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by Thegreatmagnet on September 06, 2017

Written and Colored by David Baron
Illustrated by Yusuf Idris
Published by 451 Media
Stained is a series that has a lot of things going for it. The art by Idris and Baron has been very strong and stylish. In addition, I feel that the dialog has been strong and that first time lead writer, David Baron, has a knack for snappy action narratives and dramatic pacing. I’ve enjoyed the direction of the series in terms of character development and also in the crime/mystery storyline, although I had been reserving some judgment until the resolution of the story. I think this issue does a decent job wrapping up the narrative, although some questions are left unanswered, perhaps to leave the door open for future installments.
The main villain of this series is Mr. Berkshire, a truly frightening individual whose face we have never seen, constantly hidden behind a wolf mask. This issue ostensibly begins with a flashback scene of Mr. Berkshire as a young man, being initiated into the gruesome secret society that appears tied to his family lineage and kickstarting his career in brutality. However, Berkshire was ultimately only an attendee of the slave auction in issue 2, and not an organizer of the event. His downfall and discovery by the authorities is treated as an isolated event, and does not lead to any further arrests, so the human trafficking ring may still be in operation. While the lack of wider ramifications would suggest large-scale corruption at work in the government, law enforcement, and the media, this is only vaguely hinted at in the resolution of the issue. In addition, there is still the question of who hired Emma for this case in the first place. She was hired under the pretense of a stolen painting, but it’s clear that the client was aware of the human trafficking ring. These lingering questions leave lots of space for future storylines, and it would be gratifying for Emma to uncover the larger scope of the situation. In addition, I’m also curious about the Berkshire organization, and whether he has any surviving family that will seek retribution.
I thought that the opening scene of this issue was very effective. Clearly it is a formative moment for Mr. Berkshire, who was initially resistant to harming an innocent. I was also very struck by their portrayal of the victim, who almost looked like she could be a young Emma. Ultimately I believe that this girl grew up to become Karelo, Berkshire’s master who is brought in to fight Emma towards the end of the issue. The Berkshires discuss turning the victim girl into their dog, trained to serve him obediently and keep others in line, and Karelo’s only dialog speaks about serving her master and commanding others in his service. I believe that she is meant to represent the stakes, showing what Mia would become if not freed from this environment, and ultimately Emma was sympathetic about her being the victim of cruel circumstances. Unfortunately she was probably too far gone to be saved, and Emma could only serve her by destroying her monstrous creators.
As expected, it appears that Emma will adopt Mia. They are both lonely characters in need of a family, and Emma’s emotional attachment to Mia was almost instantaneous. Now that Mia has a metal prosthetic, they have another reason to bond. If the series continues, I imagine that Mia will need Emma’s guidance to deal with the social stigma that faces “stains” in this society, which could be a very compelling payoff for the titular sci-fi premise. Of course, this series does not address the question of Mia’s backstory, as highlighted in several scenes where they mention that she refuses to discuss the subject. Indications would be that Mia is a running away from some personal trauma in her history that makes her avoid her family. If this series does continue, I think that they will need to address where Mia comes from as she continues to bond with her new foster mother. The past will come looking to her, either emotionally or literally.
The art in this issue continues to be rock solid. This is an action-packed issue, and Yusuf Idris does a great job selling the kinetic frenzy of the fights. I will definitely buy another series by Idris on the strength of his work in this series. In addition, the colors by David Baron are gorgeous. I love the rich, subtle textures that he achieves with his colors throughout the issue - no flat fills here! I also enjoy some of the expressionistic background colors that they included in some of the fight panels, that draw focus to the foreground action while heightening the emotional impact. I think this series has succeeded in creating a distinctive, gritty and grounded look, while still remaining very pleasing to the eye.
So ultimately, did this issue wrap up everything and address all of the questions raised in the first four issues? Not exactly. I’m not sure there was the type of A-ha! moment that I expected from a noir mystery storyline. Also, I think that the larger sci-fi aspects of the premise were largely unexplored. I think this story is a great introduction to the character and the world, should the creators and publisher decide to continue with additional installments. We’ve only gotten tastes of a larger world and story, and it’s certainly understandable that they couldn’t all fit into a 5-issue miniseries. I do think that the story succeeded in terms of its characters, and in delivering an exciting action storyline with some real-world thematic heft, and I hope they have chance to expand on these successes in future stories.

Our Score:


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