Following the reveal (SPOILERS ahead, by the way) that original Puppet Master villain Neil Gallagher is somehow alive and well, this installment in the series does a smart thing by not actually including any scenes with him. Knowing he’s alive and out there is the only thing that’s really needed to properly build suspense at this point, and it does. The other major reveal is that our current Puppet Master, Anthony, is somehow Gallagher’s son even though Neil should have died long before Anthony was born. There’s something very special about this kid, about his birth and what it means for the franchise at large, all of which is being kept very close to the chest. I’m sure we’ll see a light shined on some of this throughout this current arc, but I wouldn’t be surprised if much of it was kept secret moving forward.
What’s really impressing me is how each new arc builds the larger story as a whole. So far, the three completed storylines have absolutely stood on their own, but the first one reintroduced us to the puppets, the second set up the deal with Anapa, the third introduced us to Anthony, etc. Individual as they might be, there’s definitely the sense that these are pieces coming together to eventually form a larger whole. As great as it is to play with the continuity of the franchise, that continuity within the book itself is definitely appreciated at this point.
While a lot of this issue is exposition heavy, it’s necessary to explain and reintroduce who Neil Gallagher is. Not every person reading this has seen the original Puppet Master, and they might not have gotten any of those details from his appearance in the Halloween issue. I, personally, am very excited to see how this new arc shapes up. It’s great that Gabborin has seemingly realized the potential of Gallagher as a central antagonist, because I always was impressed by how sinister that character was in the original film.
I genuinely felt bad for the character here. Doing good doesn’t come as naturally to Torch as it does to the other puppets, he has to work harder at it because he was a very troubled and angry youth—and still is, as we saw in “Rebirth.” But he’s trying. He still saved the others when it came time to do it, he’s the one who bartered for their freedom. So to see him being tricked into burning down a building full of people is definitely a bit of a gut punch. A lot of that is due to the art, as well. The slight ways Torch seems to emote and the single shot of him hanging his head as the library is burning, both of these things are great and help to cement all of that character work.
This issue does exactly what it needs to in terms of setting up a new story. There’s exposition, but it doesn’t spell everything out for us. Instead, it promises a larger mysery while still managing to give us the usual puppet carnage at the same time. That’s a difficult balance to maintain, but one the comic has handled well from the very beginning.
WICKED RATING: 7.5/10