As the title suggests, this story veers away slightly from the main arc surrounding Yrial. That’s not a bad thing, however, This issue not only features some amazing artwork from Hoberg & Eldred (particularly in depicting the various locales our heroes find themselves in) but Englehart’s character work truly shines — especially with Zip-Zap.
In this story, The Strangers have escaped from the world of demons they were in last issue, only to find themselves on an odd planet composed of pieces of many different worlds. Zip-Zap not only saves the team from certain death at the beginning of the tale (borrowing a gimmick from The Flash) but he then puts the together the true nature of this world, befriends some locals and even challenges The Entity who gave them their powers to actually do something useful. We really get a good feel for something that I’ve always felt to be the case — Leon is the heart of this team. I’d argue that Candy, ironically, is the “soul” embodying their mutual desire to figure out who they are and what they can be but Leon is the kindest of them all. To him, nobody is truly a Stranger — they’re just somebody he hasn’t gotten to know yet.
Elena also comes out and makes a strong statement about being the leader of the team in this issue — and nobody challenges her on it. In fact, Bob seems to endorse the idea and they two of them sneak away for some alone-time, which doesn’t go unnoticed by others. We get some more Hugh & Candy loving, as well, while Dave obviously feels left out as the group is breaking into little romantic cliques.
While the issue doesn’t progress the Yrial storyline very much, I still really enjoyed it. Englehart is at his best at times like this — multi-issue epics where he can mix-and-match the heroes in different settings and get deep into their emotional connections. While I wouldn’t put this story on the level of something like The Celestial Madonna storyline from Avengers, I can’t help but see echoes of such in this issue and others.
A truly fine example of why this title deserved a much longer lifespan!