When I reviewed War of the Worlds: Second Wave #1, I expressed a disinterest on following along with the series. Yet, here I am reviewing issue #2. Why did I take up PopMatters‘ offer to review the book? Well, part of it was to spare any of the other reviewers the pain of having to read the comic. But part of it is due to a morbid curiosity, the kind that makes people rubberneck at automobile accidents at the side road, to see if the series improved since the first issue.
Is issue #2 better than issue #1? Yes. Is War of the Worlds: Second Wave a good book? Unfortunately, no.
When we last saw our hero Miles, the aliens had destroyed his home and killed his wife (who Miles ordered to stay inside the house — don’t get me started on that again). We left Miles standing in the ruins of his house, vowing revenge upon the aliens that have taken away everything he held dear.
Judging by War of the Worlds: Second Wave #2, this revenge involves a lot of running and hiding. That is mostly what the issue entails, escaping from the aliens. Sure, there is other stuff in the book. We find out that Miles and his wife were having marital problems, something we had no inkling of in the last issue, and Miles gains a best friend/sidekick/traveling companion, a character we had no inkling of in the last issue.
This new character, improbably named Duke, takes over the role of the plot advancing idiot from Miles. When an alien ship crashes on the highway in front of them, Duke reacts irrationally. He takes his shotgun out of his pick-up (No, the gun is not in a rack in front of the back window and there is no Confederate flag decal on said window. But they do give him a chewing tobacco habit so we can be certain that Duke is, in fact, a redneck) and shoots the space craft with it. Of course the aliens weren’t dead and of course they begin chasing Duke and Miles for the next four pages.
This action was a stupid thing for Duke to do. But if Miles did it, it would be more in character. He was the one making a claim of vengeance in the last issue. Miles taking the shotgun and shooting at the alien ship would still be irrational, but something a man who just lost his wife would do.
This missed opportunity is one of several in the book, little things that would have made the story stronger. Duke gets a little flashback where it is explained that he is a childhood friend of Miles, but we never see how the two met up in between issues. Duke shows a lot of sensitivity in the flashback, but in the “present” he brings up burying the dead to a man who just lost his wife. That’s okay, though, because writer Nelson doesn’t have Miles react in any way.
The issue has the same storytelling and pacing problems as the first. The story seems padded and unnecessarily stretched. We are treated to one full pulse-pounding page of Miles and Duke hiding behind some rubble as an alien ship lands.
The way events in the book are portrayed is lacking as well. A shopkeeper commits suicide in the tiny side view mirror of the pick-up truck, which is easy to miss. The flashback panels alternate with the present day panels, a method which is confusing in the black and white copy BOOM! Studios provided for review. Perhaps in the published version it will be colored in such a way to differentiate them for the reader.
The artwork by Chee lacks consistency. I touched on his use of photo references in the previous review, but his characters change appearance from panel to panel. Duke gains and loses 10 pounds throughout the “present” scenes and Miles’ age appears to change as well, all depending on how Chee draws them.
So, the book is an improvement over the first issue, but still is lacking a lot of what would make it a good story. I hope I can remain strong and resist the temptation to review issue #3 if it is presented to me.