The story of “’Breed” finally comes to the end after three mini-series that started back in 1994, with Ray Stoner teaming with his half-brother to take down their father, the leader of the demons set on devouring Earth. This third and final series has seen its share of surprises from the salvation of Earth being a young cancer-stricken boy to Starlin bringing together his various creator-owned characters -- including Darklon the Mystic, Kid Kosmos, and Vanth Dreadstar -- to support Stoner. This finale packs in a few more surprises. It’s a satisfying conclusion that allows Starlin to show off his artistic chops more than he has in the past few years in the battle of two shapeshifters.
The final showdown happens between the leader of the demons, Ray Stoner’s father, and the supposed Prodigal (the half-breed prophesied to kill the leader of the demons), Stoner’s half-brother Pat, a ten-year old that was dying of cancer until his demon powers kicked in. Both father and son are shapeshifters, and Stoner is caught in the middle, not powerful enough to do anything of value except merge with Pat and advise him. He may not have the power to take down his father, but he has the tactical knowledge that Pat needs and, together, they make a formidable team.
In a series where such an emphasis has been placed on raw power usually, Stoner’s greatest asset has always been his training and intelligence. He’s managed to stay alive killing demons and ‘breed because he’s outthought and outmaneuvered them, and Starlin wisely makes that the way he is able to help take down his own father. The process through which he thinks out his strategy drives this issue forward and is an unconventional manner in a hero triumphing. Usually, these days, the good guy wins by simply pounding his opponent into the ground. Stoner, however, relies solely on his brains, especially when he looks like a hulking monster. It's a nice contrast.
Over the past few years, it’s been hard to tell what sort of art you could expect from Jim Starlin. Part of the problem has been the inkers he’s worked with, but it’s also been uninspired compositions and line work that was not as polished to his usual standards. Working on his own character here, a character he’s said he identifies with more than any other, has seemed to reinvigorate him and he brings his best to the art in this final issue. With two shapeshifters fighting, he produces an issue of wild pages where you see things you’ve never seen before, with Stoner doing his best not to get killed. The fight recalls the fantastic “Dreadstar” issue where Vanth fought the Lord High Papal’s shapeshifter. With no limits, Starlin really pushes himself.
“’Breed III” ends on a high note with Starlin’s best art in years and a smart use of his hero. After such a hard-fought battle, the ending itself is slightly anticlimactic and the ‘lie’ that the issue is titled after isn’t shocking (or even surprising) in the least. Starlin leaves the door open to revisit Stoner as he embarks on a new-but-related mission. With this series, he’s seemed to have gotten his groove back and, hopefully, it won’t be too long before Starlin graces us with some more creator-owned work.