VS #4 / Writer: Iván Brandon / Artist: Esad Ribić / Colorist: Nic Klein / Letterer: Aditya Bidikar / Publisher: Image Comics / Release Date: May 30th, 2018
The third issue of VS by Iván Brandon and Esad Ribić was filled with stuffy politics. We got a peek behind the curtain and learned about the powers-that-be behind this weird, war-obsessed world. By the end of that issue, I figured that VS #4 would be action-packed; and it does not disappoint. The art, once again, is top-notch; but for the first time in this series, the plot is developed in a way that really left me confused, though in a good way. By the end of VS #4 I immediately wanted the next issue, and that’s because of how tense the action was. And because Brandon ended this issue on a huge cliff hanger. The walls are figuratively and literally blown open at the end.
As I mentioned before, the plot of this issue puts an end to the complex world building that was done in the previous three issues. And we still don’t know much. The issue begins with main character, Satta Flynn, getting a brand-new suit for the 36th Circus Immanis. It’s basically this society’s version of the Super Bowl, an all-out blood bath where different groups compete for their sector which is used to introduce some new soldiers, and the fight is entertaining as hell. Where this issue really shines though is the twist that occurs during the fight, as well as the ending of the issue. The society has reached a tipping point, and I love how Brandon has built everything up to this. In the first issue, we saw how brutal this society was. And over the course of the last two issues, we witnessed the rise of Satta’s popularity, even though he was losing on the battlefield. The power seems to be shifting to the people, even though it doesn’t appear to be much power. But, it’s enough power to make the people up top shake in their boots.
Satta Flynn is somewhat of a boring character. He’s a tough soldier and very good at his job, but he is in no way what makes this comic special. Maybe Brandon plans on giving us more development, but I like to think that the way he’s designed is on purpose. All of which is to say not much changes for Satta in terms of development with issue 4. He’s propped up for a fight, and then he fights. That’s about it. This issue however does see a character from the first issue return, and that’s “Mama” Rodriguez. She’s Satta’s right-hand woman on the battlefield, and her charisma is refreshing. Major Devi, Satta’s new commander, appears at the end of the fight, and her role is particularly interesting as well. She plays a huge part in how this issue ends, and she has a couple of lines that seem to tie into the larger theme of this story. My hope is that Brandon gives us more of her in the future.
As usual, Ribić and Klein shine on the art in this issue. I’ve already talked a lot about the battle that happens in this issue, but where the art really caught my eye was the beginning. Satta lands in a fancy spaceship as the crowd goes wild while he exits sporting new gear. Ribić gives the crowd some hilarious facial reactions to this with Satta’s own expressions also done particularly well. Satta stands on a stage while his agent speaks to him about the suit as the stage is lit a bright white, looking like a reveal show for a new iPhone; flashy, extravagant, and over the top. All for the sake of war. There’s also a giant robot in this issue (that’s shown on the cover) and Ribić knocks it out of the park. It is menacing and unlike anything that’s been shown so far in this comic.
Klein’s colors shine the most during the battle. They are applied smoothly, making this issue look as beautiful as the rest. The issue transitions flawlessly from the bright white and blues of the Circus Immanis stage, to the dark maroon and browns of the battlefield. When the fighting starts, you know it, and it’s mainly because of the way Klein colors the scenes. Bidikar does a stellar job on the lettering as well. There’s some cussing in this issue, and the way it is censored just screams VS. It’s fancy, when it probably shouldn’t be, and it just comes off as pretentious. This entire series has been lettered like we’re watching television, with ads popping up throughout; and this issue was just one long, bloody broadcast.
I give this series some high praise. Mainly because of the art and the concept; but in this issue, Brandon executed. In every issue before it, the plot took us to a few different places in this world. VS #4 is more effective than its predecessors and is in one place the entire time. That’s the sign of making what happens in the issue count. And boy, does it.
I’m ready to see where Brandon takes this because there’s a lot of ways it can go. Some may see that as bad but given how little is still known about the world of VS, but I think he’ll continue to execute. And if Ribić, Klein, and Bidikar continue to bring their best, I’ll once again be praising this comic again for being fantastic science fiction escapism.
“His name is Toren Chenault but he goes by Raymond X. He’s currently a student attending Michigan State University from where he will graduate this spring. He loves all things nerd culture from television to comics and his favorite heroes are Daredevil, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Nighthawk, and Captain Atom. Toren is a writer as well, and his debut superhero novel, Mystic Man, will be released this year.