by Matt Miner, Jonathan Brandon Sawyer and Doug Garbark
Matt Miner continues his Liberators series with this new mini entitled Critical Hit. The book opened with a fast paced first issue that found a way to both maintain a strong momentum while also filling in some pieces of the characters’ past. Though very little was explained about exactly what motivates the book’s protagonists, the energy was more than enough and that continues here. Utilizing a similar format, Critical Hit #2 ramps up the violence as readers learn a bit more about Jeanette and Sarah.
As issue one concluded, the two girls had found themselves captured by the people who own the grounds and building that had been destroyed. The girls, some ecoterrorists, were unable to get away and the issue left readers bracing themselves for what was to come. In the second issue, the story picks up in that same spot, having the leader of the hunters, Bill, show the girls into some sort of torture room. The sequence here is as harrowing as one might expect, and the twisted dialogue, including the suggestion to film what was about to occur creates an incredibly unsettling vibe to the scene. Miner manages to present these characters in such a way that captures their true evil intentions without losing readers to something truly grotesque. Bill and the others have no redeeming qualities, but the book is effective without overstepping. This is helped by the artwork from both Jonathan Brandon Sawyer and Doug Garbark. The art team do a good job of presenting a setting, characters and implications of some awful things without relying on panels of gore.
Just as the first issue cut to some events that took place in the recent past, this chapter does too. Before Bill lashes out, Miner brings readers back to a week previous. The events were initially depicted in issue one, and readers see just a brief bit more of their initial discovery of the grounds with the whole group present. It is interesting to see how Miner is presenting the backstory for these characters. The events of the group finding the compound were not shown in a single issue’s flashback. Nor were the pieces of the flashbacks written in such a way that they related specifically to the present events in the issue. Instead, just as the present story seems to progress in a linear fashion, so too does the flashback. It is an interesting presentation of background information about both the plot and the characters. Eventually, after learning a bit more about what has transpired and the protagonists, the story cuts back for a final act that feels closer to events of The Walking Dead in terms of its pacing, violence, and depiction of Bill.
Just as in issue one, the art from Sawyer and Garbark does a good job in depicting the story that Miner is telling. Garbark’s colors feel a little dark at times, though it is possible that the inking is partially responsible. The book doesn’t change its art style or coloring for its flashbacks, and instead uses narration boxes to signify a change. The issue does include some great visual moments, including a massive explosion. In addition, some of the decisions that Sawyer makes for the perspectives in his panels complement Miner’s tone and story. Though there are times when some characters or scenes feel a bit simplified, the overall composition of Critical Hit is good and never is there a moment when the art doesn’t keep pace and spirit with the story.
After two issues of Critical Hit, the story is filling itself in. It remains unclear if the issues will focus around this encounter and the events that led to it, or if it will branch out more. As of now, the energy and tension that has been maintained so far has been satisfying enough. With only two of the core team involved in the present day plot, it will be curious to see if the others come into play before Bill gets carried away. Ultimately, Critical Hit remains a strong title.