Just two weeks after the arrival of Issue #7, the latest issue of "Charmed" has arrived, along with a new artist. We'll get to that in a minute, but first, the recap.
The issue starts off with Piper and Phoebe under attack, with Paige tending to a pregnant female who's been killed by Rennek. Paige orbs the unborn child out of the womb, while Rennek steals "orbs" from the whitelighter he just killed, before dark-orbing away. Piper and Phoebe are less than impressed by Rennek, but Paige reminds them that Leo fought him for decades, then introduces them to the baby, before trying to figure out what to do with it.
As it turns out, Paige brings the baby home, since she and Henry are registered foster parents, until Paige's old social services boss, Bob, can find the baby's biological family. Paige calls the baby "little Henry", which Henry doesn't like. However, that's not what's really bothering him. He's concerned for Paige and the twins, who haven't come into their powers yet. Paige jokes about setting up a schedule for fighting demons to deflect the pain from the gravity of her situation. She's still upset she couldn't save the pregnant woman, or the charge that Hogan and Neena killed (back in Volume 1), which is why she helps at Magic School.
In the underworld, Rennek returns to Neena, who is still keeping the demons in the dark about her plan. Rennek is nervous, since Neena kills Hogan, but Neena explains she saw Hogan as a distraction for the demons, while she executed her real plan. Rennek thinks they'll figure it out eventually. Neena tells Rennek he's collected enough orbs, and now she needs a small contingent of demons for the next part of her plan.
Back in the manor, Paige asks Henry what he's really upset about and says he's been distant ever since he was possessed by the Source's discord spell. Henry admits he's afraid of being a mortal in a magical world, saying "I feel powerless in every sense of the word." Bringing a mortal child into that added to his fear. Piper calls and tells Paige to turn on the TV, which is reporting about thick fog and falling debris at the Golden Gate Bridge. Paige puts the fight with Henry on hold to go help with the fight.
At the bridge, Neena has her contigent of demons fighting a small group of Elders, including Kyle. The Charmed Ones arrive and Phoebe suggests they attack Neena. They get attacked by a demon, and Neena grabs Kyle. Rennek shoots him, and Neena steals his powers. Neena confronts the Charmed Ones and blasts them off the bridge. Paige safely orbs away and tries to call for Piper, who isn't orbing back. Phoebe tells Paige to orb them to the ground, but they can't find Piper (or her body). Leo arrives, quickly followed by Neena, who Leo recognizes. Leo has Paige orb the three of them back to the manor, where he fills them in on her background. Neena isn't a demon. She's a witch. And she's not just any witch... she's the first witch.
Honestly, I wasn't entirely impressed with this issue on my first read, but on my second read-through, the story really shone, particularly in the back half with the big fight. The status of Piper, who appeared to fall into some kind of portal (though it just as easily could have been water -- it's not always easy to distinguish these things in comics), is a great cliffhanger, and I like that they didn't make that the focus of the rest of the issue, but instead are leaving it for the next issue to deal with. At first I was a little distressed that Phoebe in particular didn't freak out that they just LEFT Piper behind, but given the dire circumstances, it made some kind of sense for them to at least escape with their lives.
The stuff between Henry and Paige was telegraphed back in "Mortal Enemies", and was handled pretty well here. "Charmed" has always tried to show the balance between magical and mortal lives where the Charmed Ones and their circle of friends/lovers was concerned, and it's good to see that still being a part of the series thematically. I know long talking scenes don't always make for the best read in a 22-page issue, but when you think of this as one part in a larger story arc, the Henry/Paige discussion will only be a small portion of the final page count.
OK, so the story was good. Now, as for the art... yeah, not so much. Carlos Granda takes over penciling duties for this issue, becoming the fourth different interior artist in the eight issue run. I had high hopes, as the first page of the issue had some really good likenesses of Piper, Phoebe and Paige, but things went downhill from there. Paige was the most prominently featured of the three sisters, and her likeness was the most inconsistent. Sometimes it really looked like Rose McGowan, while on other pages, it looked like another Paige entirely. It wasn't even consistent from panel to panel on the same page, which was incredibly distracting.
On top of the issues with Paige, both Henry and Leo looked awful. There's simply no way of sugarcoating this. To show you I'm not exaggerating, here's a side-by-side comparison of Henry as played by Ivan Sergei in Season 8 and Henry as drawn in this issue:
Ouch. The 20-odd months between "Forever Charmed" and "Oh, Henry" have apparently been really rough on Henry. Or maybe he had a run-in with one of Javna's disciples. Or maybe, just maybe, Granda wasn't given quite enough time to get the likenesses down before sending these issues to print. Hopefully things will improve for Issue #9.
Previous Issue#7, The Heir Up There
#9, The All or Nothing