Cover Rank: 8/10. This cover serves an accurate depiction of the ensuing issue and truthfully, the series as a whole: Scot Free and Big Barda struggling to stand together under a constant barrage of fire from all sides. The fact that the aggressors are not shown, speaks to the nebulous aspect of their foes who, while we know it’s the gods of New Genesis, exactly what’s driving this clash has been a constant question throughout the series. Darkseid is pulling strings, but who is the puppet has continued to be a mystery.
Best Variant Issue: 7/10. This issues only variant depicts his face, with an exceedingly panicked look about it, peeking through a small opening in a box. It works on a few different levels all dependent upon whether you choose to read it as him attempting to claw his way free from the horrors of his past or his desperate struggle to keep from being swept under by the tides of the greater forces at work. The reason I give the nod to the standard over the variant is the simple fact that this issue is completely focused on both Barda and Scott which the variant doesn’t reflect.
What I Like: As I said in our 2017 awards, this series has been the biggest and best surprise for me personally in a very long while, and this issue just reaffirms that. Mr. Miracle’s claim to fame is that he’s the greatest escape artist of three worlds and this chapter shows the counter to that by tasking this duo with infiltrating the stronghold of the “High Father”, Orion. Watching them peel their way through the defensive layers the New Gods have put in place, with relative ease, speaks more to the competence of the characters than the ineptitude of their adversaries. It is an impressive feat that is generally reserved only for Batman in the DCU, yet it feels quite natural for the characters at play here.
What really makes all of the above stand out even more so than the physical acts of progressing deeper into the gauntlet, is that it’s all done with a truly mundane conversation running throughout the entire ordeal. Whether they’re navigating a web of lasers, battling a giant sea creature, or just your “standard” guards, it’s all done against a backdrop of Barda wanting to remodel their home. Scott, somewhat bewildered by the necessity of altering “their” space, is constantly trying to justify why everything from an old friend’s cigar box collection to Barda’s closet are perfect just as they are. The crux of it being after the hell they survived growing up under Darkseid’s thumb on Apokolips, he’s finally found a place where he’s happy and doesn’t want things to change. But of course change is a part of life and Barda has her reasons which she reveals on the doorstep of Orion’s sanctum…she’s pregnant. That’s the thing about this story as a whole, despite all of the questions about who has fallen under the domineering sway of Darkseid’s influence, the core is found in the humanity of these gods and the love they share.
Aside from the core beats of Scott and Barda’s journey I feel I need to touch upon two things I really enjoyed about issue #6. First up is the stylistic choice they made concerning the layout of the issue. Throughout they adhere to a classic 9 panel layout and the whole thing bears the trappings of a videogame. Each section of the story follows a consistent theme of navigating various set-piece challenges culminating in the familiar “boss” door. The fight scenes in particular play homage to the 2d fighters of old.
Finally the exchanges between the guards of New Genesis were a delight. In no way, shape, or form were they important to the overarching plot, but they added nice little bits to breakup the ongoing discussion of renovation that dominated the story. I find myself surprised at writing that statement, and yet it’s true.
What I Didn’t Like: Honestly, as far as the issue itself, the complaints I have are relatively minor. If issue 6 is your jumping on point with the series, I can see some confusion setting in as you try to figure out what exactly is going on and more crucially why exactly the heroes are invading the home of the, generally, noble New Gods. Which to be fair, their reasons are never really brought up during the course of the issue, but it definitely helps this quirky story streamline itself by foregoing the standard recap. My biggest problem however is more due to a technical problem with its release. In my case, the nearest comic book shop is over an hour away from my house so I have shifted to a predominantly digital format for my comics which generally works out just fine. Unfortunately the digital release did not include the final two pages of this issue, so at this time I’m missing a rather crucial part of the story. I won’t be publishing this review until an updated release is made available but the fact that I’m forced to wait for the fix is off-putting to say the least.
Best Moment: Despite it being telegraphed throughout the course of the whole story, I have to say Barda’s reveal about her pregnancy is what stands out to me the most. As I mentioned, the human element of this tale is the crux of the series as a whole and the announcement is a rare beacon of light in the desolate arc which is unfolding. Happiness has been in short supply thus far and, especially after having attempted suicide earlier in the series, Scott NEEDS a reason to persevere through the trials and tribulations he’s undergoing. Outside of the questionable decision making Barda was exhibiting by potentially risking the new life growing inside her, as the capstone to the midway point of the arc, it came just when it was needed.
Ending: (author’s note:final pages were just made available but I’m leaving my earlier thoughts “as is”) 9/10. As Scott steps into the throne room, the art style shifts to a more distorted view. Scott finding Orion, apparently dead, lying on the floor gives a nice call back to a thread that has popped up throughout the run. “Darkseid is.” What we get from this phrase is that the tyrannical Darkseid is in control. He is God (with a capital G) of this universe. This is not good news. In the past, this has been his driving goal and now he’s succeeded.
What I’m Looking Forward To: Now that I have read the absolutely crucial missing pages, I’m very much looking forward to seeing just how exactly Darkseid manipulated the players in this epic game of his and achieved his aims. Scott has clearly been targeted for a reason and I can’t wait to solve the mystery as to why that is and where he can go from here. Combating God is never a small issue. It’s hard to imagine a darker note on which to end an issue and unfortunately they’re taking a small break before pushing on with #7, but if the first half of the series is any indication it promises to be quite a ride.
Overall Score: 9/10
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