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The CrossGen Report
reviews by Charlie Wentling

The First #22
writer: Barbara Kesel
artists: Andrea Di Vito and Rob Hunter

The flashback to Trenin's hunt for Tulity continues. I'm not sure about the wisdom of including this subplot. It has stretched on for three issues now, and the ending was known before it started. Unlike last month, the flashback is not even used as a contrast to Trenin's current hunt for Seahn. We do get to see the creation of the Dexter council, and get some insights into why Seahn is the way he is.

The other main storyline shows more promise. Persha has convinced her father Pyrem to go rescue her mother Ingra. To ensure his success Pyrem takes along two of the seven weapons of Altwaal. One of the weapons, the shield, hasn't been seen in use before. Contrary to expectations, the shield seems to be more of an offensive weapon then a defensive one. Pyrem will soon be confronting the spider-like Ervulsh who hold Ingra captive.


Meridian #26
writer: Barbara Kesel
artists: Steve McNiven and Tom Simmons

After the climax last month, this issue feels a lot more quiet and introspective. The people of Meridian all believe that Sephie has killed Ilahn in a battle to the death. She is met with hostility when she tries to explain that he is not dead, and eventually decides to let people believe their misconceptions.

Everyone also thinks that Jad is dead, but the reader is shown right away that he is in fact alive. Kesel was wise not to try to hide this. Sephie and her friends all grieve for Jad. Feabie causes some tension by blaming Sephie for not rescuing him. But mostly the people of Meridian are just happy that they have their home back. Sephie comes to a decision about what she should do next.

Steve McNiven continues to improve his art every month. It's hard to believe that someone could be doing work of this caliber on his first monthly series. He deserves more attention.


Mystic #27
writer: Tony Bedard
artists: Fabrizio Fiorentino and Matt Ryan

Giselle continues her pilgrimage to each of the seven Guild nations, this month visiting the Djinn lands. Guild master Atyaah seems friendly towards Giselle, much to her surprise. He teaches Giselle the art of telling a good story and gives her some history of magic on the planet Ciress.

But everything is not as it appears. Bedard throws in an ambitious plot twist that works fairly well. He also sets up a lot of background information, including some of Giselle's personal history, which should be important in the future. The story is self-contained, but the structure of Giselle's pilgrimage makes it feel if it is part of a greater whole. This structure is a good compromise between single-issue stories and multi-part epics.

Fiorentino's art is good, but I still miss Brandon Peterson.


The Path #5
writer: Ron Marz
artist: Walter Simonson

Obo-San and his friends are besieged at his monastery by General Ryuichi. Obo-San has a lot of time with nothing to do, so he takes this opportunity to get to know Wulf better. Wulf had sworn his life to Obo-San's dead brother Todosi and has now switched his allegiance to Obo-San. The story of Wulf is told in flashback.

The problem is that Wulf's story is generic. Wulf is a Viking warrior with red hair that sticks out in the Japan-like country of Nayado. Try to imagine how a lone Viking might journey across the world to a foreign land. Odds are good that the story you are picturing is similar to The Path #5.

Walter Simonson does the guest artwork, which would normally be something to celebrate. Unfortunately Simonson chooses to illustrate the flashback in a two-dimensional style similar to a cave painting. Regardless of how appropriate this style is, his usual style is far superior.


Ruse #10
writers: Mark Waid and Scott Beatty
artists: Butch Guice and Mike Perkins

This issue of Ruse is different from previous issues in a number of ways. Simon and Emma do not solve any murders or encounter mysteries of any sort. The action picks up with Simon in pursuit of his former partner Lightbourne. This leads to a series of caves below the city of Partington. When Simon does catch up with Lightbourne, he is portrayed as a lunatic rather than a twisted genius. I'm still not sure what Lightbourne was hoping to accomplish.

The dialogue seemed different too, in a way that was hard to pinpoint. It just wasn't as witty. The credits page after the story explained some of this: Scott Beatty has taken over for Mark Waid. Waid is only credited with the plot, and he has said on CrossGen's message boards that the plot he turned in was changed almost beyond recognition. Beatty's approach to the dialogue seems to be to use his thesaurus to switch the smaller words for longer more obscure ones.

The art also seems off. The regular art team is usually excellent, but this issue seemed rushed. I doubt the readers will ever know the full story of what went on behind the scenes, but this issue isn't a promising start for Beatty.


Sojourn #13
writer: Ron Marz
artists: Greg Land and Jay Leisten

Bohr the troll has been in pursuit of Arwyn for quite a while now, and he gets his own spotlight in this issue. Marz and Land have done a good thing by giving each of the trolls their own distinct personality and appearance. Endless cookie-cutter bad guys occur much too often in the fantasy genre, and Sojourn has avoided that so far. Bohr has become more interesting than Mordath, who suffers from being 100% evil with no redeeming qualities.

Bohr takes a little detour from his mission. After an encounter with a group of bandits and a bear, he returns to his home to see his dying mother. And while on the surface a story about euthanasia seems out of place in a fantasy setting like this, there is a lot of heartfelt emotion, which Land captures perfectly.

Jay Leisten starts as the new inker, and Justin Ponsor takes over as colorist, but the art maintains the same look that is has had all along, which is realistic and beautiful.


Way of the Rat #4
writer: Chuck Dixon
artists: Jeff Johnson and Tom Ryder

Boon seeks out the one remaining magical artifact that he doesn't already possess, the Phoenix Heart. He thinks that two of his former comrades from the thieves guild have it. Boon also continues to evade the forces of Judge X'Ain. This takes place inside the walled city of Zhumar. Outside the walls, the barbarian Bhuto Khan continues his attack. Using his cannon, Khan should be able to invade the city in less than a week.

By now it is easy to see where Dixon is heading with this first storyline. There will be a great fight between Boon and Bhuto Khan. Khan possesses his own magic ring which should make him a match for Boon. Johnson does excellent martial arts fight scenes, so this battle should be well worth the wait.

The identity of the Silken Ghost is also revealed. She is an interesting character, but I'm not sure what her role will be in the series. The humor and action continue to make this a very fun and exciting comic to read.


Charlie Wentling

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