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HELLFIGHTER QUIN #5, available from Mad Cave Studios on September 16th, brings Quin’s fight in the tournament to an end with a shakeup of the status quo. Jay Sandlin’s story finds a satisfying conclusion for the reluctant hero and the five tribes while wrapping up all the loose ends.
Atagun Ilhan’s cover demonstrates great composition and sets up the finale beautifully. Quin and Shard are ready to possess the Azure Sun as the Doomseer’s visage looms over them, but if you’ve read the last issue (read our review here), you know it’s a lot more complicated than the cover lets on. Additional credit to Maria Santaolalla for coloring work that really pops.
Writing [No Spoilers]
Sandlin wastes no time dropping Quin and Deadeye into the last round of the tournament as final opponents and secret allies. Before we get to the action, Sandlin gives the readers a brief but information-packed flashback to explain the big reveal of Doomseer’s identity in the last issue. It’s a clever twist that pits good versus evil in a completely unexpected way.
The big boss twist, in a way, informs a critical theme of the entire series. There is no cartoonish depiction of purely evil bad guys and ultra-pure good guys. Sandlin seems to suggest there’s good and evil in all of us, and those forces are vying for dominance at any given time. For a straight superhero comic, the reveal leads to some deeply thought-provoking ideas that I truly appreciated.
One side note that’s both criticism and praise, the prologue was optimistic to an almost corny degree. Yes, some of the lines like “Whoomp there it is” were eye-rolling but sincere in a way that made me smile. I couldn’t help but think, “Sure, it’s cheesy, but they earned it.” Nicely done, Jay.
Ilhan’s artwork has shown some steady improvement throughout the series. What stood out most in this issue is the panel work and the page layouts, which don’t get enough attention in modern comics reviews. Ilhan demonstrated interesting panel shapes and arrangements to create a kaleidoscope effect for the story. Several pages felt like scenes in motion, one panel telling its tale and then quickly being replaced by a new panel.
Overlapping panels can get quite confusing, visually, so big kudos goes to Ilhan for perfecting expert level layouts.
Santaolalla’s coloring work stands out for the use of filters during the flashback scenes, of which there are multiple. From the formation of the clan leadership to Tyrell’s acceptance in the tournament, each of the flashbacks is colored in stark contrast against the setting of current events to give them a very clean and clear separation in the timeline and add a patina of age. This is a good example of using color to tell part of the story.
Justin Birch’s most striking technique in this issue is marrying the coloring and design of the narration boxes with the characters doing the speaking off-panel. Sandlin’s story has a lot of ground to cover to complete the story in a single issue, so it’s not always possible to have every character in every panel when there’s so much going on. The use of color in the lettering, coded to the characters, really helps the reader keep everything straight and allows for more storytelling in fewer pages—excellent work by Birch.
HELLFIGHTER QUIN #5, available from Mad Cave Studios on September 16th, brings the series to an exciting, fun, and at times, thought-provoking finale. The story ties up all the loose ends in a satisfying way while still leaving room for a future adventure, and the art team continues to grow and deliver solid work. I would recommend the entire 5-issue run for comics lovers looking for some creative adventure.