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Well, their change in narrative format is probably the most off-putting thing about this second half of the series. While the first volume of Circle focused only on individual members, one at a time, this one tries to go for a fully realized story arc. It’s not an altogether bad move, in fact it makes sense since there’s so much to set up that the previous format would not have allowed. Yet, part of the main appeal was that more intimate look. It’s harder to be engaged with more going on. That is not to say that the characters have been pushed to the sidelines in terms of characterization, far from it. It’s just that it has taken the classic and time tested Millar approach of the small odds and ends becoming more informative. A small piece of dialogue can deliver much to a receptive audience as well as a honed introspective piece can. It’s all about pacing and, outside of Chrononauts, Millar has always been a master at pacing.
Chris Sprouse’s artwork is a deliciously entertaining follow up to Wilfredo Torres’ work on the series. Always a craftsman at the more lighthearted, with notable works like Supreme and Tom Strong, his work in this issue gives off more of the same vibe. Of course it’s maybe a bit more slow, and steady, than outrageous, but the linework is bold and easy to sink into. Perhaps the crown jewel of this issue is a scene with Utopian and Ayn Rand. A few people I know approached the scene with ire and disdain. Ayn Rand isn’t used without some barbed sentiment or blatant criticism. Something that is well-earned, but also has played itself out. Millar is able to play with those expectations with some deft skill, and what we end up with is a scene that foreshadows Utopian’s own future sentiments and self doubts.
Overall, the issue is a good transitional piece. It really sets down the tone of the second half as something with a building up momentum. There’s a good amount of plot being thrown out, but the way it’s parsed no longer seems slow or part of a vestige from the earlier format. It leaves a reader excited for the next issue, which look to be a natural evolution. Something that seems like it should be all that is necessary to land this series on a good note.