06 April 2016

Faster than a DC Bullet: Project Crisis!, Part L: Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink

Over on Unreality this week, I've got a review of a Big Finish release of a B7 Production for BBC Radio 4, a one-hour(!) adaptation of Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles. It's got Derek Jacobi and Hayley Atwell in it, which is nice.

Comic trade paperback, n.pag.
Published 2010 (contents: 2009)

Borrowed from the library
Read August 2015
Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink

Writer: Eric Wallace
Artist: Fabrizio Fiorentino
Colorist: Michael DiMotta
Letterers: Pat Brosseau, Steve Wands

Is this the only Final Crisis Aftermath tale that has the same artist draw every issue? Kudos, I guess.

A key part of the "Submit" issue of Final Crisis was the villain Mark Richards a.k.a. the Tattooed Man, who Black Lightning convinced to be a hero for once. That was my first encounter with the character, but he's back here, trying to make a new life as a hero and a member of the Justice League in his hometown of Liberty Hill, a rough part of the D.C./Baltimore metro area.

Like most of these "aftermath" titles, I wanted to like Ink more than I did. How does one go from being a villain to being a hero? As Mark's wife points out to him, it's about more than doing the right thing, it's about living it. I liked this part of the book, and I liked the way Mark's tattoos were depicted: dragons, flying skulls, sexy demon ladies, samurai warriors all coming to life off Mark's body and helping him do battle. The warrior and the demon have minds of their own, Mark discovers during the course of this tale, and he has to navigate their goals and actions as well as take responsibility for his own. Though his storytelling is occasionally obscure, I tended to really like Fabrizio Fiorentino's artwork, especially the way he handled the tattoos themselves, as fantastic creations of light. Fiorentino really captures the murkiness of Liberty Hill throughout the book.

What worked less well for me were two things: Mark's wife and Mark's brother. Mark's wife seems to shift opinions randomly whenever it will help the drama, first telling Mark he needs to do something about their son who is falling into gang membership (I guess she can't do anything herself) then when he makes sure his son goes to jail for murder (a murder he didn't commit, but one he is proud to take credit for, and in a situation where jail is actually the safest place for him to be) she gets all mad at him. Then, when Mark's illusory demon woman momentarily appears in bed with him, his wife kicks him out of the house for having an affair. Women, so irrational, amirite? Secondly, Mark's dead brother is (spoiler) revealed as the villain. I don't know if this backstory was something known to readers of Mark's earlier appearances (which weren't all that many; he seems a pretty obscure character to pick up for Final Crisis), but it's casually tossed off early on in the book, only to suddenly become central to it later on, and it feels completely arbitrary and without resonance. The book would have been better off keeping its focus on the corruption within Liberty Hill itself, which worked well in the early parts of the book, and had more of a genuine emotional throughline.

All that said, this is probably my favorite of the three Final Crisis Aftermath tales thus far. It feels like there's something actually at stake here-- a man's soul-- and it's nice to see that man come out on top. The final page promises more to come in the story of the Tattooed Man, but I'm not sure that ever actually happened.

P.S. Why is the Eastern European nation of Modora (familiar to me from its appearance in the classic Elongated Man: Europe '92) home to a "savage" African tribe? Even for the DCU, that's weird.

Next Week: Is the Global Peace Agency as evil as its name makes it sound? Find out in the last tale of the Final Crisis, Escape!

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