Hand of the Morning Star #4: Emergence

Hand of the Morning Star #4: Emergence (2008)
by Zondervan
160 Pages - Black and White [ Action / Superhero ]

Creators - Brett Burner and Mike Miller
Artist - Eric Ninaltowski

Publisher summary: Now that Michael Tempe has matured in his faith and is honing his skills, he considers an invitation to join the Hand of the Morningstar. And it doesn't take long to discover it's not a match made in heaven.

Reviewer: UC Pseudonym | Contact | 13 July 2008

As my previous reviews show, I am enjoying Hand of the Morningstar greatly, but the third volume raised a number of concerns. Volume four resolved none of them in either direction, remaining unclear on these aspects but continuing to present a story in an effective manner. It appears these concerns shall be put off until the fifth volume (at least), but in the meantime there are a variety of things to discuss here.

The most striking characteristic of this volume is the abrupt antagonism between Tempest and Titan (especially given their idyllic photo-op not long ago). This feels forced to me, and given the fact that this rivalry fuels much of the conflict it seems possible this was calculated. Another major development is our newly married couple, but their interactions are solidly handled and feel authentic. These begin strongest and weaken scene by scene, in my opinion, but we’ve seen worse.

With more conversations than in the past, this volume relies heavily on facial expressions… and here the art is a major distraction. Many of the expressions are decidedly off, tolerable in a swift reading and bizarre when looking at longer than a second. Women and children are especially strange looking, as before, which is unfortunate. For once, I have to hope that the future plot will include more muscle-bound men punching each other. Pacing and flow continued to be good, despite the floating scene that doesn’t communicate well at all.

On the bright side, the panel composition is getting better. This has been subtle, but by this point the improvement is notable. It is good to see some two-page spreads that actually have the impact they are meant to produce. Also, I really have to note one thing: Kwan Yin doesn’t wear pants the majority of the time, then in the one scene where she kicks someone she mysteriously has them. Not that I’m saying this was a bad idea, but it certainly sticks out.

Normally Hand of the Morningstar is very well executed, so it is unfortunate that this volume includes a number of minor things that deserve mention. One is the opening parallel between the wedding and the robbery… other than in some way mirroring the dichotomy of Tempest’s life, what purpose does this serve? Another unfortunate aspect is the amount of time people spend talking to themselves – even thought bubbles would be preferable. Lastly, I did a figurative spit-take at the “How about Daddy?” line toward the end. No, my mind is not in the gutter, that is asking for it.

Theological issues remain mostly in limbo this volume, so I have less to say about them than usual. The Morningstar continues to be associated with world peace, which keeps up that red flag, but there are also hints of the opposite philosophy. As far as actions during the battle go, there is a clear division between the destruction of the Hand and the relatively nonviolent intentions of Tempest. That is refreshing to see, as was the religious ambiguity voiced by Avatar (and it wasn’t immediately mocked/debunked in the next pages! Protect the children!).

Overall, the fourth volume was neither a slide into strange territory nor a definitive answer to my questions. It did continue the general quality of the series, however, and readers who have been following so far will want to pick it up.

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