Puppet Master continues to provide a near-impossible balance of tying together even the most far afield holes in continuity, keeping incredibly faithful to everything that has come before, while also exploring completely new territory and telling not only different stories but different kinds of stories than this franchise has ever seen before.
Spoilers ahead for people who haven’t read the issue yet and/or don’t want to know what happens in it.
Issue #19 kicks off the “Retro Now” arc, which will delight longtime fans of the series in that it brings back the puppets from Retro Puppet Master. While this prequel is sort of divisive for fans, it’s crucial to the overall legacy and not knowing what happened to those puppets is a major plot hole that has sparked fan curiosity for seventeen years.
The end of that film promised we would one day see those puppets again. As of now, we still haven’t seen them again on film. But the comic series continues to make good on promises that the films no longer have the resources to keep. All it takes to bring back the retro puppets in comic form is a good story, and it looks like we’re getting that.
This bit of continuity is completely forgivable given that Gabborin somehow manages to take a major plot hole of the series; that being two completely different explanations for Toulon’s origin, in Retro and Puppet Master II and actually tie them together in a way that makes sense.
Anyway, the issue itself kicks off a really interesting plot. Toulon is back in a younger body which is great for a new team-up with his very first puppets. He looks like the Toulon of Retro Puppet Master, which is a nice touch. He’s taking the puppets to Peterstown, a commune that is clearly a Jonestown-esque cult. I’ll admit, I saw previews for the issue and heard the name several times before I made the connection that this was actually referring to Toulon’s young assistant from Puppet Master III, Peter Hertz. That was a great touch.
Marco Carrillo’s art in the issue provides a different flavor that I think is a good thing. The art is consistent in general tone with what we’ve seen in the past, but is also a new style that helps the new focus on younger Toulon and the retro puppets.
Toulon is tracking down a former puppet of his, Mephisto. Now, when we saw Mephisto in Puppet Master II, it was not alive. But it’s been a long time, that may have changed.
What’s even more enticing is the cult itself. Everything brings it back to Jonestown, the friendliness, the way to entice you in and get you to understand their line of thinking. These are people who essentially worship Toulon without knowing that he is in their midst. But there’s a darkness beneath their friendly demeanor, as there always is. It’s not a surprise to find out the cult leader is a raging psychopath, they usually are.
But it is genuinely creepy to start to get even the slightest hints as to what the ultimate plan is for the people of Peterstown. Previous arcs in this comic have dropped bombs in their first issue to leave you questioning everything. There have been arcs where I had no idea what was coming next—which was great and is always a good thing for getting a reader’s excitement up.
Here, I think there are a bit more clues. There are still a ton of questions, for sure, but issue #19 lays out just the slightest notion of where it might be headed and I think that really pays off.
WICKED RATING: 8/10