Grey Finally Gets Some Answers In Stronghold #3

by Brendan M. Allen

When the last vestiges of normalcy are stripped from Michael Grey’s life, he is finally confronted by his past in the far-flung cosmos…and the enemies he made there. Can the Stronghold put the broken pieces of Grey’s life back together before the terrors he battled in the stars follow him to our fragile Earth?

In Stronghold #3, everything Michael Grey knew about his life is gone. His friends are all suspect, his job, every experience he’s ever had. He figured out in the last chapter there is a group that monitors everything he does, and “protects” him from physical harm. Not sure how much of that protection this cat needs, if a fraction of  we’ve learned about him so far is actually true.

The cliffhanger at the end of chapter two played up the Elijah Price vibe The Adversary was giving off, and the opening sequence here confirms. The Adversary is brutal, efficient, and capable. While this action definitely qualifies the dude as a villain, his motivation isn’t clear until the end of this installment. Even then, it’s questionable, since Grey doesn’t have any recollection of the events that motivate Big Ugly.

Phil Hester leans into a whole lot of science fiction and superhero tropes with Stronghold, but that isn’t necessary a bad thing. Tropes exist for a reason, and the way Hester weaves them together creates opportunities for some very interesting scenarios to play out.

The artwork by Ryan Kelly and Dee Cunniffe fits the tone and scope of Hester’s script brilliantly. Kelly’s cinematic layout and composition add to the tension and gravity of the more horrific scenes, while his characters display subtle, nuanced emotion in the quieter moments. Cunniffe provides an emotional barometer through shifts in palette and light sources.

Those Messianic themes I mentioned before? Yeah, you can pretty much throw those out. Seems like every chapter of Stronghold is designed to make the reader re-examine their biases from the previous chapter. Stronghold #3 brings up some interesting counterpoints to assumptions you’ve probably made from the previous installments, and I’m starting to realize that’s probably the point.

Stronghold #3, AfterShock Comics, released 17 April 2019. Written by Phil Hester, art by Ryan Kelly, color by Dee Cunniffe, letters by Simon Bowland, logo by Emma Price.

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