Chapter 4 of “New Sheriff in the ‘Verse” minces no words in its subtitle: “The Target is Your Heart.” It’s becoming more apparent that this killer is out to hurt Mal, but not kill him. At least, not just yet. This is a crafty individual hellbent on causing Mal some grief, and he’s got a list of sore points to hit, namely people in Mal’s inner circle.
One of the reasons I think Greg Pak’s series works so well is that he’s fully embraced the hodge-podge genre mash that is the ‘Verse. Sometimes, it’s a heist story. Other times, it’s about vengeance and justice, and now, it’s a mystery/thriller. Pak’s slow burn here builds up the suspense, while interspersing the tension with some moments of levity. While the plot is mostly Mal-centric, there’s also the sense that the other smaller pieces (especially Inara’s discovery) are building up to a more cohesive universe.
This particular arc and its focus on social justice and the rigged structure that keeps benefiting the wealthy while exploiting those lower on the ladder has really resonated with me. #StoriesMatter because they get to be the mirror and, probably even more importantly, the lens through which we can focus on our own world. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal the cracks in society and the flimsy infrastructure that so much of the modern economy is built on. Meanwhile, the Blue Suns of our world continue to be just fine while their employees facing untenable work conditions and economic uncertainty. If the ‘Verse seems unjust, I think it’s time for us to look beyond the thinly veiled allegory here.
I was genuinely surprised to see a sudden change in the art team, midway through this arc. Ramon Bachs’ artwork lacks that dusty aesthetic of his predecessor, but it definitely brings a more contemporary dystopian energy to the proceedings. Colors are taken over by Joana Lafuente, and the result is a crisper look that nicely complements Bachs’ lines. Jim Campbell’s lettering continues to impress me in how effectively they tell the story without being obtrusive.
Overall, this issue serves as an excellent lead-up to the impending climax. I can’t wait to see what our Big Damn Heroes are going to do.
Creative Team: Greg Pak (writer), Ramon Bachs (art), Joana Lafuente (colors), Jim Campbell (letterer)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
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