I’ve neglected this thread while I’ve been away. Time to drum up some interest again?
Issue #23 gives us the secret origin of the Drummer. It’s a fun flashback story that gets a lot of mileage out of treating now-familiar and everyday tech concepts like the internet as new and untested ideas that lack public support, which also plays into the idea that crops up throughout this series of certain characters or concepts being underestimated by others.
On the whole, the issue serves lots of purposes, and giving us the Drummer’s backstory actually turns out to be one of the least important (although it’s still interesting and adds a personal connection to his battle against The Four, as well as explicitly designating his powers as unique and special).
The story also serves to make explicit exactly what’s going on with Snow and Leather; exactly how much Drummer and Jakita know about it; exactly what they think of it; and exactly what the timeframe has been for the events of the last few issues.
It’s a valuable recap (especially for readers who would have been enjoying this series at its original “monthly” pace - which became increasingly irregular towards the end of the run) and helps set up the final act of the story nicely.
We also get to see Ambrose Chase in action again, which also feels like important setup for the Drummer’s conclusions at the end of the issue (and the developments of the end of the series), as well as simply being a welcome chance to see an enjoyable character be given the spotlight again.
As far as the art goes, there are some great touches from Cassaday here: I love the way he plays up the humour of the bathroom scene with his facial expressions and staging, and the subsequent action scene is both exhilarating (with Jakita and Chase’s high-speed actions early on packing quite a punch) and shocking (with the fate of the other kids shown in unflinchingly graphic detail). The aeroplane rescue sequence is also pulled off perfectly, in a great example of cinematic sequential storytelling.
But I do have a rare complaint with Cassaday’s work here, and it’s the insertion of fairly crudely-manipulated photo elements in certain scenes. The skyscraper that the quartet escape from in that otherwise impressive giant image feels like it doesn’t belong in the same comic as the rest of the scene, and there’s a similarly jarring inclusion of manipulated photo elements in the subsequent sequence with Stone.
I don’t know whether it was a deliberate stylistic choice or due to deadline pressures, but it’s a shame that in an issue with so many impressive visuals (another I haven’t mentioned yet is Stone’s impressively sleek Nick Fury-esque flying car), these couple of stylistically different elements really stand out and call attention to themselves.
Finally, reference-wise, a couple occur to me but I don’t know if either is intentional. The cover really reminds me of this poster, but it’s not a direct homage:
I’m also not sure why there would be a particular reason to reference that 1998 movie in this 2005 issue.
Another uncertain reference comes on the first page. The green text and computerised font used to show machines ‘talking’ to the Drummer is highly reminiscent of the way Ex Machina’s mayor Mitch Hundred talks to machines in that series.
Coincidence, or a playful jab at BKV for using a similar concept to the Drummer in Ex Machina (which began in 2004)? Again, I’m not sure.