The second “The Unknown” mini-series concludes with this week’s issue four. It’s an entertaining finish, but doesn’t quite have the boldness of the mini’s beginning issues. “The Devil Made Flesh” started off so surprising and fearless that creating a conclusion that matches it was a tall order. Mark Waid and Minck Oosterveer come close but fall short just barely; this issue comes off as more a set-up for the next mini-series rather than a conclusion for this one.
The mystery of the killer in the small Colorado town solved last issue when it was revealed that the entire populace housed a single soul that’s been murdered numerous times by Scott Tilton for unknown reasons, world famous detective Catherine Allingham and the hive-minded town are trapped in the caves that Tilton seems obsessed with. The issue begins with an explanation of how Tilton began murdering his fellow citizens and why he’s obsessed with the caves , but, more importantly, the connection to the first mini-series and Catherine’s larger obsession with what exists beyond the grave is also revealed. Her latest assistant being a servant of Death or whomever rules what lies beyond is an intriguing twist.
The ensuing struggle between the murderous duo and Catherine and the town is made all the more compelling by Oosterveer’s art, which captures the claustrophobia of the caves well. He creates a sense of enclosed space effectively, a feeling that the walls could collapse at any time and kill everyone. The conflict itself is vicious and violent, but Oosterveer’s dynamic art doesn’t wallow in or glorify the bloodshed, instead plays up the physicality of the conflict, making the figures leap off the page almost. Catherine’s former assistant James Doyle in a child’s body leads to some interesting visuals and allows Oosterveer to subvert expectations with this young boy being as capable as Doyle was.
Waid ends this mystery and case in this, but seems more interested in the larger story of Catherine’s obsession than providing a definitive conclusion, leaving some questions unanswered as the final page teases a return to one of the settings of the first series. Getting there, he does show a spark of cruelty by explaining how Catherine, a woman supposedly with only six months to live, has lived over a year now. It’s a harsh fate for the world’s greatest detective and is the driving point of the next series. In trying to both wrap up “The Devil Made Flesh” and lead into the next series, Waid divides himself and the issue too much, weakening the conclusion, but also ending on a strong teaser that should ensure readers will come back for the next installment of “The Unknown.”