Preview for 4-4: Incorruptible 28 and Valen the Outcast 5

Incorruptible 28
Written by Mark Waid  
Illustrated by Damian Couceiro
Boom! Studios 

With the red cloud of death coming for North America, Max Damage has a choice:  Let the people die in ignorance or trust them to make the right decision in the face of the worst possible news, worse even than the destruction wrought by the Plutonian.  His decision might just determine whether the people of Coalville end their lives as citizens or criminals.  Plus, the return of old cast members even as one of Max's friends is put to rest.

There's a lot happening in this issue of Incorruptible, as Mark Waid ramps up for the big finish and tries to leave no plot element dangling.  I admire the desire to wrap everything up, but I wish Waid were taking a bit more time to do so.  Events move so quickly here that I feel like we should be lingering longer on Armdale's fateful decision, Jailbait's manipulations, and the fact that soon, everything Max tried to do with his life after the Plutonian turned evil might have all been for nothing.

I love the character development in this issue, as one person learns that yes, Max really is as literal as he appears and everyone tries to get Max to do their bidding, even as the end looms for all involved.  This issue hinges around whether Max will protect Coalville against itself and whether he believes that there is good in the human heart.  The decision he makes has consequences, but I think it fits with his character.  (Now whether or not it was a good idea will be seen later.)

The art here, by a new illustrator (Couceiro) is less cartoony than long-time Incorruptible artist Marcio Takara, with the lines working more smoothly and characters given a polished look at Takara's rougher style lacks.  Couceiro tells the story that Waid asks him to, though I think he could have been a bit more dramatic about it.  Folks seem a lot calmer than they should be here.  I'd be remiss if I didn't rave about that cover by Garry Brown.  I love the way Max's face is placed within the key.

Incorruptible is almost at the end, but it's just as good as ever.  I can't wait to see how Waid finishes this one, even as I kinda wish it was still going.  Go back and get the trades if you haven't already been reading along.

Valen the Outcast 5  
Written by Michael Allan Nelson  
Illustrated by Matteo Scalera 
Boom! Studios

Not even the seas are safe for Valen and his companions as they continue to try and reach Korrus Null and reclaim Valen's soul.  Stranded in the middle of the Silent Sea, the trio must try to survive the wrath of the Furies and a particularly devastating attack from the one member of the undead capable of beating Valen once and for all.  It's rough sailing in Valen the Outcast 5!

I think I've mentioned this before, but Valen is quietly becoming a very good comic, as it moves further from its Conan-as-zombie concept and into more complex territory.  This issue really shows Nelson's abilities as a writer, as we find out that Zjanna isn't helping Valen for altruistic reasons and also explains why she risked so much for him.

More importantly, however, this issue takes some of the shine off Valen himself.  So far he's been the amazing hero, fighting the odds and not letting even death stop him.  In this issue, Nelson tarnishes his reputation a bit with a key scene where Valen's past is brought up to him by the one member of the dead who can strike his heart, even within its protected metal shell.  Not only is Valen fighting for his life underwater with the weight of scores of dead sailors against him, he is fighting to show that he is a man, mistakes and all, and will not be conquered or controlled.  It's a great character moment, and I hope we see some of the repercussions of this issue play out over time.

I'm still struggling a bit with Scalera's art on this book.  He continues to make some panel choices that hinder the storytelling and I had a hard time figuring out what exactly happened with the furies.  I don't know if it's a scheduling issue or a purposeful decision, but I really wish this story were more clearly delineated.

Even with the artistic issues, Valen is a must-read comic for me every month and one fantasy fans should definitely check out.  If you passed after issue one, it's worth going back and reading, then putting on your monthly pull list!