Coop attends a funeral, where he has to use his cupid powers to enlist a deceased child as a new cupid. He has mixed feelings about performing this task, in part because he has a family now and because he never knew his family due to the nature of being a cupid. Phoebe decides to investigate his family history at The Bay Mirror, and gets a premonition off a newspaper article about a Senator's daughter getting married to someone with the last name Coopersmith. Phoebe tries to look up more information on the family on the computer, but it's unplugged -- by the spirit of Cole.
Phoebe manipulates things so the rehearsal dinner gets moved to Halliwell's where Cole tries to keep Coop out. He manages to get in, and comforts the groom to be (technically a distant relative), using his cupid ring in the process. The next day, Phoebe gets a premonition of the wedding, at which a huge fight broke out. Piper, Paige, Phoebe and Coop crash the wedding, and Cole keeps Coop from entering the church. The sisters split up and try to each help one part of the family.
Coop looks for another way in, but Kama, his fellow cupid, tells him not to. She explains that his powers created this problem to start with, because they have a strange effect on family. At the same time, the bride emerges, and Coop talks to her, and uses his powers to set things right again. The wedding is saved and everyone (presumably) lives happily ever after. Coop's familial curiosity is satisfied, and he's happy just having Phoebe and PJ. They all play in the park as Cole looks on. An agitated Patty arrives and tells Cole -- who insists he was just trying to protect Phoebe with his interference on Coop -- that he needs to stop focusing on Phoebe and get back to the task of finding Prue.
Once again, we've got two covers, the David Seidman art cover and the photo cover. I remember when I first saw the Seidman cover, I was skeptical of it, because I wasn't sure how it would tie into the story. From what we'd seen of Cole since his full-time departure from the series, he wasn't a villain anymore, but that's how he looked on the cover. Well, it turned out that was a misdirect, and a pretty good one given how the story was paced out. And, honestly, it almost looks photo-realistic, that's how good it is. I'm not a huge fan of the photo cover, but I'm not going to downgrade the score because of it, especially since most fans get the art cover anyway.
Score: 5 out of 5
Reading through this story, I couldn't help but wonder if there was something I'd missed in the series about the nature of cupids. I remembered the whole immortal (or at least super-long-lived) aspect of them from the show, but the dead infant thing... I don't think that was covered in Season 8. Or, if it was, I'd forgotten about it. Either way, it was a really dark start to the issue, and kind of depressing. That's not to say "Charmed" hasn't gone that way in the past, I just wasn't quite ready for it (For those who may jump in and say I should have been expecting it, since those were the released preview pages, I NEVER read the preview pages before an issue comes out. Ever. I'm buying the issue anyway, so it serves me no good to be spoiled on four pages of story and art and start mentally forming an opinion before the whole thing is in place.)
I will say that the dark start to the issue helped fuel the misdirect on Cole's participation, because once you've started things off with a funeral, it's not too hard to make the leap to believing that a once evil character has gone evil -- or at least misguided -- again.
We've now had a couple of issues that have filled in Coop's backstory, and I think we can safely put that aside for now. It's not that Coop's not an interesting character -- hell, of all the main characters and spouses, he's the one we know the least about -- it's just that I prefer stories that focus on the sisters, and this one was surprisingly sister-light.
Score: 3.5 out of 5
You know what else helped push the "Cole might be evil again" angle for a few pages? The way penciller Dean Kotz drew him, particularly in the shadowing in his face. I haven't seen Cole look that scary since the Avatar days. And he really consistently nailed the Julian McMahon likeness. In fact, throughout the book, Kotz's likenesses had shown a marked improvement from his previous issues.
I'm still not a huge fan of his art style overall, but that's more personal preference than anything else (I'll try not to keep bringing this up review after review, but the style I lean toward is where the pencils are so tight and the line work so crisp that it almost looks pre-inked). Still, there are times where the style gets in the way of the overall art. I found it most distracting in the bride's wedding dress, where the collar and sleeves could have really benefited from an increased level of detail and consistency. It's a small thing, but it's also one of those things my eye kept getting drawn to.
Score: 3 out of 5
OK, now here's the part where I bring up the disaster with this issue. The books that shipped to stores have a massive printing error, where Page 12 is duplicated in place of Page 10. So as you're reading, it goes 9, 12, 11, 12, 13, etc. instead of the expected page order. I'm glad I found out about this BEFORE I read the issue, otherwise I would have been confused and probably pissed.
It's unlikely that Zenescope will reprint the issue (though I'd love for them to at least offer a voluntary by-mail trade-in or something), but they have offered up Page 10 for viewing online. I'd highly recommend loading that up as you read the issue, and keep it nearby. So now the question is do I score the issue on what it was supposed to be or what actually shipped and is available in stores? I think I have to ding it slightly for the missing page, but overall it's still a solid issue that hopefully moves us forward toward Cole's search for Prue.
Score: 3.5 out of 5
Previous Issue#13, Piper's Place
#15, Where There's Smoke, There's A Firestarter