Issue fifteen of Puppet Master brings a conclusion to the Blood Debt arc, but it feels like a culmination of events that have been building from the very beginning. After all, Anapa has been building as the major antagonist of the series from the first issue, even though he was not revealed until halfway through the second arc. But where this issue succeeds is in the organic storytelling, which has been the major success of the comic so far.
While this final battle between the puppets and Anapa has, well, a strong sense of finality to it, the book also sets up much more to come. When “Rebirth” set up the seven tasks the puppets needed to fulfill in order to be free of Anapa’s claim on their souls, I thought that was setting up a direction for the rest of the series. All things considered, it actually wrapped up rather quickly and now I like the fact that I don’t know where things are going. I knew that the puppets’ deal with Anapa would backfire on them, I knew that it would lead to some kind of showdown, but now that that’s all over I have no idea what’s coming and that makes me very excited as a fan.
The book has at least revealed our next big bad, presumably. Gabborin did a very interesting and unexpected thing, giving us a whole arc to tell the story of what happened to the mysterious Camille character from Puppet Master II, but not actually having that character really appear. It’s a clever bait-and-switch, as she comes in as a major force in this issue, returned from death and—as always—harboring her own agenda.
Most of the fighting here is building the character relationships at the same time, particularly focused on how they work as a team under Anthony’s guidance, allowing the boy to truly test the waters of being puppet master for the first time since he took on that role. As I’ve been a fan of the series from the beginning, the book didn’t need to win me over. But somehow it did. Somehow it managed to get me even more excited by doing something I’ve been hoping it would do for a long time, frequently mentioning in my reviews “I really wish the comic would find some way to keep the puppets talking.”
That’s not something I ever would have thought I would want, as someone who grew up watching the movies. As puppets, it makes no sense for them to talk. But when “Rebirth” literally humanized the puppets and gave them those great character moments, I didn’t want those small character beats to totally disappear. It’s not just that we get to see those human forms and those conversations again that makes me so excited, it’s the way Gabborin went about writing it. He happened to find a way to keep the style of Puppet Master we know and love while breaking to occasionally give us actual discussions between the puppets and Anthony in the most organic way possible.
He’s smartly never forgotten that psychics play a huge role in the franchise and have from the beginning. Young Anthony is a psychic like his father before him, so this presents him the opportunity to speak to the group on telepathic level, even seeing them in their human forms. It’s a moment that’s used so successfully, because it allows Anthony to coordinate the puppets and get them fighting in synch as a group, really proving that he has what it takes to lead them into battle.
There’s so much in this issue that could feel like a finale, but there’s clearly a lot of ground to cover. This comic has set up so much over the course of fifteen issues. Camille is clearly a present threat and we have no idea what her goal is. Madam Adon, the woman responsible for tricking them into their bargain with Anapa in the first place, was resurrected in a puppet body at the end of “Rebirth” and we haven’t seen her since.
This comic continues to bring in characters from the films in a smart and unexpected way, but I think the thing that has cemented its place in the Puppet Master legacy for me is the fact that I have found myself as interested in seeing previous characters from the comic make their return as I am in seeing characters from the films. The characters Gabborin has created are natural additions to the franchise and this is, as a whole, a smartly plotted story in which a reader may always have an idea of what to expect, but will never know for certain.
WICKED RATING: [usr 8]