Hand of the Morning Star #3: Confession

Hand of the Morning Star #3: Confession (2008)
by Zondervan
160 Pages - Black and White [ Action / Superhero ]

Creators - Brett Burner and Mike Miller
Artist - Eric Ninaltowski

Publisher summary: Acceptance... or punishment. With the world watching, the opposing forces of superpowered beings clash in battles that reveal whether those who serve the elusive Morningstar, said to be a wise and powerful heavenly creature, fight for the cause of good or evil. Acceptance... or Punishment. The Tempest used his great powers to calm the storm's rage. Now as he plans to turn himself in to the authorities, Michael doesn't know whether his confession will place him among the heroes or land him in prison. But even if the world forgives him for his violent past, a re-born Tempest may not fit into the plans of Artemis and the Morningstar.

Reviewer: UC Pseudonym | Contact | 23 March 2008

It should come as no surprise to anyone who has read my previous reviews that Hand of the Morningstar is my favorite Zondervan series. The third volume, however, is different in character than the previous two (which is the reason I continue to review after the first volume for any series). At this point it is too early to make any judgments, so I will merely note the causes for concern along with some excellent additions to the story.

Some basic things out of the way first: pacing and dialogue are about the same as in the past, but the art takes a slight dip in quality. Most specifically, a lot of the expressions feel off (especially during the first part) which damages the story overall. Also, the cover is interesting but the parachute straps seem weird out of context – given that it’s new art, they probably could have gone with just Tempest and lightning.

This volume delves into backstory, which opens up some interesting questions concerning the nature of power in this world. What balance of spiritual and metaphorical this story will use remains to be seen, but the inclusion of the meteorite gives a variety of options. If powers are based on environment during radiation exposure that would explain the inequality, but that kind of speculation is better suited to a fan forum (which curiously the Z Graphic Novels website does not have as of this review). There’s also more character development, especially for any fans of Kami.

My favorite new element is the portrayal of tragedy, which adds depth to the series overall. Most action series are completely lacking in realistic elements such as rebuilding and normal loss of life. Against this backdrop more Christian elements are presented without being overbearing, as they’re rather natural in such settings. It was also very good to see typical comfort messages get decent responses: for example, a girl told her father is in heaven points out that she’s still alone on earth. Pat answers don’t work in real life, so they shouldn’t in fiction either.

Unfortunately, this volume also takes things in a strange new direction. Many issues are abruptly resolved and most of the conflicts are brushed aside. This could very well be a setup for a more complex conflict in which there aren’t superheroes and supervillains but a single fractured organization, or at least that is my hope.

The Morningstar himself makes an appearance in a scene that raised a few red flags for me (though I love how he looks so much like your typical apocalyptic Jesus). Appearing to the United Nations is the reasonable thing to do in his situation, but it also echoes literature that condemns international cooperation. He speaks of peace, which again would be what a villain would do, but it brings to mind Christians who declare anyone in favor of peace and reconciliation to be the Antichrist. Volume four could prove these fears to be ungrounded, but for the first time the series gave me cause for concern.

Exacerbating the problem are nationalist tendencies that seem out of place. The President is vocally and explicitly Christian, prominent Christian leaders arrive in town wearing white hats, and Tempest’s second salvation comes through governmental pardon. All of this culminates in a two page spread against an American flag that is so over the top it actually gives me hope. It seems very possible that this is meant to be unbelievably idyllic to contrast with trouble brewing, which would be a good development. For the time being, I watch and wait.

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