We open at a cafe with two characters that I think are both new. Sami is also there - I know who she is.
The two characters talk for a while about things I don't fully understand, then one of them leaves. She stumbles into a dolly lab, I think because it was connected with her own workplace. After surveying some dolls, she escapes with another new person who was about to be converted.
The action switches to Core HQ. Not really introduced very well, but there are some funny shenanigans happening between Tammy and (I always have to search back through other issues to find Annarose York's name, because other characters hardly ever say it aloud) Annarose. This is good since it progresses the events of issue 12.
However, this progress is then undercut by Tammy bringing a third person into the scene, which Annarose also has no objection to. So are they an item, or just messing around and anyone else can join in whenever? Do they have a thing for Juneau too, or could basically anyone have wandered by and they would have let them join in the sex?
I'm not sure what the scene was meant to accomplish. It's fun, but we don't learn anything new and it's not really a check-in with Core to reorient the story since all we really see are Tammy and Annarose.
Back to the new characters. The rescued lady wakes up to recap events, and it turns out there's yet another person, for a grand total of four occupying an apartment. I'm pretty sure I've not seen any of them before, and their dialogue focuses on jargon and techy exposition so I don't really learn anything about them as people. I expect they're all really going to be plot devices - i.e. enslaved victims before the end of the story.
Okay, switch to some other people. A few pages of spartan droney dialogue, featuring two people I think I've seen before plus a new person. I think. the purple hair lady is up to no good, definitely a Hive villain I've seen before.
Back to the new foursome. Eek - small evil drone type things are attacking them, kinda like the assassination attempt on Padme in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.
Okay, then I'm a bit surprised. Apparently one of the four characters has a laser gun, and shoots the little drone attackers with it. I dunno why, but that just seemed out of place. Maybe because I'm English and we don't have guns at home. Anyhow, moving on...three of the four characters seem fine, but one has been droned. Oh dear.
Nicole! Wow, 54 pages and we get to the second of the three main characters. Okay. She's exercising naked, whilst introspecting. Some nice character stuff here, but it ends on her considering that she needs a name. Wait, a name besides "Nicole"? Okay. But I'm confused again because Nicole's introspection is then interrupted by her saying lots of tech stuff to someone else, then the scene just ends. I'm pretty sure her pondering a new name never comes up again in the issue either.
Back to the newbie foursome again. Three more pages of chatting and then YAY. The gang's all here, finally, 62 pages into the story. Cool!
But wait - why is Rossi talking like a robot? Isn't that Nicole's job? And how did Rossi know what was happening with these four characters? Why is Core now the police, and arresting them? I'm confused.
As a minor point - I laughed at page 64 simply because of the sheer scale of the apartment where the new characters live. That lounge/kitchen has to be at least 50 feet by 50 feet. It's vast.
Okay, so Rossi knows about the one lady finding the dolly lab. I dunno how, I'm guessing the evil Hive people told her. More talking for a couple of pages, then Rossi briefly stops sounding robotic.
Alright, this is what's bothering me in general. It's been almost 70 pages now and so far I feel like I'm just seeing/reading stuff happening. Like - this happens, that happens, this other thing happens, etc. Whilst everyone just exposits the events I'm seeing or (re)introduces back-story. No one is being themselves. There are opportunities all over the place for characters to do their thing, say something funny/interesting, react or bounce off each other, cement themselves as unique, etc. But instead, it's all just event-driven dialogue, instead of character driven.
Anyhow, we transition to the cafe again. Hmm - is that the lady that was tranced by the bad guys a few scenes ago? as she been placed there as a trap for someone? What is her deal, anyway?
Okay, Sami is back.
Page 73. Holy crap, now even Sami is speaking in literal paragraphs of exposition. What's going on?!
Oh okay - Sami is trying to seduce the new girl. Wait - is Sami falling into some kind of trap?
Holy shit her eyes are terrifying. No really, that's properly scary. I'm not really into this trancing scene, simply due to how frightening her eyes and some of her expressions are.
Sami leaves with her tranced victim. Why is Sami doing this? How does this fit with the main plot so far? Is that new girl even the same one that was in the earlier scene?
Back to Core. Oh hey, it's Rossi. A chat with the boss, and she's off somewhere else. Yeah, I forgot the bosses' name (again!), but she's still cool
Over to the main apartment. Tammy has a brain implant, and explains the details. Is this going to lead somewhere?
Rossi arrives! Yay, a nice character moment happens! Wait, what's an oenophile? Oh, a wine connoisseur? Wait, so Rossi likes wine? Or is that just a fun rhyme?
Anyhow, Rossi spends a while explaining more things, then acts as bodyguard to the new characters for a bit. Someone else appears - oh! I know this person, she's the woman who deepened Rossi's Hive enslavement, right? Hmm, I bet she's up to no good. At least she made Rossi act more like herself for a bit. But wait! Oh dear...yep, she's handed Rossi something naughty.
Back to Sami. She enslaves the new girl. I dunno why.
Over to the familiar lady who I really should know. Aha! It's a bad guy scene. Okay, now I'm back to knowing what's going on. they are thwarted by Rossi, but apparently this is all part of a bigger plan. Okay then.
Back to Sami again. Her victim is now a host for Sami's eggs. Umm, is this the same story or is someone changing the channel while I read this comic? O.O
Back to Rossi again, at the apartment. One of the new characters engages her in conversation...
Wait. Hang on a minute. Just...just wait. Didn't Rossi just rescue these girls from some more drone devices? Wasn't the place filled with gas or something? Does the newbie girl know about that or did she just wake up and Rossi is acting like nothing happened? Did Rossi report the event, or was it literally a test of her skills by the bad guys over at Hive? Is nobody going to mention what happened? If not - then why did it even happen??
Anyhow - more people wake up and more exposition happens. Rossi explains a lot of background stuff, for several pages, then Nicole arrives.
Oh wait - Rossi wants to see one of the new girls in private. I guess she's about to use the ball thing her Hive handler slipped her earlier.
(I keep saying "Rossi" because nobody has said her first name in the issue so far).
Yep - Rossi trances one of the new girls. I'm not sure why, and especially why she chose this one out of the three new characters, or why she waited until now. But okay, now she's leaving with the newbie.
Rossi leads new girl to a different apartment.
WOW. Those are some nice heels! I really like this character. Not entirely sure if I've seen her before, but she's awesome.
Okay, so now I'm going to stop my commentary again for a bit. This is because I have to say that from my perspective as the reader, it feels like this is the first actual main plot event that's happened within the entire issue so far.
What I mean is, we're on page 132 and I feel like pages 1-131 could have been cut down to about 40 pages and I'd have been just as happy with this story. One person accidentally stumbles into a lab, rescues someone, goes home, and Core arrive to help them before Rossi then turns evil and trances one of them. Meanwhile, we'd have briefly seen Core, and Sami, and the bad guys, within the space of a few pages each. The story could even have begun with the Core gang arriving at the newbie character apartment, charging in like the cavalry during the first scene when the apartment was attacked, and nothing significant would have been lost from the plot. I'm fully expecting that all these new characters are doomed, and that Sami's side story isn't going to intersect with the main plot, so why did any of the past 130 pages happen?
Okay, rant over. Awesome lady and Rossi enslave the newbie girl. I don't know why. What's this new character to them? why did Rossi grab her specifically? Why did Rossi even set up the rotation with Nicole and Tammy in the first place - what was stopping her from just invading the new girls' apartment with Hive friends and enslaving everyone right away?
Okay - now there's a long scene of lots of nice things happening that (let's be honest here) is the main reason people are reading the comic. Further progression of Rossi's enslavement. Hive being Hive. Bad stuff happening. Lots of fun. I'm just surprising that it took almost 140 pages to get to this point.
Back to the first apartment. A few pages of chatting, then a sex scene. Laurel is still a blank slate to me, but ironically the other girl (does she have a name?) starts to grow a bit more human and sympathetic, expressing feelings for Laurel and...oh hey, her name is Inogene. Cool.
Some more talking, and having glanced ahead some pages I get that this scene actually serves a purpose since it sets up how Laurel actually cares for Inogene, which is played with later. Fair enough.
Rossi returns, taking back over from Nicole. Wait - can't Nicole at least vaguely sense something is wrong? Isn't she like really smart now?
Anyways, Rossi explains everything is cool now and they have a cure for the fourth new character who was half-droned like 100 pages ago. They go inject her with the cure, and - oops - she turns into another doll type slave. Laurel protests, but gets sedated.
Rossi goes full villain now, taking control and subduing all the new characters. And I'm left with more questions.
Is Inogene already a drone? Was her release planned? Was Laurel's trespass planned? Are Hive and MTRP the same thing? Why is the dollified fourth character comically keeping her glasses on, like Nicole always does? Wouldn't there have been like a dozen ways Rossi could have pulled this stunt more easily?
There's also a niggling 'ugh' factor. Since I don't know much at all about these new characters, none of them are flawed or ambiguous in a way that makes it okay in my head for them to be enslaved. They're all just innocent victims, and unlike the usual background or cameo disposable characters I've just spent the bulk of this comic focused on their story. So this turn by Rossi now comes across as incredibly mean-spirited. I'm no longer rooting for Rossi at all, even in a fetishy-type way, and surprised to find myself hoping Nicole or Tammy appear and rescue the new people.
Over to the lab from the first scene. Apparently yes, Hive and MTRP are basically the same thing. Rossi is enslaving the new characters (as expected) and also being a proper bitch about it all. The fourth newbie, now enslaved, is still wearing her glasses. Not only is this hilarious, but also strongly evokes Nicole, to the point where a casual reader might even confuse the two characters.
Page 169 - yeah, there's just no way 99% of readers are going to bother reading Rossi's eight separate walls of dialogue. I do read it, and even then all I really get out of it is Laurel is apparently very smart - too smart to become a doll.
Aha! More hotness and awesome stuff. Rossi is overwriting Laurel with Erin (who I guess I would remember if I read back a couple of issues, she sounds familiar). All good stuff now, like back when Rossi enslaved the other new character. More brainwashing, Rossi's handler appears to help and gloat, then Inogene's enslavement is completed.
Rossi then seduces Laurel into dollifying Inogene. But hang on - didn't Laurel just get turned into Erin? Also, I get how Laurel/Erin might still feel something for Inogene, but as the reader I kinda now know Inogene was already at least partly a drone, so where's the weight to this scene?
Actually forget that - if I was more invested in this moment then it would just come across as being crazily mean-spirited, which would be worse.
So yep - Laurel turns Inogene into a...
...wait. Why does the Inogene doll look so different from the other ones? She looks like a corpse, her middle is crazy thin, with sunken cheeks and no muscles. Also she has a huge tongue, but that's interesting rather than disturbing so no worries.
The lab gets shut down, and everyone leaves.
Oh hey - page 186 and I spot the only visual error in the comic so far. It's extremely minor - Laurel's hair isn't visible in her reflection.
Back to Core, and the boss is being thanked for all Core's help. Damn, are the good guys really falling for this Hive trick? I guess so - Rossi is back at work, and nobody has realised she's a bad guy. She's debriefed, then departs.
Oh - another scene - now we're over at Hive HQ (I think). A few pages of sexy nonsensical techy speak, then we discover Laurel/Erin is in a holding tank, being transformed some more.
I guess Rossi dropped her off here, probably along with the two dolls?
Oh - so is Laurel the "thoughtnode"? She's being used as some kind of central brain for multiple drones, because she's smart?
She's now coordinating a defence against some intruders, it seems?
Ah and that's the end of the issue
Okay, in summary:
Art = 9 out of 10. The only things I didn't like were the Inogene doll, Sami's eyes, and the improbable size of the main apartment featured in the issue. Oh and maybe there could have been some more close up panels of faces/expressions during key scenes, rather than repeated wider visuals. Overall all great stuff
Story = Yeah, I dunno about this. In general it seriously feels like the first 130 pages could have been condensed down to like 40 at most. What were those Sami scenes included for? What was the point of all those long scenes in the main apartment? I didn't really get a sense of who any of the characters were (even the familiar ones!) as human beings and personalities, so in the end it was just events happening and exposition being laid out.
Here's another broad point - why were Tammy and Nicole in the issue at all? Why not just have it focus on Rossi and then do something with the others later? I ask because if I imagine Nicole and Tammy are characters played by real life actors, then I'd expect both of those actors would be seriously pissed off by this episode of Core. They're given almost nothing to do, and both their characters actually get damaged in some respects since Rossi is continuing to fool both of them despite her being the most human and arguably least smart of the main threesome.
Tammy's under-utilisation is now almost becoming cliche. She's meant to be this complex, multi-faceted being who is not only very resistant to conversion of any kind, but also is effectively the overall protagonist since Nicole is no longer herself and Rossi is deeply enslaved by Hive.
The stuff back at Core is fun, during the brief moments depicted, but none of it seems to go anywhere of serve the main story.
In the end, the issue feels similar to #12 in the sense of it being more of a "monster of the week" self-contained deal, but is masses longer and doesn't really make any lasting inroads into character/story like the previous instalment did.
What happened to the bosses' cyborgy sidekick lady? Or the other members of Core?
Will Laurel be in a future issue? Is there an endgame Hive is heading towards? Are the intruders mentioned in the final panels part of a crossover or a cliff-hanger for the next issue?
Where were the action set pieces? Nobody did any fun fighting, chasing or escaping this issue.
In the end, I feel like this story could have either been simplified, or cut into 2-3 pieces, allowing more room to tie Sami's little side-plot in with the main events and give Tammy and Nicole something meaningful to do.
Finally - something I think I mentioned last time - characters in the comic really, really need to use each other's names more. First names, surnames, plus throwing in little jokes and remarks to remind the reader of who everyone is, what their main traits are, how they relate to each other. Not paragraphs of exposition, just names and the basics. Even if it's done in the same way that the new characters' names were revealed in yellow meta-text boxes. I might be wrong, but I'm almost 100% sure nobody uttered Rossi's first name throughout this entire issue.