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Issue #6
Last of the Dragons

By Eddie MountainGoat

The self-proclaimed “final fateful issue” begins with another recap of the two preceding comics.  Importantly, we learn that when Nightfall appeared at the end of the previous issue, that wasn’t actually Nightfall; it was really a hologram.

At the ruins of the Dragon House Headquarters, Billy, Jimmy, Marian and Stan once again find themselves outnumbered by attackers, but not outfought.  Marian calls for police back-up, but the request is denied.  It turns out that on Nightfall’s orders, every goon in the city is united in a MAJOR riot.  The criminal force is overrunning the city and all available police have already been dispatched.  Stan tells the others that this nightmare has to be cut off at the source: Nightfall himself.

Double Dragon’s motorbikes (from Issues 1 and 2) remain undamaged by the explosion of their headquarters, so the heroes mount up and set out in search of their enemy.  Stan instructs the twins to locate Nightfall the same way Sensei did (in Issue 5): by homing in on his innate evil with the Dragon Force.  Billy and Jimmy follow their father’s advice and the Dragon Force leads them to Nightfall’s headquarters.

There, Double Dragon are confronted by the supervillains from the first two issues: Superluminal, Legerdemain, Exoskeleton and Stelth, who appears to be giving the orders.  She’s also the only one who presents any kind of threat.  While Billy and Jimmy easily take the other three down, Stelth once again takes on her almost-invisible form (which she used in Issues 2 and 3).  The reader can find her only if looking for her (in the panel where Billy is preparing to throw Exoskeleton into Superluminal, Stelth’s telltale pink oblongs are hidden in the background; visible, but not obvious).  Then, while Jimmy is lecturing Billy about not prattling when he should be watching his own flank, Stelth creeps up behind him.  Just as she’s about to use Jimmy’s own Dragon Lance against him, Stelth gets shot through the hand.  By Marian.  Again.

[Side-note: While Super Double Dragon wouldn’t be released for another year, gamers who are familiar with that title’s cover art might notice that during the battle with the supervillains (and in this issue’s opening panel), Billy wields the Vibe-Chucks, and Jimmy uses the Dragon Lance.  Actually, this was also done on the cover of the previous issue.]

With all major foes but the big boss taken care of, it’s time for the final showdown.  The four heroes burst into Nightfall’s throne room… where he beats the stuffing out of all of them.  As Miranda’s soul – still imprisoned in Nightfall’s “spirit globe” – looks on, he blasts the heroes in turn with his evil energy.  Nightfall seems to be invincible, being unaffected by Billy’s Vibe-Chucks, Jimmy’s Dazzle Stars and even Marian’s gunfire.  Stan and Marian get knocked unconscious while Nightfall grabs Jimmy by the throat and throws him into Billy (although on the cover it’s the other way around).  Fallen and bloodied (you won’t see this kind of violence in the cartoon or the movie), the Lee brothers remember what Sensei told them:  Their victory is assured, if they fight as one (I hate to be a stickler, but he didn’t tell them that.  It’s a mismatched combination of two things that he said.).  Together, they hold hands and visibly charge up their Dragon Force energy, uniting in a combined attack on Nightfall.

Curveball!  Even that doesn’t work!  Nightfall just takes the attack, then knocks the brothers back to the ground.  The situation does not look good.  Jimmy then notices the spirit globe and has an epiphany.  At Jimmy’s hinting, Billy shatters the globe, releasing Miranda’s soul.  Miranda then possesses Marian’s sleeping body, reminding her sons of Yan’s teaching: “The force of chaos cannot be destroyed… merely driven back… or contained!”

Together, Miranda, Billy and Jimmy surround Nightfall with a construct of energy.  Billy conveniently averts any need for an explanation as to how they’re doing so with a quip about “can[ning] the metaphysics lecture, and just do[ing] it.”  Nightfall begins to crumble and eventually in his place is a new Dragon Statue.  Just as Miranda said, the avatar of chaos has now been contained.

Miranda bids a loving farewell to her husband and sons and departs from Marian’s body and this plane of existence.  Marian awakens, unharmed.  As the comic (and the series) concludes, Billy and Jimmy start squabbling over Marian again while Stan cynically notes that this is exactly “… how [the] whole mess started, in the first place!”

Eddie MountainGoat’s review: I don’t want to take anything away from Dwayne McDuffie – I know that his list of writing credentials speaks for itself.  But I do feel that the four issues of the Double Dragon comic that he wrote are inferior to the final two written by Brevoort and Kanterovich.  They took the muddle he made and went a long way toward redeeming it.  The final result is still not accurate to the original source (I doubt they even used the games as source material), but it’s at least an enjoyable reinterpretation.  This comic (and the preceding one) was actually a fun read.  The rest… weren’t.

There’s not much plot in this issue.  But because its focus is on the final confrontation between the protagonists and antagonists we’ve met over the series, there doesn’t need to be.  The action is fun, good triumphs over evil, and various loose ends are tied up (not all, but enough).

On that note, it was a great bit of tidying up to include the supervillains – particularly the three that each appeared for a couple of pages in the first issue, then just disappeared never to be heard from again (until the last issue).  The same can be said for the Lees’ motorbikes.  Much like the appearances of Undertaker and Overthrow in the previous comic, these little details really bring some consistency and completeness to the whole series.

I actually would have liked to see what happens in this universe after Issue 6.  And I’m not entirely convinced that the new writers were ready to say goodbye to Double Dragon either.  The ending is a little open – the battle with Nightfall himself may be over, but his minions were on the cusp of taking over Oligopolis.  Plus, as Stan points out, the Billy-Marian-Jimmy love triangle is a little too much like the Stan-Miranda-Shinichi triangle for comfort.  Take a look at the final panel, at the gleam in the Dragon Statue’s eyes, as Stan says that.  I don’t know, but it looks to me like the statue is consciously watching the heroes leave – imprisoned in stone, but still aware.  Is it Nightfall?  Is it the Counterforce itself, which first reached out to Shinichi?  Am I just being wishful?

I guess we’ll never know, but like I said, the final issue of the comic series was a fun read.  It’s certainly better than the final episode of the cartoon, or the final act of the movie.