I knew going into the “Rebirth” storyline that it probably was not going to last. I knew that something would happen to force these characters out of human bodies and back into the forms that they knew. Again, it’s a testament to how well these former puppets are treated as characters that watching them die is so hard to do. It was almost unbearable to watch one go down in the previous issue. But this one, as I expected it would be, is full of death. Even though we’ve barely gotten time to get to know these characters outside their wooden bodies, it’s heartbreaking because of how much they wanted this and how attached we have become as fans. They’ve earned a break.
Which leads into a very interesting point at the heart of the issue. Dr. Hess, formerly Blade, has discovered that something is up and almost makes it out of the issue alive. He starts to figure out what’s going on and, more than anything, realizes the impermanence of the deal that they made. What’s interesting is that he doesn’t go to the bodies of Shooter or Joseph, he goes to the victims of the vampire puppet, the ones he witnessed while he was still Blade. He talks to them almost as a confession, determining that the things they did as puppets—whether under the influence of a master or not—were still things they did, and that they do not deserve to be free.This moment in a Puppet Master comic book actually made me misty eyed. It reaffirmed so much for me as a lifelong fan to read this and discover that I love and relate to Blade not just as a design or a prop or a toy, but well and truly as a character. That’s the key to what Shawn Gabborin has done here: he’s made Puppet Master a character piece. Even when this story arc wraps up and these characters are probably returned to their wooden bodies, they’ll be dealing with the things they went through here for some time to come.
The most important thing about not only this issue but the “Rebirth” arc as a whole is that while it might be self contained, it is not a one-off storyline. It has already had very clear ramifications and consequences for both the characters and the overall mythology. As I pointed out in my review of the previous issue, I never expected—to be brutally honest—to see Puppet Master get great again. I never expected to be revisiting it as an adult and see it as great as it was in the very beginning. And I definitely never expected to be able to say that it’s one of the best horror comics on the market today, but that’s nonetheless where we are, and that’s what it is.
There are still plenty of questions going forward. The overall plan as to why these people are being hunted down by the former puppets is much clearer now, but only leads to a thousand more questions. We still don’t know everything about Torch’s backstory and the brief glimpses we get of him in this issue are intriguing to say the least. More than anything, the stage is set for a hell of a climax. Eight puppets were returned to human life. Three of those human lives remain. As both a reader and a lifelong fan of this series, I can’t wait for the next issue, and the one after that, and the one after that…
WICKED RATING: [usr 9]