Our heroes are once again attacked by Spidrax's forces. Just as Dargon takes a nasty lash to the neck, a glowing cloud swoops in, enveloping our heroes and transporting them to a magical woodland setting. It turns out they're on a massive starship, hotly divided between the fae factions of Laina, and the goblin forces of Gargantua. Dargon, healed from his wound by Laina's magic, agrees to smite Gargantua for the nobility of being noble.
Back on Symbion, the Dark Domain celebrates what's believe to have been the death of Dargon and his men, but Spidrax has his doubts. At Prosperon, word of the "death" also quickly spreads, driving the populace against Regent Galken, whose charge of treason against his nephew is called into question. By all except Belana, who witnesses the man's private grief.
On the starship, Dargon and his men fight through hoards of living trees, crows, and goblins riding wolfback, and Dargon takes out Gargantua. Laina reveals she ask for help because she felt the Sectaurs would merely be a distraction while her forces gathered the weapons they needed for battle, but Dargon doesn't hold it against her, agreeing that war leads to tough choices. In return, she grants a gift to each Sectaur: Mantor knowledge of fae magic, Pinsor a prophecy about his brother's medallion, glowing spheres to Zak and Stellara, and a farewell kiss to Dargon.
I don't understand this issue.
It's not bad. There's isn't much depth to the whole conflict of Liana and the Underlings, but they're lushly designed, and the book is filled with plenty of action as our heroes fight trees and crows and orcs on wolfback. The problem is, I don't understand why this story is here. We already have a series littered with setups eager for exploration, but instead of moving forward with Dargon's quest, or giving the villains and upper hand, or following the tease of political stirrings back in Prosperon, we veer off for a sidequest that's fully resolved in one issue and ultimately means nothing. And it doesn't even contribute to the world-building of Symbion, because these are magical aliens on a magical alien ship that's merely passing through. This entire issue is largely pointless.
There are some good threads in there, like when Liana gives each of the Sectaurs a gift, or everyone in the Dark Domain celebrating the perceived death of their foes, with the exception of Spidrax, who refuses to believe it until he sees the bodies, or how the perceived death is leading to a rising rebellion against Regent Galken as his perceived betrayal of Dargon has stung the populace even more deeply than expected. The art also continues to be striking, with powerful figures and expressive battles, and the inking is bringing back a bit of the intricate detailing of the earlier issues.
But it's still a flat, entirely pointless filler issue. Which is typical of series of this type, but not when a book has gone so far out of its way to set up serialized threads. They really need to get their act together and let those threads play, because these meaningless sidequests are doing nothing to maintain readership interest from month to month (actually, months to months, as it was a bi-monthly book), and I'm already seeing why this ultimately didn't get to continue on.
I still have hopes that we'll shift into gear in the next three issues, but I also wouldn't be surprised to see them continue to drag their feet and get distracted by the next shiny object to cross their paths.
- We commented on Scorpia's revealing outfit in the last issue, but Liara is literally just wearing a scrap of tranlucent fabric, again with very detailed nipples. Typical of what comics would become going into the 90s, yes, but not of a kids book from the 80s.
- Every time I think I'm reading a line from Zak, it turns out to be Pinsor, and vice versa. Unless they're in closeup, I can't tell these two apart as they're wearing the exact same suits of armor with the exact same helmets. This is ridiculous.
- This book is still struggling with its mandated recaps of past events, the worst instance being Zak of all people thinking to himself about the relationship between Stellara and Pinsor, WHILE IN THE MIDDLE OF A BATTLE.
- I was wondering if the trees were a reference to the battle with the living trees of the animated series, but then came the crows and the monkey-like orc soldier things, and I realized Bill Mantlo had read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
- Though I do love that birds are a completely foreign species to Symbion, with our heroes boggled by the sight of crows.
- The way this book has flopped back and forth between magic and science has been confusing enough as it is, now we have alien fairy magic science on top of it.
Showcaseketeers, if you're looking for fail, by God you've come to the right place. No, I'm not talking about Noel and I (this time), I'm talking about issue #5 of Marvel's Sectaurs: "Fairy Tales Do Come True!" Yes, there's actually an exclamation point in there.
I know the previous four issues haven't exactly occupied the loftiest artistic perch in comicdom, but at least they slowly advanced the overall narrative football down the field with some purpose and precision blandness. But here we stop off for a psychedelic side adventure that not only doesn't move the overall plot forward, it insults the reader's intelligence more and more with every panel.
I hate to resort to a bullet-list, but it's the only way I can organize the cyclone of thoughts in my head at the moment.
- My first question is "Why?" Why have this completely random side adventure if you're not going to tie it in to the overall story somehow? Yes, Dargon's perceived death is used as a trigger for a potential rebellion against his Uncle, but even that doesn't make much sense when you really think about it, and surely they could've accomplished the same thing without getting sidetracked into this Fairyland nonsense.
- Dargon's nobleness is starting to get really annoying. It's not enough that all of his dialog amounts to nothing more than a bunch of self-serving pontificating on do-goodery (that he often shouts at the top of his lungs with his sword thrust in the air), but his reaction to the Fairy Queen's revelation that she had lied to him and essentially used he and his companions as canon fodder is so jaw-droppingly stupid that I almost crumbled the comic into a ball and threw it in the trash (thankfully, I remembered in time that it's on loan from Noel). The same Dargon who practically shits piety actually praises her for it. He PRAISES her for it. Do you think he would've reacted the same way had it been Spidrax who perpetrated it? Not likely, but then again, Spidrax doesn't look as good in a see-through chiffon mini-dress.
- Speaking of Dargon, Noel has mentioned the Jim Shooter mandated re-caps, but they take it to a whole 'nother level of clunky here. Dargon, astride his flying mount, recounts aloud the story thus far, to no one particular, while in the middle of life or death combat.
- The dialog, always as elegant as a dancing hippo wearing cinder block shoes, is next level awful here. To quote Harrison Ford's famous declaration to George Lucas on the set of Star Wars, "You can type this shit, but you can't say it."
- Command Castle. Cloud Craft. Who in the Hell came up with these names, anyway?
I've read many a shitty comic in my day, but this issue takes the taco. This is, flat-out, one of the worst things I've ever read. Ever.
- I will say one nice thing about this issue. It features some really nice artwork. The best of the run so far. The same goes for the cover, which promises something much cooler than we actually get.
- So, you have a group of good guys on the run for a crime they didn't commit. They stop and aid people in need. Holy crap, they're the A-Team!
- The Fairy Queen is hawt.
We'll be back next weekend with another Sectaurs adventure: "Family Reunion".
In the early 90s, writer Bill Mantlo was tragically struck by a hit-and-run driver and left with a debilitating brain injury and insurance woes, all of which are chronicled in this moving article. If you've enjoyed Mantlo's work and would like to contribute to his ongoing care, please consider a donation.