Helios: Under the Gun #4


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Helios: Under the Gun #4


  • Words: Jason Rand
  • Art: Andres Guinaldo
  • Inks: Kwang-young Hyun
  • Colors: Transparency Digital
  • Story Title: N/A
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Jun 6, 2007

The first 12-issue arc comes to a close for this little small press success, with a tense, contained, well-paced finale that is as satisfying as it is open-ended.

Quote-unquote conclusions inside the comic-book medium – what with ideally forever-ongoing, never-cancelled books – are tricky wee bastards to manage well. Not only is an honest climax needed, with resolutions that both impact the characters, their world, and also reach closures that at least pretend to bring certain journeys to an end, but additionally the series hopes to continue, and that means readers should feel like coming back for more, never feel as though any given finale is a best-to-leave-it-as-it-is place to drop the title and move on. Television usually has the upper hand on this over comics, but writer Jason Rand seems to have picked up on all of the right queues, because Under the Gun #4 feels just like a "season finale," and a damn good one at that.

The skinny: Colonel Jack Shiels, along with the three original NTF neogenics (super-humans), storm the White House in a bid to capture the President’s undivided attention. They hope to reveal to the Commander-in-Chief the hidden conspiracy that has hounded them since Helios’ very first issue, oh so many a moon ago. But the vile Senator Strickland and General Harlowe have sicced the new NTF team, as well as a veritable army of armed forces and federal agents to stop them and arrest them for the cause of treason. To make matters worse, some of those other NTF men and women are in on the scheme….

Writer Rand (best known for his Image series Small Gods), knows how to tell a story, and while his pacing isn’t always all that it could be, his characterization is phenomenal, and his plotting inside this big-big culmination is spot-on enough to keep readers flipping the pages faster than they should, skipping over dialogue just to get the suspense over and done with. This is absolutely one of those chapters you can barely control yourself from cheating and peeking to the end; thankfully, I kept my self-control and the result was a fabulously thrilling read, one where you know something big is going to happen, but damn it all if you just can’t tell what or when. Due to the complexity of this political-espionage-super-hero-action-thriller storyline (and also to its surprising accessibility, even after all these years and mini-series and differing publishers), Rand has kept the playing field wide open, where virtually anything could happen and the plot remains, issue to issue, completely un-guessable.

Relative newcomer Andres Guinaldo also puts forth a masterful mass of pages: his work is solid, strong, and pretty enough, but where he truly excels is in storytelling craftsmanship. The progression of this chapter’s extra-sized tale (29 pages!) is a precision example of just how much story can be packed within a seemingly insufficient number of pages without sacrificing an ounce of action or stylized effect. While he’s still more-or-less the new kid on the block, replacing long-time regular Gabe Pena, Guinaldo, in this very issue, seems to have settled in and now his version is fast on its way to being a definitive one. The characters under his characteristic pen(cil) no longer seem out-of-place. The adjustment period is quickly over with, and due to the confidence displayed here, the book and the story and the players are emphatically his.

There’s a lot to love with an "ending" such as this: there’s a big event at the end, and indeed the story does reach an actual, believe-it-or-not wrap, though the ultimate fate of the characters is far from revealed. By winding up the actual story but ending it without closure for the characters, the Helios team both pays off long-time readers and keeps everyone wanting more, more, more. A fanatical amount of nice things have been said about this series, and it’s getting to be a downright pain to have to keep coming up with new ways to give the same damn advice, but each issue manages to deserve it nevertheless. This is a very, very, very good comic. It’s proven itself as both consistent, and continuing, and even convincing, despite all the odds. Definitely give it a try and drop All-Star Batman and Robin. You know you want to, and this one’s cheaper, too.

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