Oh Look, It's Etrigan AGAIN
I... REALLY want to like this cover, even more so than the previous one. The stark image of Merlin on the ground, the absolutely stunning visual portrayal of Etrigan standing over him, and the arc of light around them with pitch darkness forming an arc around the back.... it's just so AWESOME. And Etrigan is honestly only one of about two characters who would work here, the other being Shining Knight. Buuuuuut, as I said about last issue; I'm frustrated with Etrigan being on just about every damn cover, especially the ones where he doesn't make sense being on the cover. But oh, it's because he's the most well known character. Sigh. It's a fantastic cover otherwise...
This issue would be a PERFECT jumping-on point, the opening scene has an analysis of the characters from a new perspective, it summarizes a lot of the development that's happened across the first arc, and it gives us little bits of new details or conclusions so it doesn't bore those of us already on board. And then thankfully Al Jabr gets some development so that he finally feels as prominent a character as the rest. I finally have track of everyone on a nearly equal status... and then Etrigan grabs the spotlight again, even though it DOES make sense for him this time.
Something seemed a little off about Neves art in this issue, especially in the caste. Madame Xanadu didn't feel like she looked quite the same, and there seemed to be some occasional oddities with the two princesses. Not to mention it took me a few minutes to realize who Shining Knight was when he was out of his armor. It just seems odd to see him out of it, especially when it kind of ruins his gender ambiguity.
And the second artist, Robson Rocha, is not justified for a story reason like Mike Choi or Bernard Chang were; and unlike his work on previous issue, his stands out a LOT on this one. It looks really messy and ugly; and though I feel like it might work on its own in a different series, it REALLY clashes with Neves work. I'm genuinely wondering if something's going on with Diogenes Neves, his work's slipping a bit and he's needed fill-in artists in the most recent few issues (Not counting the previous one, that was NOT 'fill-in' art.), and it doesn't seem to be as polished this time around. Is he working on other stuff at the same time? Is he overworked or sick or something?
So the stop in Alba Sarum does not last long, as this arc is kicking the plot developments into high gear unlike the slow burn character development stalemate of the first arc. Merlin's been murdered, and in addition to it being a big deal for the 'attempting to be the new Camelot' city of Alba Sarum, it's an important personal impact for a few characters for a variety of reasons with a variety of reactions. The whole group has a different reasons to go on this journey, and thus they continue to stick together. It's not forced, it feels.... well it feels like an extremely good D&D game. But some of them have ulterior motives the stretch from 'wanting to life a curse' to 'wanting to unleash the apocalypse.' The next exotic locale for the series promises to be an interesting one based on the snippets we know of it thus far.
In Conclusion: 4/5
Something felt... 'off' about this issue. The art wasn't as on fire as it usually is. But the character development works out as good as usual, and the plot takes off faster, which should excite anyone who was a little off-put by the slow crawl of the first arc.