It’s time for the Rainbow Bridge Jamboree!  Your Major Spoilers review of Black Badge #5 awaits!


Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Tyler Jenkins
Colorist: HIlary Jenkins
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Editor: Eric Harburn
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: December 19, 2018

Previously in Black Badge:  It’s scout vs. scout as teams from across the country are pitted against each other in a vicious battle royale of cunning and savagery.  With a fractured team and a potential traitor hiding in plain sight, the Black Badges must find a way to work together if they’re going to survive this deadly test of their skills.


We open with a map of a remote island and the announcement of the annual Rainbow Bridge Jamboree, explaining the rules of the competition.  Various teams will be deployed and expected to make their way to the top of the dormant volcano, it seems, with an ominous warning that killing and maiming is expressly against the rules.  That’s my first indication that something odd is going on in these pages, and as we meet our four teams, it becomes clear that ALL the rules, especially that last one, are meant to be broken.  Over the course of the next four pages, we meet sixteen character, only a couple of whom are actually identified by name on-panel, and they immediately begin clashing both within and without their groupings, and they begin losing members almost immediately.  As our story continues, we discover that the air drops of provisions are actually full of weapons, making the journey to the top of the volcano even more interesting.


I’ll be honest, I kind of have no idea what’s going on in this issue.  The story clearly has points to make and the pointed dialogue indicating that mysterious somebodies are going to gather up the losing contestants makes it seem a bit like a take on The Hunger Games.  This becomes an issue for me when dialogue explicitly references that book/movie and an argument ensues whether the protagonists’ situation is more like Hunger Games or Harry Potter, making for an uncomfortably meta moment that throws me out of the narrative completely.  Worse still, it wasn’t until my third read-through that I was able to identify from the art that two different scenes featured the same group of Scouts, which indicates a real problem with the storytelling.  Going back through previous issues, I have gained some context for the events of Black Badge #5., but even with that context, it’s still a puzzling read with what feels like intentionally difficult to read art.


My review policy at Major Spoilers is to begin with a cold read of each issue to see how it feels to just pick up off the stands, and this book was completely opaque in that initial read-through.  Thankfully, a little context from the previous issues has helped with clarity somewhat, but Black Badge #5 still feels like I’m missing part of the point, with some problematic dialogue and art clarity issues that make it very hard to follow, earning 2.5 out of 5 stars overall.  It’s clear that the creators have something that they want to say, but I have a hard time gleaning what it is from this chapter.  I think I may wait for a collection and see if it’s clearer when presented with more story at one time.

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There's a lot to like here and a lot of things that are clearly designed to be intentional metaphors, but I feel like I'm missing some important context...

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Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

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