After the horrific turn of events that closed out issue #1 of The Mission, Paul gets a second chance to kill Neal Corman. Paul couldn’t go through with this mission, given to him by a mysterious figure named Gabriel (“The Archangel Gabriel?” as Paul asks him) the first time, and now three innocent lives have been taken, and the life of a child is in grave danger. Paul accepts the mission this time, and after Gabriel puts him through another trial in order to prepare him, Paul finally catches up with Neal. Paul discovers that there’s more to Neal than he could have ever imagined though…Is Paul the demented and tortured Neal’s successor?
Writers Ron Hoeber and Erich Hoeber ratchet up the supernatural mystery several notches in The Mission #2, while series artist Werther Dell’edera keeps the plot moving along with the same type of simple, atmospheric, and heavily inked panels that made issue #1 such a powerfully told story visually. At first the plot in issue two looks like it’ll be a pretty much carbon copy of the plot in issue one. Paul frets over the decision to take up the mission to kill Neal, but after witnessing Neal’s actions at the end of last issue, Paul isn’t quite as hesitant this time to at least try to follow through. The plot follows pretty much the same layout as issue one did with the big reveal, twist, and explosion of violence happening during the last few pages of the issue (which is perhaps the series’ only shortcoming). When Paul finally finds him and learns from Neal that it very well might be Gabe’s fault that Neal was driven to such desperate actions, this chapter’s twist is thrown into the narrative. We’re expecting it, but this twist will make finding out how this story unfolds in the next two chapters even more of a must read, for anyone who’s picked up this series thus far, than this issue was.
Visually and thematically, The Mission #2 really outdoes its predecessor. The tension that builds is even more taunt because now we believe that Neal has to be stopped. When we finally get to really hear a snippet of Neal’s side of the story though, everything we think that we’ve solidly concluded about Paul’s mission, and Gabe’s status as a defender of the innocent or as he puts it a “soldier in this war,” is thrown into doubt. The theme of “the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few” is still the central and core theme here, but the morality of what the execution of the assigned mission and its effects on Paul’s (and as hinted Neal’s) life becomes completely unclear. This complicates things even further, and really gets you thinking about some deeper ideas. Gabe is a soldier in the war between good and evil, and now Paul is a draftee into this war through no choice of his own. If Neal is to be believed, Paul will likely suffer severe emotional and life changing consequences due to his being an unwilling soldier in this war. Is it right for Paul to be basically sacrificed for the greater good at seemingly the whim of a supernatural being? There isn’t much of a free choice here, and next to the idea of the “needs of the many vs. the needs of the few,” the idea of the nature or existence of free will is a close second in thematic importance.
By the end of this issue, Paul might be inclined to think that his mission is completed, but somehow (beyond that fact that this is a four issue mini-series) you get the feeling that Gabe isn’t done with Paul. There are some more challenges ahead. To what extent they will affect Paul’s life will be the real question, and hook that will bring me back for more.