As the series hits the one year mark, this collection opens with a standalone issue titled “The Singh Tapes,” which fills in details about the plague that has decimated the world in the form of an audio journal by Dr. Singh, the doctor who has been studying Gus in an attempt to determine the cause. Singh’s journal runs along the bottom of the page, while we see how Gus is faring in the camp above it. A successful experiment in storytelling which manages this dual focus very well. The five-part title arc shows Singh’s visit to Gus’s cabin–where he discovers clues to the identity of Gus’s father–while Jepperd leads an army of animal cultists to invade the paramilitary compound where Gus and his fellow hybrids are held captive. There’s more old-fashioned action in this collection than there has been so far, and it concludes with Jepperd and Gus reunited, headed to Alaska with Singh in search of answers. It’s nice to see Lemire experimenting a bit visually. In addition to the split-screen effect in the opening issue, Part 3 of “Animal Armies” depicts the escaping group of hybrids walking in front of the title sequence, as if it was a version of the Hollywood sign.
Each of the issues in this collection focuses on one of the group of new students. We learn a lot about their histories. There are implications about why they were chosen to attend Morning Glory Academy, but still no clear answers. And there are further clues about the Academy itself. Apparently resurrection is possible there: we see one formerly dead parent alive again (Ike’s father), and Casey is offered the chance to bring her parents back. Jade apparently dies, and is again visited by her future self…so is time travel involved as well? It’s a fascinating collection of story elements. But at twelve issues in I expect at least a few answers, instead of an escalating collection of questions. Still looking forward to the next collection, but I will be expecting some answers, and more of a sense of direction.
This collection concludes the series, which ended at 16 issues. The first three issues contain an arc titled “Ajax,” devoted to a British soldier having a hard time adjusting to life after a tour in Afghanistan. Guest artist Werner Dell’Edera proves compatible stylistically with Gianfelice. This is the sort of thing you can do in an ongoing series. But while a good story, it’s an odd choice as the series is about to end, as it has only brief contact with any of the main characters in the series. The title arc gets two issues to wrap things up. This it does, courtesy of the physical appearance of the Greek gods (who had been mainly implied before now) and a literal deus ex machina. It’s a winged chariot, but Gianfelice thankfully declines to illustrate it directly: we have to take Detective Dedalus’s word for it. Our narrator Medea remains earthbound, perhaps ready to embark on a new life. Feels like an abrupt ending, but Milligan surely would have had to find some resolution and introduce a new conflict if the story had been continuing.
Bloody Carnations contains nine issues, including the oversize wedding issue, #275. But the opening arc features the return of Shade the Changing Man, which I had forgotten about. One of the advantages of reading the collection so long after the monthly solicitations! I was happy to see that the wedding actually happens, despite a bit of last-minute bait and switch. I have to say that the return of Shade fell flat for me, but the crossover issues with Constantine weren’t among my favorites from the earlier series run, either. This despite my liking Shade in his own series: his world and Constantine’s just don’t seem to mesh. In addition to Epiphany becoming a permanent part of Constantine’s life (or as permanent as anyone can be when it comes to Constantine), the occasion also provides an opportunity for former lover Kit to make a rare return appearance. John’s oldest friend Chas and his wife Renee are also prominent, as is John’s niece Gemma, who has apparently been negatively affected by demonic activities at the wedding. The collection closes with her dark threats…if it is still her. She doesn’t quite look like herself.