Note: Portal Bound Issue 5 is really the sixth issue because this series begins with Issue 0. Issue 0 is not an optional preview or a teaser issue; it’s the first issue. Don’t start at Issue 1.
The story so far: Earth has a sister world unbeknownst to its residents called Havos, a land of fantastic beasts and advanced technology. Scientists on Havos created portal technology, and they are able to use it to visit Earth. Each being on Havos has a counterpart on Earth. When those two counterparts touch, they fuse into one being of immense power. Havos’s tyrannical Emperor, Atilus, has already fused with an Earthling. He’s captured and/or enslaved all who oppose him except for Eli, and his plans for invasion are underway.
Story Arc (spoilers for Issue 5)
I hesitate to recap all of this issue because it is filled with so much action, character development, and many unexpected plot twists. It really is worth the time and money to pick this book up. In a pleasant surprise, it is as mature as it is lighthearted.
This issue begins with Eli, all alone, facing the near-impossible task of stopping Emperor Atilus’ invasion. First thing’s first: he needs to find—and then free—Sybil. Fortunately, one of the side effects of fusing with her earlier is that Eli retains Sybil’s memories. He knows the layout of the fortress like the back of his hand! He sets out to find her as time runs out.
Meanwhile, on Earth, time has run out. Shock troops kidnap people from across the world and store them in warehouses full of cages on Havos. There, the scared humans will be forcibly fused with their Havos counterpart, creating an army of superbeings for Emperor Atilus.
Eli eventually finds Sybil, manacled and alone. She was unable to save Horuk, she was unable to stop Omeil, and she is distraught and filled with self-doubt. Eli must convince her to rise again and rejoin the cause to save both their worlds.
Omeil wrestles with Brett for control of their fused body to a funny—and then very serious—effect. Riley, still mentally enslaved, operates the invasion forces’ portals nearby.
I will gloss over the climax because I don’t want to spoil anything. It’s well worth the read. As Omeil-Brett struggles for dominance, Eli and Sybil merge and attack the Emperor. The fight does not necessarily go as expected. After much struggle, the duo emerges victorious, but only after overcoming great losses. Or rather, it should have been great losses. Both Eli and Sybil seem to brush off their struggles pretty nonchalantly.
As story ends, Eli returns home more confident and wise. The girl who gave him so much anxiety in the first chapter approaches him! Meanwhile, back on Havos, Sybil takes on new responsibilities, and Riley makes an alarming discovery.
Portal Bound was a ride that started off fun, light, and thrilling, and ended with the same tone, but kicked up a few notches. Issue 5 wrapped up the story arc in a way that was simultaneously as action-driven as I was expecting, and much more character-focused than I was hoping. Mark Roslan and Gabe Carrasco once again kept the page economy tight. Every panel mattered, and the story flowed smoothly from tightly-packed dialogs to exciting splash pages.
The character building was surprisingly rich throughout this issue. When Eli finds Sybil, she is beaten down and dejected. These are undoubtedly new feelings for Sybil, and her emotional low point does a great job of expanding her character by emphasizing that she’s strong, but certainly not invincible. Her state parallels Eli’s character at the beginning of Issue 0: hamstrung by the prospect of failure.
When Eli convinces her to pick herself up and resist the evil emperor once more, Eli shows real character growth. His attitude parallels Sybil’s self-confidence and gung-ho optimism. Whether this role reversal is due to both characters learning through hardship or to side effects of their fusing is left unanswered, but it is a great moment for them both.
This issue continues to merit its T for Teen rating, but the bright colors and focus on action and relationships rather than gore or sorrow make it an ideal book to introduce younger readers to comics.
Issue 5 focused far less on the looming invasion, and far more on an intimate fight and character building. Both Eli and Sybil get plenty of time to shine. They overcome their weaknesses and show off their strengths individually and together as partners. It’s refreshing to see a book featuring multiple main characters who share equal time, and this book pulls it off successfully.
The final battle and its immediate aftermath have quite a few twists and turns that are as surprising as they are satisfying. The idea of characters fusing together creates many logistical questions, and this issue answers almost all of them effectively and without unnecessary exposition.
The art remains beautiful. Characters are fluid and the action is believable, and the colors and effects are gorgeous. Like any good climax, there are splash pages and oddly-shaped panels abound, and they wonderfully showcase impactful moments and panoramic scenes. Like with any good film, this story has shown a wonderful rhythm as it keeps the plot moving along at a very satisfying, exhilarating speed.
Two small drawbacks hamper what could have been a perfect issue. First, there are a few typos. A comma is used where none should have been, the word “evolution” is used incorrectly, and the words “finds” and “us” could have used a space between the two.
Second, the subject of loss is dealt with in a way that is somewhat unrealistically dismissive. Characters face and overcome what should be intense grief over the span of a single panel. This is done presumably in order to keep the story rushing along, but it seems to have the opposite effect: I was left questioning the main characters’ empathy as the story cavalierly bounded from one revelation to the next without allowing the characters to pause and reflect on what they had just experienced.
But these are minor concerns. Overall, Portal Bound Issue 5 does a near-perfect job of concluding the story in a way that will satisfy any reader, and it sets up potential sequels in a capable and enticing way. The energy of this series, which increased in Issue 4, is carried out in a grand fashion and resolved perfectly. I had a great time getting to know these characters, and an even greater one watching them grow and (mostly) overcome a deadly threat. If a Volume 2 is in the works, it will be eagerly anticipated.
For more information on Portal Bound, Aspen Comic’s online comic shop can be found here.
Thanks to Aspen Comics for providing us with digital review copies in exchange for our honest reviews!
Portal Bound - Issue 5
- The conclusion is very satisfying, and it deftly answers many lingering questions even as it delivers unexpected twists.
- The character revelations and developments never get in the way of the action.
- The colors and lineart are as solid as they have been in previous issues. This book is a pleasure to read.
- Brett is hilarious.
- Omeil calls Brett “boy,” though both look the same age.
- There is a jarringly out-of-place pop culture reference to a twelve-year-old video game
- There are a few typos.