The first few issues of this title were chock-full of mysteries and questions, and in this, concluding issue to the first arc, we finally get some answers. But of course, they only prompt more questions.
Death and his pals have liberated his wife, Xiolian from her prison, but still, all is not well. Jonathan Hickman gives us some real juicy back-story for both Death and Xiaolian, and we find out that the reason they fell in love was because the strange prophecy that is ‘The Message’. We also discover that she’s pissed at him because he left her and the other leaders of the various American Nations killed their son. It was one thing to have it revealed that a Horseman of the Apocalypse had a son, and another to have it be that he was murdered, and then ANOTHER for it to be revealed that he wasn’t actually dead. This book really keeps you on your toes.
Because, yep, Death and Xialian’s son is not dead, he’s imprisoned by the various ‘Chosen’ because they want to end the world and they believe he is ‘The Beast Of The Apocalypse’. Which is pretty crazy. The image of this poor kid being hooked up into all sorts of machinery is really haunting, and he looks set to be a very interesting character, especially because he doesn’t know what feelings are. The conversation between the two members of The Chosen whilst they look at the kid was brilliantly written, I just love the character of Chamberlain, he’s such a dick, and this is the first really good look we’ve had at Bel Solomon, who also looks like being a fascinating character. He’s a member of the Chosen who wants to avert he apocalypse, and interestingly, it is he who gives the ‘This is the world…’ speech that’s been on the cover of this book since the start.
Xiolian is preparing for war against the other nations, and she has tasked Death with rescuing their son, so the stage is set for a second story arc that’s even bigger than this initial one.
I’m really loving this book, Hickman’s stylistic tics work better for me in standalone universes, rather than the Marvel world (although I did like Infinity), and the way this world synthesises science fiction and Western images is just so cool. Plus, the incarnation of Death in this title is just such a bad-ass character, perhaps not as good as Gaiman’s goth-girl, but still great. Nick Dragotta is also delivering some of the best artwork of his fine career, perfectly getting across the twin genres of this story, and ably abetted by Frank Martin’s colours. If you picked up Infinity #1 this week and loved it, do yourself a favour and check out Hickman’s Image stuff, both this and Manhattan Projects are among the best work he’s done.