Dysart finishes the arc without giving the action payoff I was expecting (I was also expecting another issue of the arc).
It seems he’s saying goodbye to Paul too, after giving the kid a really rough lesson or two this issue in futility. Moses learns a similar lesson and ends the story in a far worse place than he started it.
Sera doesn’t make an appearance here, which confused me a little bit.
What’s most interesting about the story is the time Dysart took with it. In modern series, with their trade-ready arcs, there aren’t as many asides anymore–certainly not ones running enough issues for a trade of their own. Dysart basically took six issues to tell a story about what happens when Moses and Paul go to Paul’s old village.
It’s bold and artistically solid and great.
I can’t believe Vertigo let them make the trip.
Dry Season, Conclusion; writer, Joshua Dysart; artist, Alberto Ponticelli; colorist, Oscar Celestini; letterer, Clem Robins; editor, Pornsak Pichetshote; publisher, Vertigo.
Well, I certainly wasn’t expecting that ending.
I think this arc runs five issues and Dysart is three in–and wrapping up some of the revelations–so I was wondering how he was going to keep it going. He’s keeping it going by turning the entire comic on its head.
Turning Moses into an unreliable narrator–who isn’t reliable to himself either–isn’t an unprecedented narrative move, but it’s completely unexpected. For sixteen issues, Moses has been utterly reliable.
This issue has a little of the return to action, but it also has a bunch more character stuff. Dysart’s bringing Sera–Moses’s wife–back into the comic as a seen presence, Paul’s making decisions contrary to Moses’s orders. I never think of the series as having a cast, but it does.
This story–especially after this issue–is shaping to be a lot more important than the first issue suggested.
Dry Season, Chapter Three; writer, Joshua Dysart; artist, Alberto Ponticelli; colorist, Oscar Celestini; letterer, Clem Robins; editor, Pornsak Pichetshote; publisher, Vertigo.
It’s kind of a mystery story and kind of not. Moses is very active this issue, but not in his usual way. Instead, he’s back to being a doctor, back to letting his concern for people effect his actions. I know this arc isn’t the last one, but it feels like Dysart is trying to get the character to a new place.
So while there’s the mystery and the character development–not to mention the continuing question of what’s going to happen to Paul–Dysart is implying things aren’t going to go well. There’s the direct foreshadowing of Moses realizing he’s probably going to kill the local army commander and a dying man telling Moses his redemption ritual didn’t work… but there’s also the voice.
The voice in Moses’s head can’t be gone–even though it’s not present this issue–and so it must return sometime.
Again, the most traditional arc in the series.
Dry Season, Chapter Two; writer, Joshua Dysart; artist, Alberto Ponticelli; colorist, Oscar Celestini; letterer, Clem Robins; editor, Pornsak Pichetshote; publisher, Vertigo.
I’d heard about this arc. I’d heard it’s gradual and deliberate.
Ponticelli changes his style a little. His lines are muted. Coupled with Moses’s narration, Unknown Soldier feels very far away, very dreamlike. Moses’s narration brings the reader up to speed (it’s possibly a letter to his wife) and, basically, he’s loitered around the village where he found Paul a home.
Bad things happen, big and small, without getting much reaction from Moses. He’s dejected. Dysart and Ponticelli soften the focus on the grim realities of Uganda this issue… it’s grimmer because it’s about Moses. He’s running out of energy–there’s not a single action sequence in the entire issue–his quest has reached a lull.
In some ways, it’s the most traditional issue of Unknown Soldier–anyone could be experiencing the same mindset. It left me depressed in a different way than usual. Even Jack’s new life outlook depresses.
Dry Season, Chapter One; writer, Joshua Dysart; artist, Alberto Ponticelli; colorist, Oscar Celestini; letterer, Clem Robins; editor, Pornsak Pichetshote; publisher, Vertigo.
Ugh. “Matches” Malone is so goofy. Why hasn’t anyone modernized him….
Otherwise, it’s a decent issue. The Chiaramonte inks are the best so far. It’s not the best Newton, but it’s good.
Conway gets a lot of story going–Bruce is in LA investigating a school for criminals, Dick is stalking his ex-girlfriend (who seems to be in a cult) and Alfred is trying to convince Vicki Vale Bruce isn’t Batman. Only Gordon is missing, which Bruce comments on at one point.
The exposition–the only place where Conway ever goes overboard–is in check; he’s able to bring enough humanity to the characters, it overpowers any plot silliness.
Too bad he’s got Bruce romancing Vicki though. It’d have been more interesting if it’d been Alfred, especially after this issue’s events.
The Batgirl backup is awful. Batgirl fights with Lady Viper for the entire story. Nicely, the lame writing distracts from the art.
The Academy of Crime, Part One: College for Killers; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Don Newton; inker, Frank Chiaramonte; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda. In the Coils of the Serpent!; writer, Cary Burkett; penciller, Jose Delbo; inker, Joe Giella; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, Phil Felix. Editor, Dick Giordano; publisher, DC Comics.
After a lame Man-Bat two-parter, Conway does the story right with this issue. He’s got Colan and Janson on it–there’s a heartbreaking panel of Man-Bat holding his daughter here–and everything is just in perfect sync.
It’s so well-done, I can even excuse the part when Bruce changes to Batman to take Man-Bat’s daughter to look for him (Langstrom is so far gone he’ll need a mental shock to bring him back) but the kid gets to see Alfred and Dick hanging out with Batman. I guess they figure she’s too young to figure it out.
Oh, and there’s a funny opening with Dick and Bruce dropping the giant penny as they refurnish the original Batcave.
The only misstep is the melancholy Jim Gordon, who’s never really been a strong character in the Conway run.
The Catwoman backup has a rushed cliffhanger, but it’s otherwise fantastic. Jones’s opening scene is great.
Shadow Play; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Klaus Janson; colorist, Adrienne Roy. The Man, the Bullet, the Cat, Part One; writer, Bruce Jones; penciller, Trevor von Eeden; inker, Pablo Marcos; colorist, Tom Ziuko. Letterer, Ben Oda; editor, Dick Giordano; publisher, DC Comics.