Finger Guns #2
Written by Justin Richards
Art by Val Halvorson and Rebecca Nalty
Lettered by Taylor Esposito
Published by Vault Comics
‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10
Despite the high concept of Finger Guns - that its two leads, Wes and Sadie, have the ability to affect people’s emotional states through the tips of their fingers - it’s a story that seems to relish and thrive in the smaller, less plot-driven moments. While the first issue’s cliffhanger suggested that the series was about to dive into heavier material - and it’s true that this second issue details some of that aftermath - it leaves less time for those charming character beats, nor does it manage to fully marry the concept to the emotional throughline.
In contrast to the debut, which used Wes and his discovery of his titular finger guns as the entry point into this story, writer Justin Richards’ script here is more focused on his second protagonist, Sadie, comparing the two characters’ situations domestically and scholastically. As such, the issue also opens with a school sequence, as Sadie has a sit-down meeting with a guidance counsellor about the steps she’s taking to get her grades up. This is intercut with where the first issue left off, as the tension between Sadie’s parents has only increased to a dangerous boiling point.
As Sadie tries to stop her father from abusing her mother, the book demonstrates the limits of her own powers - it’s a poignant realization to learn that Sadie’s father cannot be contained solely by taking aim with her index finger. Artist Val Halvorson’s layouts make Sadie’s father a figure that dominates the panels of this sequence - imposing, tighter shots have him just barely able to fit in the space, while wider frames are threatening for how they emphasize his body language, making him an obstacle between the women of the family. Sadie’s father takes up as much of the real estate on the page as possible, leaving little else for Sadie or her mother. Coupled with colorist Rebecca Nalty’s decision to replace the background of the house’s walls with pure blocks of color, the emotion of the scene is abundant through the use of these reds and oranges that match Sadie’s father’s eruptions of anger.
In the same way that Sadie and Wes’ powers function on opposite ends of the emotional spectrum, Finger Guns #2 also positions their experiences of adolescent life as opposites - Wes has a father that’s barely home, kept occupied by work and clients; meanwhile, Wes’ general disinterest at school contrasts against Sadie’s attempts to improve. Sadie has a better relationship with her mother, however, demonstrated best after her dad storms out and they prepare a meal together. Moments like this are where Finger Guns is at its strongest. One wordless page, made up of just four panels, details the rest of their evening. Halvorson pulls the perspective back, meaning that there’s enough space for both Sadie and her mother. With the patriarchal figure out of the house, both they and Finger Guns have a minute to breathe. Letterer Taylor Esposito even lets the tune which Sadie’s mother sings flow in and out of the panels, breaking out of the borders and through the gutters.
When Sadie meets up with Wes again, there’s an equally impressive beat where the two set themselves up like a Wild West shootout in order to further test their powers - unfortunately, it’s over before you know it. Halvorson and Nalty set up the two-page spread in a symmetrical fashion that still emphasizes their strong rendering of faces above all else - complete with a beautiful sun-kissed sky overhead - only for the next page to cut ahead to the pair hanging out after. Compared to the first issue’s rather elegant structure and sustained flow of connected events, this issue’s cramped quality and business stand out. These various elements of the story all feel like they’re having to fight each other for limited page space - it’s a trend that feels especially punctuated at the conclusion of the issue, which wraps up with a full splash-page cliffhanger. Perhaps this is a series that would’ve been better suited to being published as an original graphic novel, especially considering how well-suited it is to a young-adult readership.
Richards doesn’t completely lose sight of his lead characters’ dynamic in this sophomore effort - but that said, it’s noticeable how the first issue was more precise in when it introduced elements of its story and started to thread them together as a result. This second issue eventually gets back to Wes and Sadie’s growing connection as they talk and bond, only it’s far more truncated due to everything else going on. A lot of this likely comes down to the first issue having an increased page count compared to the standard 22 pages here, but that only further proves the point that Wes and Sadie’s story, wherever it might be going, clearly needs space.