Sadly, Slash & Burn — one of the best new Vertigo releases in recent memory — has come to an end. This came as a shock to me given the series’ outstanding start, but I guess the sales weren’t there. Anyhow, let’s see how it closes out. Is it good?
Slash & Burn #6 (Vertigo)
First, let’s look at the solicitation:
While Rosheen recovers in a hospital bed, there’s a literal change of perspective as Mayor Brand reminisces on the fate of the Sparky Club while doing his best to exercise control over Detective Morrow’s prying—but what’s the detective’s secret?
You get all of that? Yeah… there’s not much of that in this issue.
It breaks my heart to say it, but the final issue of Slash & Burn is lackluster. The series that started off so promising and intriguing ended up collapsing in on itself as it reached its end. I binge read the entire run of Slash & Burn again before taking on this final issue and in that time it became painfully clear why the comic was cancelled — or the point when the creative team knew this was the case and stopped trying as much. The pacing and storytelling becomes far more forced and poorly executed in the second half, as writer Si Spencer tries to cram in new and different plot points and characters (Rose being introduced at the end of the third issue and then killed off a page into the fourth issue). As such, there’s little room for character development and the flashbacks aren’t as coherent as before or are too fast-paced.
Which brings us to this final issue, where things really fall apart. Now the thing is that the revelations, ideas, and the endings for several of the surviving characters aren’t necessarily bad in theory; if the series had continued on longer, the creative team could have definitely fleshed out some of the underwhelming story beats and characters very well (like the reveal with the detective and the motivations of the killer). However, what we have instead is a very awkwardly told and poorly paced story that barely makes much sense or comes off as confusing a lot of the time. One problem is that the comic is narrated by several different people and we constantly hop between each character over the course of this extra-large issue. It’s jarring and awkward in its execution and most of the narration is dull, expository information rather than anything natural or character-related.
Then there’s all of the reveals and explanations going on: Who’s been burning people, what is up with the Chicago detective, the remaining flashbacks to the “Sparky Club”, the big bad and his/her reasons, and what Rosheen ends up having to do… the comic has answers and addresses all of these points rather poorly. Since there’s a big rush to get the story finished it becomes hard to follow throughout most of the issue and even the reasons revealed are rather hazy at best since story feel like they come out of nowhere. For instance, why did the big bad try to kill all of the grownup kids in the Sparky Club? Well, a reason was given, but it’s a reason that wasn’t clear because we didn’t explore it that much in previous issues. The ending itself makes no sense, coming across as rather random and very abrupt. It’s hard to explain without discussing each point one by one, but just believe it. This did not read well at all.
Luckily, Max Dunbar’s pencils are still wonderful. The guy is still doing a fantastic job with drawing fire, smoke, and the creative ways that characters experience different senses. The characters themselves are drawn well too, full of expression in their faces and bodies and never looking off model. The layouts are put together effectively and even if the story is rushed, you won’t get lost because of how everything is presented. The coloring by Nick Filardi is just as gorgeous, with bright, warm tones in the intense moments and a more grayish sepia tone in the flashbacks. It’s a beautiful looking book and I do hope this creative team works together again… on a book that doesn’t end up being abruptly canned before the conclusion of course.
Is It Good?
Slash & Burn #6 is a bit of a heartbreaker. I was a huge fan of the series early on and even named it one of my favorite comics of 2015 as it had such a promising future then. However, due to the cancellation the comic was forced to end abruptly and had to rush everything. I so want to recommend this series, since it starts off so amazingly, but with an ending like this and the fact that it was obvious that it had to rush towards a conclusion by the halfway point of the series… I just can’t overall.