Overview

Beowulf #6

Review

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Beowulf #6

Credits

  • Words: Brian Augustyn
  • Art: Attila Adorjany
  • Inks: Attila Adorjany
  • Colors: Attila Adorjany
  • Story Title: N/A
  • Publisher: Speakeasy Comics
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Feb 1, 2006

Beowulf’s first storyline comes to an uneven, awkward end as Brian Augustyn bids a hasty farewell and a disturbingly familiar final stab is dealt to the reader.

In the first five issues, we were introduced to a New York City brimming with a seminal population of burgeoning superhumans and a two-sided conflict to determine the fate of these beings. On one side stood Beowulf, who wished to protect and shepherd those cursed to be more than mortal as he. On the opposing side was his modern-day nemesis, Gauchere, leader of the ancient order The Knights of the Blood, all of whom follow a holy mandate to keep the mortal blood-line clear of contamination (i.e. mutation). Picking up at issue #6, Gauchere has been transformed against his will into a super-human himself, and must contend with the rest of his Hugo-Weaving-from-the-Matrix look-alike Knights as they threaten to capture and enslave their former leader as they would do with any superhuman or mutant. The Knights then call in a gaggle of enslaved mutant minions and they and Gauchere duke it out high above the streets of New York to claim supremacy of the Knights and, with it, the fate of homo-superiors everywhere.

A discerning reader may have noticed that Beowulf’s name was conspicuously missing from nearly that entire synopsis, and therein laid a significant problem.

This is the last chapter of Brian Augustyn’s arc on the series, and while he started off with a strong concept and even stronger ideas, his final stretch lags and putters to a halt like a chainsaw running out of fuel at the most inopportune of times. The first three issues of the book were brilliantly rendered as a very intriguing modern sequel of a mythic epic, and this is mainly due to the fact that it focused on Beowulf as a lost and wandering warrior in a world he had grown to understand only all too well. He was smart, rough, stubbornly independent, and all-around distrustful of human nature and its follies. The action was equally magnificent, and included a rematch pulled straight from the source material: between our hero and his one-time killer, the great Wyrm.

Disappointingly, the subsequent three issues brought about an odd change in storytelling that killed all the gained momentum, though this may have been due to the drastic art change that occurred simultaneously. The original artist, Dub, was a perfect blend of Mignola-esque gothic and Ale Garza dynamism, and it suited the mythical aspect of the series perfectly. Then Atilla Adorjany came aboard with a sketch-art style similar to Ben Templesmith, and this was a drastic aesthetic change. Coinciding with this, the story shifted from crazy-beautiful action to political, in-party intrigue between The Knights, and a side character drama that felt forced forward well before its time. Beowulf is suddenly treated as if redundant, a staple only because his name graces the cover of the book. Even in this final issue, our hero steps in and takes an active role for a grand total of four pages before a terribly unnecessary deus ex machina wraps everything up without a finger being lifted from any of the major characters, let alone our hero.

This leaves what could have been an outstanding series artificially resolved, and to add insult to injury, leaves the reader with a head-scratching final line ("…and the world is still spinning toward some unknown cosmic cataclysm.") that has no in-series pre-reference for its existence whatsoever. Now maybe it’s just the current cosmic cataclysms being bandied about by the major companies, but this struck me as perhaps a very painful attempt to start some uncalled for crossover-building subplot. If so, this could explain why there was such an abrupt drop-off of the current storyline—Speakeasy does maintain at least two company-owned series, Beowulf being one of them, and they have announced plans for more of these and less of their creator-owned projects.

I’ve wanted to recommend this series for a while now, but the ending of the first arc will only leave readers cold. Especially once collected in the upcoming trade, its divergent creative effect will only become more pronounced when read back to back. Faced with this, I can do little more than suggest that maybe next issue’s new writer, novelist Joshua Ortega, will fare better than Augustyn did.

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