On first look, Suicide Risk: Volume 5 – a trade paperback which collects the Scorched Earth storyline that encompassed Issues #18 – 21 – is a complex story pieced together by multiple story arcs involving a varied array of characters.
That’s on first look. Once you give in to the story – perhaps on a slower look or, as it was for me, a second read – you start to see the connective tissue that pulls this story together and makes it such a compelling read.
Suicide Risk: Volume 5 consists of Issue #18, a special, out-of-sequence story that better explains the FAULT and its role as a prison at the ready for the Men of Gold, the interdimensional police force at the heart of Suicide Risk. Issues #19 – 21 tell the story of Scorched Earth, a plan of the Men of Gold to destroy Earth – and the FAULT Line for ever, unless Requiem submits.
Mike Carey is at his best weaving together the stories and side stories and characters, both main and supporting, throughout the multiple locations, across both universes and dimensions. It is a complex narrative, but Carey is able to keep it reined in by focusing on Requiem and his daughter Tracey/Terza. All things pass through them (and in many cases just her), and it really allows a potentially hard read to flow much easier.
Casagrande (the regular artist for SR) and Jang (Part 1, Issue #18) shine on pencils while Andrew Elder’s colors show a real understanding of emotion through color, helping to set mood and tempo quite easily. The real star, to me, was the collection of covers by Stephanie Hans. The cover for Part 3 (Issue #20) is exceptional and is the real stand-out of the four featured in the collection.
As for the story, in an attempt to keep it simple and as spoiler free as possible, the volume starts in the past and looks at the origins of the betrayal at Altarstone Valley, which was the event that triggered the use of FAULT Line. We then return to the present, where the superbeings initially sent to FAULT Line are brought back together in Altarstone by Requiem, Dr. Maybe, and T to fight an unwinnable battle against the unending troops of the Men of Gold.
After Requiem is stolen from the battle by his former wife, Aisa, to atone for previous sins, they come to an uneasy truce while the battle rages on Earth. Terza, with an assist from Diva, is able to close the dimensional opening that allows the Men of Gold’s troops to pass through and the battle comes to a halt. Requiem, Aisa, Terza, Dr. Maybe, and Diva are able to regroup and plan a permanent cease fire with the Men of Gold.
There’s a lot more depth to this story and involves the kind of character interplay and side stories that is the hallmark of Mike Carey's writing, as well as that which is good in serial stories.
If you are a fan of Suicide Risk, then Volume 5 needs to be in your collection; if you haven’t read it, do as I plan to and go back to Volume 1 and get caught up. This story makes it clear that the value is there.