Writer: Jim Zub & Andrew Wheeler
Artist: Vaneda Vireak
Colourist: Alexander Perkins
Publisher: Chapterhouse Comics
A review by Billy Seguire
Freelance #2 feels slower than its first issue, though the change in pace isn’t entirely unwelcome after such a bombastic start. Less action gives way to more character moments and we learn more about all three of our central characters as the team heads towards a singular goal. In Freelance #2 we begin to see the shape of our world more clearly, and the writing team continues to make this series a far-reaching, interdimensional affair.
While the climax of the first issue ended with Lance on the other side of the scar, Freelance #2 resolves this cliffhanger faster than I expected with an easy solution for Lance (and the man he jumped in to rescue) to come back. It’s clear that this moment was always supposed to be a tease of things to come, introducing the looming questions Lance has about his past and why he felt “at home” in such a dark place. I’m intrigued. There definitely seems to be a connection, but Freelance #2 gives us few clues as to what it could be. It’s clear Lance wanted to explore, but the story reaffirms his pure brand of heroism by getting the man to safety as quickly as possible.
Yet taken as a whole, Freelance #2 is unmistakably John Cabot’s issue. There’s less in here about Lance when John and his associates in the criminal world are what drive the story forward and he truly leads the plot of this issue. Exploring the sexuality of the book’s protagonists in much more blatant terms, Zub and Wheeler let the conversation come up organically in a conversation with an ex-lover who clearly wants more from John, but sees the connection he has to Lance as something solid enough not to mess with. The relationships between these characters are taking their time to develop, and I like the sense of tension to even bringing the topic up when adventures take top priority.
The international intrigue of the Ukrainian arms dealer feels at home with the globetrotting premise of the series, and I like how the scenes seem to skip around without any real landing point. Home, for the Freelance team, is wherever the action takes them. It feels more like an action movie with heroes who are caught up where they don’t belong. I have no doubt these characters can handle themselves against the cosmic forces they’re pursuing, but it’s not as simple a task as it would be for Captain Canuck or Northguard to swoop in and save the day.
Of course, I also raved about Apollyon’s mystical elements in my last review. Continuing the story here, we get a little more insight into the character without diminishing her power in any way. While I initially read her as some sort of interdimensional demon, Zub and Wheeler reveal her here as a dark archaeologist, armed with the technology of an ancient people. As Arthur C. Clarke said, sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. We also learn a lot more about Whisper, Apollyon’s human travelling companion, leaving us with another sizable cliffhanger for issue three to pick up on.
As with the first issue, the visual style of Freelance is a genuine highpoint. There’s an incredible sense of colour to the entire issue, from golden light shining down in the Istanbul sequence to the greys and blacks of a backroom office deal. Sequences feel like they have identity and purpose. While only viewed briefly, the world beyond the scar is so beautifully otherworldly and overwhelmingly violet that I can only sit back and enjoy the Lovecraftian atmosphere.
While Alex Perkins provided cover art that is definitely eye-catching, this is definitely not a book to judge wholly by its cover. The version of Lance Valiant you see on the front of these issues promises something different than what you see on the page, with different body types telling a vastly different story. I feel like more people might be willing to pick up Freelance if they knew it was drawn in Vireak’s own lithe, kinetic style. I don’t know if this is due to a design change after the covers were commissioned, but I much prefer the interiors. It’s a style of design that feels much more at home with Zub and Wheeler’s writing than the traditional strongman we see first.
Check It Out. I was a little disappointed by how the promise of Freelance #1 was resolved so quickly, but the high from that first issue still packs a punch through the slower moments of Freelance #2. The question of where Lance Valiant actually comes from is made significantly more interesting by the implications of what was seen on the other side of the scar, and the repercussions of a link between Tasha and another character will definitely throw more questions up in the air. The team now have their mission. It’s up to future issues to see how far down the rabbit hole this story will go.