Matador #4

Reviewer: Tim Stevens
Story Title: Capitalist Hell

Written by: Devin Grayson
Art by: Brian Stelfreeze
Colored by: Lee Loughridge
Lettered by: Phil Balsman
Editor: Alex Sinclair
Publisher: Wildstorm

My teaser and the title refer to an old joke that two supporting characters tell concerning Izzy Cardona. I won’t waste your time with the whole joke, but it essentially works out to be a “devil you know” type punch line. As jokes go, it is alright. (It is no Q: What did the judge say when the skunk took the stand. A: Odor in the court, but what is, really?) But it’s not there to make you laugh though. The joke’s purpose is a little something that we in the business call foreshadowing. Without giving too much away, it turns out that criminals and trenchcoat wearing, humming and dancing, contract killers are probably the least of Cardona’s worries.

First of all, I must take a minute to offer props to the art team. Stelfreeze is a favorite of mine from back in the day, and it is great to see him back on sequential art. He has a great sense of design and his action work is beautiful and propulsive. However, what really caught my eye this month was Loughridge’s work on coloring. The past three issues were dominated by dark cool colors and it worked wonderfully. This time out, Loughridge opens up the full spectrum of colors and the effect is impressive. What’s more, it accomplishes what the clearing of the skies did in Seven; it makes us uneasy. We’ve grown used to the world that Loughridge showed us in the first few issues. It was an overtly pleasant one but there were rules and we knew where people stood. Even the enigmatic Matador had a place. By pulling us into a world of lush greens and warm yellows and oranges, Loughridge hints, much like the joke, that all is not what we initially believed. If the world we thought we had been dropped into seemed bad, we might just be in for an even ruder awakening.

It is a credit to Grayson that despite this, despite how lost Cardona must feel, she is never a mess. As a violent melee ensues, she proves to be anyone’s equal. Oftentimes there are complaints about the “boys’ club” nature of comics and this is one book that proves an inoculation against those unfortunate occurrences. Cardona is heroic, dangerous, confused, broken”¦in other words she’s a fully realized character. So much so that when the Matador does make an appearance, it is almost a disappointment. He’s utterly fascinating in his mysteriousness, but we really want to see Izzy save the day.

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