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The thrilling conclusion to this four-part sci-fi thriller – written by the mind that created the acclaimed horror film Saw – has a rocky finished product. The action is the best you can find in modern comics, but the dialogue between the characters is flimsy with Alan’s character seemingly forgetting his established character traits for a more macho man approach that results in some cool, but uncharacteristic, moments. It feels slightly rushed with poor artwork and uncreative plot points, but still has some spurts of creativity.
Alan and Sara arrive at Dr. Ezra’s lab only to find everyone dead and discover Mr. Cancer is responsible. After sharing a touching moment while mourning Ezra’s death, Alan and Sara take the fight to Mr. Cancer’s home base until the final showdown between Alan and Mr. Cancer begins.
There are many moments in Malignant Man #4 where writers James Wan and Michael Alan Nelson try to bring an emotional response to the reader that doesn’t fully get there. During Sara’s touching recollection of Dr. Ezra being fatherly to her, it would have been better to see the event rather than read about it. A visual recollection would have made the moment more emotional, but the strict textual response we were given made the scene less of an emotional one. Another emotional scene between Alan and Sara has more of an impact because we see it and this time does bring some emotion from us. But what really makes the issue stand out is the action.
Being the fourth and final issue of the series, it is easy to see why this issue came out feeling rushed. One of the worst casualties is Alan’s character, who has continued to feel all over the place character-wise from previous issues. But instead of some decent quips from him we’re only given one or two corny ones. Alan has more of a murderous streak in this issue and seems fully okay with the abilities of the Malignant and no longer seems surprised or reluctant to participate in the battles. Ezra’s death may have affected Sara by making her even more anxious to fight Mr. Cancer, but Alan’s character has no excuse to change so drastically except for the press for time – a change to the point where he cuts off his own hand to attach a shotgun to it since he knows it will grow back. This is another very cool moment but seems uncharacteristic of a man only recently aware of his abilities. Only one issue ago Alan failed to pull off a cool move because that was the part of his newcomer-to-superpowers nature. In this issue he is given the best action scenes followed by cool dialogue. I would be lying if I didn’t say these scenes and the Malignant’s numerous abilities are an amazingly creative addition to the sci-fi library and the most creative feature this series offers, but Alan’s character felt like he developed a lot but we weren’t given enough time to see it happen. Some creativity points finally manage to go to the villain in this last issue.
Mr. Cancer, at least at the beginning of this issue, seems to be your typical “take over the world” villain planning to create an army of Malignants. It would have been better to have established his character more in previous issues instead of cramming a partial backstory in this issue, but it is done quickly and efficiently, successfully fleshing out the character enough to make him a bit more than your typical villain. But Mr. Cancer’s backstory focuses more on Alan and never directly answers the questions you’ll be asking, like his motivation and introduction to the Malignant. The issue hints at his motivation but needs to answer it more directly. His character needed more fleshing out, but did manage to be interesting – also a bit of a problem since it makes us ask all the more about his motivation.
Another casualty for the series because of the rush to print is the artwork. Pitor Kowalski’s art was never strong before and it reaches the peak of blandness in this issue with a “beautiful” landscape reduced to a dying field by too many lines and dreary, lackluster colors. None of the characters have much detail to them but the color scheme manages to give the comic a sci-fi feel in some key moments when the colorist uses a powerful blue tint, also highlighting important moments.
Malignant Man is a great addition to the sci-fi library of comics despite its obvious flaws. I can see this series as a movie or followed up with another mini-series and look forward to it, but hopefully it’ll be with more fleshed out characters and genuinely tender moments.
For our previous reviews of Malignant Man, click on the links below.