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by Thegreatmagnet on August 02, 2017

Written and Colored by David Baron
Illustrated by Yusuf Idris
Lettered by Simon Bowland
Published by 451 Media
Stained has been a pretty interesting read so far. It boasts a magnetic central character in Emma the cyborg bounty hunter/private detective, tough as nails and smart as a whip. It also tells a high-stakes mystery story about juvenile human trafficking grafted onto a rich sci-fi backdrop, while also showcasing relatable human emotions. This issue provides some revelations about the criminal enterprise while reserving some mysteries for the fifth and final issue, and it’s very solidly crafted in terms of writing and art.
I’m still in love with the character of Emma. We knew that she was a total badass from the outset of the series, but I’m even more drawn to her human moments. In this issue falling into a protective, maternal role with Mia, the girl she rescued from captivity. Mia seems to have no family to speak of, and Emma’s initial characterization seemed incredibly lonely, so a familial bond between the two characters makes sense. It remains to be seen whether there are deeper reasons for Emma’s duty towards Mia, but given the end of the issue (no spoilers) I can think of a major reason for the two characters to identify and bond going forward. I also continue to love Emma’s rapport with her cop friend George, probably to an unhealthy degree (I’m usually not a shipper, or try not to be). One thing I will say is that while I enjoyed Emma’s interrogation scene, I hope it’s revealed that she tricked her captive rather than engaging in genuine mutilation. I’m not a fan of torture/mutilation, although I suppose in this sci-fi context, bad guy could easily fix himself up with some cybernetic replacements. Point is, I like Emma enough that I’m nervous to see her go morally gray.
I’ve got to give David Baron props for the writing, as usual. Not only is the pacing very solid, but the dialog is downright snappy with some real laugh out loud moments. I have been very impressed with Baron’s efforts on this series, especially given it’s his first credit as a writer. I just hope that the final issue can tie up the lingering mysteries in this story: why is Mia so exceptional, who hired Emma to take the case, and who is the Berkshire? Will this all tie back to the enemies that Emma has made on the police force?
The art on the book continues to be stellar. Idris and Baron are working together beautifully, and sometimes it’s almost hard to tell where one stops and the other begins. In particular, I’d like to call to attention a series of pages towards the end of the issue that features a sunset and the onset of twilight in real time. Both the lines and colors in this issue are on point, detailed, dynamic and expressive. It’s highly cinematic in the best way.
What can I say? I’m very happy with this series, and it’s not just because David Baron is a great guy whom I wish well. This has been well executed on every level, and I hope that they saved some juice for the landing. But more than that, I just hope this story continues after the final issue, perhaps in another mini-series or ongoing. I am invested in these characters, and I feel like we’ve only scratched the surface of their story, not to mention the larger sci-fi context of the world. This story has been somewhat grounded, as befits a 5-issue mini-series, but it’s a solid foundation for more (and possibly larger) stories in the future. I hope this is just the first taste of things yet to come.

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