This volume marks the end of year two of the Apocalypse, with the concluding year three to follow in due course. Does vol. 6 represent a significant ramping up of stakes and excitement in advance of this? Kinda. I imagine that the second meeting of nations called by the now-empowered Ezra was meant to herald the beginning of the end. The problem is that it doesn’t quite click since the arguments during this scene can basically be boiled down to Ezra yelling, “I am The Message made flesh! You will all follow me!” and everyone else going, “Nuh-uh!” There is some skilled wordplay from the cast at large during these scenes courtesy of writer Jonathan Hickman, while artist Nick Dragotta does his best to energize the proceedings. Dragotta does a good job of it too with his designs for a further mutated Ezra, the chaos as the pilgrims rush in once the meeting falls apart, and (of all things) an homage to Rob Liefeld’s cover to “X-Force” #1. While there are a lot of things to like about the meeting, it doesn’t manage to come together in a satisfying dramatic way.
Better served here are Death and his son Babalon. In an effort to find his missing son, the errant horseman hits up the barkeep/info dealer he terrorized back in the first volume. Much violence ensues, but Death gets a talking, rhyming eyeball out of the encounter so I’m going to consider that a win. Meanwhile, Babalon doesn’t start to rebel against the lessons Balloon has been giving him. The boy starts to subvert them instead, but still makes time to take on some of the most ridiculous characters Hickman has cooked up in any series to date. Well, that’s being unfair to the tragedy of Psalm 69’s devout believer turned robotic killing machine, but Billy Blackgun feels like the writer’s effort to commit the most ridiculous stereotype of a hardened, grizzled gunfighter to the page. This encounter is followed up by some alternately heartwarming and ominous scenes that do a better job of setting up the final year of the Apocalypse as the forces of darkness prepare to finish the job of destroying a family they started several years ago.