This is a very effective, very horrifying issue. It's an interesting thing to say about an issue of a mainstream superhero book, but if I continue my extended metaphor of this book being like Star Trek, then this storyline, and this issue especially, is like very select episodes. Episodes like Remember Me or, to some extent, the epic two-parter The Best of Both Worlds, which also explores a form of body horror. I’m not saying this specifically references those, I’m more saying that a book about exploration, space or otherwise, actually lends itself surprisingly well to themes of horror, despite featuring a pair of incredibly powerful protagonists. Justin Jordan gives us something we’ve never seen before: The Guardians of the Universe in real peril, not from an army or a war, but from a source of their own making. One they may not remember nor even be familiar with, depending on what this creature knows of the new guardians. This is a frantically paced issue, cutting back and forth between Rayner and Ferris to the imperiled, tortured guardians with revelations on both sides. There’s not much character development here, but it’s not needed at this point, we know who we’ve got at the helm and the real thrill comes from how these established characters react to this gut-churning situation. This is an unpleasant issue, and I mean that in the best way. Though I’ll tell you what ISN’T unpleasant: Carol’s reaction to seeing Kyle alive. I really want these two to get some downtime together as I’d love to see their budding relationship take off.
Artistic duties are spread out with pencils being handled by Brad Walker mainly with Diogenes Neves and, overall, the book looks great. The insane constructs and experiments are rendered with the kind of care that sends a chill down the reader’s spine, some visuals are more fear-inducing than others, but this is an issue that’s practically made of darkness in terms of both tone and visual aesthetic. Andrew Hennessy and Marc Deering’s inks render these in horrifying detail, giving sharpness and definition where it’s most assuredly needed. This is the kind of book that benefits greatly from seeing exactly what’s going on as body horror isn’t the kind of horror that's better imagined than seen. Colorist Michelle Madsen is the final artist to breathe life into the visuals, giving the entire issue a feeling of oppressiveness and suffocation, like the characters' own screams are making it harder and harder to breathe. Even when the chambers of the ship are wide open, everything feels choked and dark.
The visuals across this issue have some inconsistencies, and I’m not sure if it’s because of the shifting artists or a general problem. The fact that I can’t tell if it’s one or the other, though I suspect the former, is certainly a testament to the issue’s artistic strengths overall, but it doesn’t stop these panels from standing out as looking far less detailed and even flat. It's sometimes jarring how quickly it goes from one to the next.
The method of Kyle’s return is swept under the rug and serves to downplay the drama of his battle with Oblivion, particularly as Kyle himself shrugs off his return and while part of me is a big fan of Ferris’ reaction, another, more critical part hopes that it will be explored in subsequent issues.
This is actually quite a unique issue for mainstream superhero comics. Horror is a theme very, very rarely attempted and, as a result, seeing it pulled off effectively is an even rarer treat, and one that deserves both spotlight and praise. This arc has already gone to some very weird, disturbing places, and it doesn’t look to be letting up as we're only in issue two.