Saturday, September 15, 2012

Charmed Comic Review: Issue #23 - "The Darklight Zone"

FROM THE PUBLISHER

A voice from beyond the grave provides answers from the past as four sisters come together to solve a magical crisis that has affected the entire world. With an army of friends beside them, The Charmed Ones prepare for their biggest battle ever.

SYNOPSIS

Continuing from the previous issue, Phoebe, Leo and Paige track down Cole's contact in the underworld, Alexi, the seer from earlier in the series. She's dead, but her she infused a nearby mirror with her spirit, so she could help.

Back up to, Piper is working with Prue/Patience (hereby referred to as Prutience) on her crossbow skills, since she's again powerless.

Back in the underworld, we see a series of flashbacks as Leo and Rennek cross paths throughout the years, foiling each other time and time again. Sometimes Leo wins, sometimes Rennek wins. Eventually Leo dispatches of Rennek and gets assigned to the Charmed Ones. But it turns out Rennek was playing possum, and he meets up with Alexi for the first time. Then we see Rennek with a captive Leo (from earlier in the comic series), using a demon to suck the collected wisdom of the Avatars and the Elders. He learned he needed to use a powerful relic from evil (the Grimoire) and a powerful relic from good (the Empyreal Sword) to end the battle.

Piper and Prutience continue their training session when Phoebe, Leo and Paige return with the knowledge they've learned. Rennek divided magic and that, combined with the imbalance from Prutience's return, left the world in its current state. Rennek pulled it off by taking control of The Nexus of the All, the most powerful magical center on Earth.

The group regroups with Darryl at Knox Academy, and using magic and satellite technology, they find The Nexus. Paige starts orbing everyone over in groups, including Elise, Tyler and Glynnis, who gives Leo a new sword. The group is amassed in front of a giant magical dome, when the dome opens and something comes out. "A lot of somethings."

To be continued...

REVIEW

This is the second-to-last issue in this arc (and this season), and while it doesn't quite feel rushed, it feels like we're hurtling toward the end at breakneck speed, sometimes sacrificing character in the name of story. In particular, the Leo/Rennek backstory flashbacks and the Prutience/Piper training/pep talk could've made for solid, character-building standalone issues, but instead they get put together here along with the set-up for the season finale.

The story itself is moving along nicely, and Paul Ruditis continues to do a great job of answering the questions that have come up in this arc in a natural way. Just last issue, I'd mentioned that I wanted to know how Rennek pulled this off and what his endgame was, and that became a focal point in this issue. Throughout this run Ruditis has managed to keep the storytelling on track, even when telling the story in a non-sequential manner. I just wish in this last arc he'd gotten more of a chance to play around with the character development. Leo, in particular, has been treated as more of a plot device than a character for the past few issues, which is unfortunate (he still has it better than Henry and Coop, who have been MIA for a couple issues now... not to mention the kids).

Rubine gets his second consecutive issue as a penciller, and does a good job with the likenesses, particularly on Piper. He really nailed Holly Marie Combs' body positioning and facial structure, something that isn't that easy to do. I thought he could've been a little more consistent with the looks of Leo and Rennek with the flashbacks. There was clearly a desire to change their looks for different time periods, but the ever-shifting hairstyles might have been a bit too much. Also, the flashback pages have a tint to them that looks better digitally than it does in print. Given that the flashbacks also had a special panel border, I'm not sure they also needed the tint (intended to be an effect of viewing them in the mirror, I'd assume).

Still, given that my biggest complaint of this issue is "I wish they could've spent more time with that scene that was already pretty good", I'd have to say this was a good issue, probably the best of this arc. It definitely makes me look forward to the finale later this month.

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