What began as a clever concept about what superheroes would do in a world with no violence, no aggression, and no need for them, ended as a much different story about a man becoming his own worst enemy. To go from something so big to something so focused and personal is surprising and, when it hits, it hits hard. However, how it works within the context of the entire story is questionable. The ending of “Halcyon” #5 is an unexpected treat, albeit one that doesn’t retroactively make the story better. It merely highlights the flaws in how the story was structured and built.
Sabre discovered that villain Oculus created a device that is responsible for the newfound lack of violence and aggression on Earth and, when he tried to destroy it, he found himself confronted by his fellow heroes, all of them willing to fight for the new status quo. Here, Sabre fights against his former allies and, in the process, becomes a villain. That transformation was so gradual until this point that when it happens completely, it’s shocking. He goes so far that he clearly replaces Oculus as the top villain in the world, dedicated to ending what he sees as an offense to free will.
The ending does have some downsides, namely the remix of “Watchmen” feel with Sabre continuing to stand-in for Rorschach. While he manages to walk away, that opening for a sequel is the only real difference. There’s a stand-off that is eerie similar to that of Rorschach and Dr. Manhattan that simply goes the other way.
Since this issue wraps up the story, it also calls into question “Halcyon” as a whole and how it never got going. Sabre’s story was fully developed and fleshed out, but his was the only one. Much of what happened to this point still seems empty and like unfulfilled potential. For what ultimately became a very intimate and personal story by its end, the series didn’t come off that way at all.
Ryan Bodenheim’s art continues to wow here. With an issue devoted to lots of action, he shows off how well he can stage superhero fights. One page where the speedster Transom grabs Sabre at superspeed before Sabre disables his powers is only four panels, but is so concise and clear in its choice of images that nothing more is needed. Later, a stripped down Darrow-esque page is done in such a way that it makes you stop and just pour over it. His only flaw is that Bodenheim doesn’t quite capture the emotions at play in the final confrontation; it looks flatter and less impactful than it should.
“Halcyon” was an ambitious series, one loaded with potential, and it never reached it. The idea was so big that five issues couldn’t do it justice and the shift to a much more personal story gives the series a lopsided imbalance. What actually happens in this issue is clever and makes for a strong ending – of Sabre’s story. But, this wasn’t never just Sabre’s story and that’s the problem.