The third issue of this series pits the Winter Guard against the Dire Wraiths. The Wraiths (“brain-eating, soul-swallowing shape-shifters,” as Powersurge labels them) have invaded the Citadel of the Guard and threaten the very existence of Earth. Standard-issue world class threats, made to order.
Presence and Fantasma are also in the mix, mixing it up between themselves, when they are rudely interrupted more than once. In the end, though, Presence proves to be a worthy adversary and the Dire Wraiths are given entry back into the Marvel Universe.
Ugh. Vanguard charges into action threatening a Winter storm warning. That’s hokey, even for a superhero comic starring a talking bear. Misplaced one-liners (”We are willing to adopt.”) and thinly veiled pop-culture references (“Damn dirty aliens, get the hell off of me.”) threaten to destroy this story, but Gallaher pops in a pair of surprising twists that make the last page more of a beginning than an ending.
Ellis’ art is more murky in this issue than the two previous issues, and the Wraiths are far less defined in appearance than they appear on the cover of this very issue. Ellis’ work is all well and good, but Clayton Henry’s rendition of the team, and Darkstar in particular, is enough of a tease to leave me hoping for a Henry-drawn Darkstar/Winter Guard story in the near future before I lose recollection of this mostly forgettable issue.
This series was a decent enough read, but it didn’t compel me to want to read more of Darkstar, nor did it move me to care much as to who is under the Dynamo armor. The last page, however, does pique my curiosity with regards to future adventures, but if that never comes to pass, I certainly won’t lose any sleep. Marvel has tried to launch franchises outside of the “X-Men” and “Avengers” brands with minimal success, and I applaud them for trying, but it seems to me that it shouldn’t be too difficult to sell some of the less mainstream concepts a little more successfully and critically than they have of late.