"Bloodhound: Crowbar Medicine" #3 could have been titled "the penny drops," because that's exactly what happens in this latest installment of the new "Bloodhound" mini-series. Dan Jolley, Leonard Kirk and Robin Riggs follow up on the first issue's premise -- what would happen if the average citizen was able to buy offensive superpowers -- and sure enough, the end result isn't pretty for anyone involved.
After the high-stakes tension of the first two issues, "Bloodhound: Crowbar Medicine" #3 feels distinctly slower, but that's understandable. It's the mid-point of the story, the pivot-point where everything is going to rotate around a specific moment and move the mini-series towards its conclusion. Jolley delivers on that, but only after we get a lot of strong character work. As a newcomer to "Bloodhound," I've enjoyed learning more about Clev's family as well as his handler Saffron Bell. Watching Clev deal with Rachel in particular is great, if only because it takes what felt like it could have been a very long and drawn out stereotypical relationship, and moves it forward in an interesting and satisfying manner.
But the meat of the story is, of course, Perry Colvin and his new pyrokinetic powers. At this point, I don't think any readers are missing on the parallels between Perry getting these powers to "protect himself" and people in the real world stocking up on weapons that they are ill-equipped to handle. Credit to Jolley for not going for the completely obvious end result; when Perry does finally whip out his new powers, it is to help someone who is most definitely in need, not an innocent person. But even then, Jolley makes everything that goes wrong feel logical, even as the awful end result starts to play out.
With that in mind, Jolley, Kirk and Riggs make those final pages extremely hard to read. It's a truly awful moment in terms of how it would affect the characters, that sort of "oh no" sequence where it's all going wrong but there's nothing that you can do to stop it. Depending on how pulled into the book you are, this is almost certainly going to upset some readers. While it doesn't feel gratuitous, it's still a story element that won't sit well with everyone.
If so, they can at least focus on Kirk and Riggss' art. I like how he draws Perry and Amanda Colvin; they really feel like the average middle-class older couple, and their glee the first time that his powers activate is drawn with such energy that it serves as a great visual counterpoint to the look on his face when confronted with a real bad guy instead of some empty cans being used as targets. And of course, Clev himself continues to be an imposing force on the page. I love that he's a battered and bruised hulk of a man, but one that is ultimately no more superhuman than you or I. For a character that is in many ways a human punching bag, Kirk and Riggs draw him in a manner that both makes you believe that he can take the punishment, and at the same time still come across as normal instead of someone extraordinary.
"Bloodhound: Crowbar Medicine" #3 is an uncomfortable comic to read in places, even as it's still well done. With two issues to go, the aftermath of this issue's cliffhanger promises to be emotionally brutal, even as the intensity promises to skyrocket. Getting the transition towards the conclusion isn't an easy thing to pull off, but Jolley, Kirk and Riggs do a good job. It's not an easy read, but that's clearly exactly what they wanted.