"The Cape" is without a doubt one of the most aggressively fantastic books of 2011. This haunting tale is unlike anything else you are reading. It is also one of the few tales that feels like it would, and should, only work as a comic mini-series. This particular issue sees our sociopathic lead crossing off a second death from his master list.
There isn't a lot of plot progression in this issue. There is one major action and then an opposite, yet not equal, reaction. We delve into two flashbacks that detail character and we end with a set up for the final issue. This issue should feel thin and yet it doesn't because of the scope of the major action portrayed. This is just too much nasty fun to feel like you got short changed. If you thought the 'bear from on high' last issue was something, then this will really float your boat. Just think of what a man flying with a chainsaw in his hands can really do.
There's a comical silliness to Eric's action in this issue's bombastic opener and yet it's treated so seriously the veneer of cartoon violence soon gives way to the sort of hysteria we see around real catastrophes. This might sound like a punchline but it's delivered with the cheek making contact with your grinding teeth instead of your tongue. In an age where double splash pages are doled out only for the most action packed and meaningless scenes, there is a spread in this issue that is glorious in its artistic rendering but also its intent. This double splash isn't used to simply look cool -- though it certainly does -- but instead to subdue you until you realize the amount of awe in front of you and then you invest in what is moments away from happening. This moment is an example of how comics can use the form on the page to control the reader and direct not just the flow of the tale but the emotions it elicits.
With our hearts racing and our adrenaline spiking, the rest of the issue drops down to build more tension. There is one more death to go and Eric is an entity unstoppable in his intentions and his methods. He's become a boogeyman for his family and no one else seems to understand the severity of the situation. It makes you feel like he'll get away with it all and, if he does, we can only help but wonder where we would be left and what might come next. The ethical and personal questions raised in this book are discrete and made to break your world.
Zach Howard draws this book like no one else ever could. Within a handful of pages, you'll realize his facial expressions are always spot on and his panel to panel composition is stellar. Little moments like his mother looking out the window and seeing him floating in the air or him drawing a chap stick from his pocket are brilliantly placed amongst the more open and obvious examples of why this book is so phenomenal. Eric has become a very passive looking man to his aggressive exploits. Every simple look on his face belies a core that is less and less conflicted by his path. Nelson Daniel's colors understand when to throttle down the tempo and when the scene needs to be as bright as our memories. His faded clothes on every character make this world feel well worn and beaten down.
For every comic reader jaded with the standard fare of comics, "The Cape" stands ready to welcome you. The story of a bad man turning worse avoids cackling cliches and instead makes you worry for the state of society because this seems so easy to actually occur. There are plenty of apathetic souls like Eric who take their kicks as they find them. Luckily, there aren't as many flying capes floating about. We hope.