrang warrior Inceptor and the champion of Bismoll Supermaw is coming to its end. (Bismoll, of course, is where Matter-Eater Lad of the Legion of Super-heroes comes from. Supermaw. It all makes sense now.) Inceptor wins the bout but in doing so his telepathy catches a glimpse of a scene in which a group of prosperous-looking aliens is gathered around a dining table on which lie the remains of two former electric warriors. These warriors, disturbingly, appear to be the plat du jour for the assembled gathering, which presumably includes a Gil'Dishpan from whose perspective Inceptor is seeing this moment. The thing that freaks out Inceptor, however, is not, apparently, the clear cannibalism going on but the fact that one of the aliens has mentioned a "Lord Preceptor" – someone of whom Inceptor and the other electric warriors have not even heard. It is this revelation that Inceptor decides he must take to Orthus, the veteran warrior we were introduced to last month who seems to be the leader of the warriors' incipient resistance.

Unfortunately, he's about to get bitten to death by Serene, the ironically-named Khund warrior we met last issue and who graces this issue's cover. With the natural leadership of Orthus dispensed with, it's up to the relative newcomers of the current batch of electric warriors to try and figure out just what's going on for themselves. Which leads to this issue's ending in which Ian uses his sonic powers to eavesdrop on Covenant's ruling classes and finds out about their penchant for warrior flesh which he could have known if Inceptor had just been bothered to tell everyone about it in the first place.

Along the way, it is revealed that Kana isn't dead, after all. War Cry's 'headshot' is not sufficient to kill a creature with nine brains. (Seriously, check it out. Octopuses are weird…) Inceptor has a quite touching moment with the Dominator warrior whom he names 'Beautiful Kin'. (Awww.) And that's… pretty much it.

Fairly clearly, this issue marks a significant change in direction for the story. Our heroes are now in full-on insurrection/investigation mode and there are, admittedly, some intriguing mysteries to unpick. That said, there's something very… functional about it all. Orlando tries to develop his characters and with the Inceptor/Dominator friendship he does a pretty good job, but other moments of characterisation (Ian's guilt at having killed Kana; Serene's reaction to that guilt) don't feel anywhere near as strong. And that plot, of course, has to keep moving.

Speaking of which, I wonder what the reaction back on Earth to Ian's victory over Kana was. There's an opportunity to explore the broader implications of combat in the arena and what it means for the losing and winning sides, but, having sketched out the basics last issue, Orlando seems to have no interest in exploring this issue further. What we seem to be headed for is a mystery story in which the 'true' story behind Covenant is revealed, but the sense that there's plenty more that could have been done with the initial premise is difficult to shake.

Finally, a word about the art. My ARC came without credits, so I can't be absolutely certain but this issue feels less polished than the last two visually and I'm tempted to suggest that the colorist might be different. This isn't a catastrophic drop in quality – Foreman's art is still generally excellent – but it's still a noticeable one.

Bits and Pieces:

This is a quick-moving third part to what remains a quirky series with an interesting premise. I'm not entirely sure I like where this series is going now, though. There was plenty of mileage still left in the notion of combat diplomacy played out on a galactic stage, but that's not, I don't think, what we're going to get from now on. Foreman's art continues to impress, for the most part. Orlando's script has its moments of overwrought angst and character stupidity, but there are some touching moments, too, and Ian Navarro is turning out to be a likable and sympathetic character.


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