[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Robert Venditti
Artist: Trevor Scott, Diogenes Neves
This is a great issue about secrets. Colonel Jonas has a secret that she needs to share with the one person she can trust not to talk. But, the readers know a secret too. The Hunters engaged Damage during a surveillance operation, and Jonas thinks they are still waiting for her orders to take him down.
Colonel Jonas makes a private visit to a hospital room at the Harry S. Truman Veterans Hospital where her husband, Tom, lies comatose on a gurney. She’s come to admit the secret that she has lost control of Project Damage. She started the project to prevent the kind of destruction like the shell that took her eye, put Tom in a coma, and took the life of a soldier named Kingsley. Kingsley was the first time that a soldier’s death and the image of a coffin draped in a flag actually struck home. She wants Damage to fight every war so no other soldier has to suffer like she, Tom, and Kingsley have shared with every killed and wounded member of the armed forces.
It’s not that she is here to admit her responsibility, but her explanation of his initial disappearance and subsequent evasions of capture reveal that she has been underestimating Damage. It began when he survived the initial transformation process, and succeeded despite the numerous soldiers before him who died.
It continued when he hesitated while on a mission and let a target escape. The decision to send him back for testing led to his escape and the chaos that ensued with Amanda Waller and the Suicide Squad. It’s how he has been able to escape the Colonel’s squad, overcome Poison Ivy, and even defeat Gorilla Grodd. That is why this time Jonas has a strike team — her Hunters — watching Ethan and waiting for her order.
The second part of this story is Damage cutting loose on the riverboat. It’s never revealed how, but Ethan catches Catalyst trying to make a move and Damage responds with violence. Instead of waiting for orders the strike team is now engaged and fighting on open water. Handyman gets in some early hits and talks a big game, but when he sends Misha to bring Paparazzi, Ethan encourages Damage to not hold back against Handyman. It’s a nice chuckle when Misha reaches Paparazzi, only to find Handyman running towards them. Damage hits him so hard that he flies hundreds of feet across the water, while Misha and Paparazzi jump overboard.
The next great moment is after Damage has drifted onto land and transformed back to Ethan. Paramedics load him onto an ambulance thinking he is another survivor from the riverboat wreckage. It’s a great opportunity to let Ethan recover under anonymity and continue his journey before Jonas learns where he is headed.
Robert Venditti makes effective use of sound in the hospital room. The rhythm of the ‘Psst’ sound in of the oxygen machine creates a nice tension in the opening and closing scenes with Colonel Jonas.
The Hunters are fairly inept in this issue. It’s unclear if this is because they are without the leadership of Colonel Jonas, but they also seem to have issues with following orders or holding back during a routine surveillance mission. Either they will eventually become inept Keystone Cops, while Damage continues to learn and grow, or something will have to change. The real danger is that this takes away from the character development we gain with Jonas, by making the Hunters seem like a distraction or mild inconvenience.
By getting Damage away from the Hunters, he can continue searching for the answers he believes lie at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Learning the secret that drives Jonas makes her a more complete character and not just a military stereotype trying to get back government property. Venditti is mapping not only a larger storyline for Damage, he’s also adding layers to characters who continue to play a major role in helping our hero grow.