October 23, 2021

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Comic Book Reviews for This Week: 7/28/2021

42 min read

Welcome to this week in comic book reviews! The staff have come together to read and review nearly everything that released today. It isn’t totally comprehensive, but it includes just about everything from DC and Marvel with the important books from the likes of Image, Boom, IDW, Scout, Aftershock, and more.

The review blurbs you’ll find contained herein are typically supplemented in part by longform individual reviews for significant issues. This week that includes Amazing Fantasy #1, Superman: Son of Kal-El #1, and Grendel: Devil’s Odyssey #8.

Also, in case you were curious, our ratings are simple: we give a whole number out of five; that’s it! If you’d like to check out our previous reviews, they are all available here.

DC #1

While a lot of the elements of this “Warworld” story are somewhat weird and there are still quite a few questions, Phillip K. Johnson continues to make it compelling. Action Comics #1033 spends a lot of its time sort of stuck in the political aspect of it all. Amanda Waller sent Task Force X after the Genesis Fragment, Atlantis didn’t like it, and now there’s about to be a war as the surface digs in with its sense of entitlement and Atlantis digs in with its own sense of unreasonableness – and no one really knows what to do with Aquaman. Superman wants to deal with Warworld, but everyone is too busy focusing on their own needs. It’s actually a pretty interesting bit of commentary on how most political action in the world works so it’s interesting to see here. What makes this issue solid, however, is that it leans into Lois’ role in working with Thao-La. Lois is a criminally underused character in Superman’s world and honestly, she’s frequently the more effective hero so getting to see that here is lovely. Overall, it’s a solid issue that pushes the story forward while revealing just a bit more in terms of detail. — Nicole Drum

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Gene Luen Yang’s enthusiasm and love of the Dark Knight and Man of Steel comes through loud and clear in Batman/Superman #20, but both of those DC icons pale in comparison to the magic of an evil Etrigan. The universe-spanning story has pulled in some colorful characters thus far while Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen continue to ground the reality hopping narrative. Yang leans into the former quite a bit here, and thus we meet Etrigan, who shakes things up considerably and showcases a killer design courtesy of artist Ivan Reis and colorist Sabine Rich. To be fair, this team also delivers several other stunning pages throughout the issue, including two magnificent splash pages. While my interest in the main villain is waning a bit, twists like Etrigan have kept me invested in the overall narrative, and I’m quite curious how much crazier things will get before the issue reaches the climax. — Matthew Aguilar

Rating: 4 out of 5

I want to like Batman: Reptilian, but after getting through its second installment, I really just feel disappointed and underwhelmed. Much like the first issue, the plot entirely consists of Batman brooding around different scenarios in search of information that doesn’t feel particularly helpful or revolutionary, with awkward scene transitions and clunky dialogue. This essentially devolves into an endless repitition of him tracking down beaten or emotionally shaken supervillains or goons and coldly interacting with them, a cycle that grows increasingly trite and unsympathetic. Even Liam Sharp’s visuals—which range from eye-catching to impossible to discern heads or tails of—are too frustrating to save what’s going on. I know Garth Ennis has some interesting things to say about the darkness that lurks underneath superheroes and supervillains, but Batman: Reptillian doesn’t seem to be anywhere as revolutionary or even readable as his other work. — Jenna Anderson


Rating: 1.5 out of 5

Detective Comics scribe Mariko Tamaki spins off her story into a one-shot that makes me wish she was also writing a Huntress solo series. Tamaki’s story shows a prime understanding of what makes this hero so different from the other capes in Gotham and though it veers into the absurd sometimes it’s still a mostly fun read. Stray Bullets artist David Lapham brings his signature style to the book, combining dynamic action with gross-out horror elements to tremendous effect. The only trouble with this one-shot is that it feels like a deviation, a footnote that will be referenced in a blurb later and not exactly consequential in the long run. — Spencer Perry

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

The overarching mystery of Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s latest collaboration gets lost in the haze of confusing panel layouts and frequent leaps back and forth in the timeline. The characters featured are fun as can be but the convoluted web of the narrative fails to be as interesting as its inaugural issue and it’s all in the plotting. Even Maleev, usually a tight artist with layouts that deliver movie-quality action gets lost in a shuffle of action beats that aren’t smooth and require a map. What the heck is even happening here most of the time? Don’t ask me, what a let down. — Spencer Perry

Rating: 2 out of 5

Detective Comics #1040 continues its two-story format with the lead story continuing to follow the escalating troubles Bruce Wayne (and Batman) finds himself in, while the backup story reveals the death of a member of the wider Bat-Family. The lead story (written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Dan Mora) does a fantastic job of avoiding the tropes typically seen in a “superhero goes to jail” story and instead points out how Batman’s always been more fallible than either he or the readers expect. Generally speaking, I enjoy how Detective Comics is weaving the tales of a wider Gotham with its two stories per issue. While not every story has a firm connection to the “main plotline” such as this issue, I feel like they generally make good use of the comic to move various characters into place for future arcs or spotlight characters that would otherwise get skipped over in the main plot. This is quietly one of DC’s best comics and is continuing to reinvent Batman in a way we haven’t seen in quite some time. — Christian Hoffer

Rating: 4 out of 5

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DC #2

The stall that Stephanie Phillips’ Harley Quinn series hit in the previous issue is gone entirely in this week’s Harley Quinn #5 and what readers get may be the best of the run yet. Everything about this issue is dynamic. There’s an energy here, both in the words and the art and they play off one another in a way that feels like all systems go from a simple functional level. It’s when you get into the actual heart of the content, though, it gets even better. Phillips does a masterful job of digging into the psychology of both of the central characters in this story, Harley of course, but also Hugo Strange. On one hand, there’s Harley’s unique heroic journey, and on the other, Strange’s disturbing fixation with Batman. The issue delivers a back and forth between the two that show just how immensely capable Harley is and just how disturbed Strange is in a way that neither overly praises nor belittles either. That’s no easy task. Neither character here is presented flatly. It’s brilliantly done. And then, of course, you get that insanity of the actual quips, fights, and a plushie Solomon Grundy so there is plenty of bonkers to go around, too. A fantastic issue. — Nicole Drum

Rating: 5 out of 5

Augustus and Raquel return in this new Milestone relaunch, taking themselves back to the basics. In fact, some will season the first issue of this series as a reimagining of the characters, giving them both a fresh start for a new generation. The story at play here isn’t new or groundbreaking, but the treatment of the characters is, and that’s what you’ll need to watch as the series moves along. Hudlin and Braithwaite are back with Icon and Rocket, and you can ask for much more than that. — Adam Barnhardt

Rating: 4 out of 5

Just when I think I know where Infinite Frontier is going, it uses its wide array of DC Comics heroes and villains to catapult into an entirely new territory. This issue weaves the series’ disparate storylines—from Roy Harper becoming a Black Lantern to the disappearance of Jade and the JSA to the return of Thomas Wayne’s Flashpoint Batman—to craft a story that continues to tee up a fascinating status quo for the DC multiverse going forward. Joshua Williamson and company clearly have a genuine love for comics and the ways their stories are told, and outside of a few panels or transitions that are awkwardly constructed, the issue flows with energy and reverence, while leaving just enough unanswered questions for the remaining three issues and beyond. — Jenna Anderson


Rating: 4 out of 5

Halfway through its run Mister Miracle: The Source of Freedom is dedicated to the search for answers and not much else. Issue #3 focuses on both Shilo Norman and his talent agent Mr. Slakind’s search to discover who N’vir really is. Some new information is revealed here showing N’vir to be the despotic daughter of Scott Free and Big Barda, but given her appearance and actions that’s only a confirmed assumption. What is troubling is that N’vir lacks a clear motive along with every other notable character in this comic—the appearance of a familiar face seems only to exist as an expositional device. There’s little cause to root for Shilo or N’vir in a battle that ran out its welcome last issue. N’vir’s parting words to Shilo also seem to be entirely disconnected from her own cause or background, providing a neat example of how little in this comic is driven by or connected to character. Artist Fico Ossio does provide some interesting panels when Shilo hacks another Mother Box, fusing form and function. It’s a highlight from a miniseries that consistently aspires to be bog standard. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

The final chapter in The Other History of the DC Universe provides closure by focusing on Anissa Pierce a.k.a. Thunder, the daughter of its original protagonist Black Lightning. This issue is at its best when drawing connections to what came before. Anissa provides a more critical lens through which to view her father’s exploits—one capable of understanding his achievements while still acknowledging significant flaws. This is well-recognized in her choice to become a hero and her own identity as a lesbian woman, both of which are manifested in recountings of The Outsiders and the work of writer Judd Winick. However, that narrative which offers a much cleaner arc is brought to confusion as Thunder and many of her fellow Outsiders are left largely forgotten in the wake of “The New 52” and further flattenings of DC Comics. It’s these ties to comics continuity which undermine the emotional climax for this issue and series, which forces notes of positivity and optimism into a realm that doesn’t successfully carry either. As the diversity and history which were embedded in DC Comics just over 10 years ago are recovered often outside of the “history” this series sought to interrogate. It’s a mixed conclusion that can’t quite carry the conclusions it aims for, but nonetheless reflects an idiosyncratic epic told across decades and capable of being reimagined for many more to come. This story will leave readers encouraged to seek out what was summarized in these pages whether or net it exists in comics from the past or present. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3 out of 5

Robin #4 steps back from its tournament setting to allow some space for familiar faces. Readers were already aware of Ra’s al Ghul’s return, but there are still plenty of surprises to be found here in the opening and closing pages. Some will be excited to simply see a certain figure from Damian’s past (I let out a shout of glee on page two), but everyone who love the first few issues of Robin will find the same elements that have distinguished this series from the start. Crossovers with manga and double crosses on the island develop narrative intrigue in multiple senses as the tournament prepares to begin. Even a change in art as Jorge Corona takes over for issue #4 doesn’t prove to be much of a distraction in a slower issue with few fights. Corona’s only notable weakness while filling in is a clumsiness when handling the faces of children and adolescents, which composes a significant portion of this series’ standard cast. The focus on Ra’s reunion with Damian makes that easier to ignore in an issue that is all about setting up the big fights to come. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

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DC #3

Comic Reviews - Superman Son of Kal-El #1
(Photo: DC Entertainment)

Static: Season One take a bit of a step back from its strong first issue. I appreciate the creative team’s focus on Virgil’s tumultuous emotions in the aftermath of the Big Bang and the discovery of his new superpowers. But while I appreciate the nuance and depth of those emotions, I feel like a lot of the comic (and the previous one) is dedicated to showing how no one understands Virgil and how everyone is trying to tell him what to do with his abilities. It trends a bit closely to the usual superhero origin story, and while that’s not a bad thing, it does ruin a bit of the surprise and wonder. This is still a great comic, but not necessarily one that’s breaking new ground. — Christian Hoffer

Rating: 4 out of 5

So that’s what Strange Adventures was building to this entire time? Seems like it probably should have been a 6-issue miniseries. As the narrative continues to bounce between two distinct timelines, the past on Rann continues to produce interesting alien settings and designs but no longer offers much of a dialogue with the present except for a few key panels. Instead, Strange Adventures #11 spends most of its space acknowledging what was revealed in issue #10. It’s a tense conversation between two characters who have only just begun to define themselves. Alanna refers to the lies their lives have become, but it’s genuinely difficult to define who any of these people are—Adam, Alanna, and Terrific all seem to be driven by plot and mystery without any ability to describe who they are. It makes the twists at the end of this issue land lifelessly as there’s very little to actually care about on the page. It appears that it’s just time to pack the pieces away so they can be forgotten all over again. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 2 out of 5

While Superman: Son of Kal-El #1 is heavy on the setup, it’s wonderfully crafted and exactly the sort of setup that is needed to tell a story examining what it means to be a hero as well as what it means to carry the burden of legacy as Jonathan sports that enormous “S” on his chest. Taylor has crafted a heartfelt and human story in this debut and it’s truly something to behold. — Nicole Drum

Rating: 5 out of 5

Teen Titans Academy continues to move full-speed ahead in its sprawling and infinitely enjoyable narrative, and this issue is no exception. As the “Bat Pack” further their investigation into the identity of Red X, we get a bit of an origin story for the trio itself—one that covers an unexpected corner of the DC universe in a satisfying way. Tim Sheridan’s narrative balances an array of disparate and occasionally dark elements with a profound sense of childlike whimsy, one that is only met by Steve Lieber’s expressive art and Dave Stewart’s moody colors. After the events of this issue, I couldn’t be more excited to see where Teen Titans Academy goes next. — Jenna Anderson


Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Diana’s journey in pursuit of Janus in “Afterworlds” continues this week in Wonder Woman #776 and while generally, this arc has been full of hits, this one is, unfortunately, a bit of a miss. Diana’s pursuit takes a bit of a detour into Elfhame, the realm of the faeries, and while it is possible (and even likely) that things happening here will have some impact as Diana gets closer to Janus—and indeed, the issue returns Diana to Earth so there’s at least that—almost everything else here seemed like extra filler at worst or a charming side quest at best. In either case, it felt more like it was interrupting the flow of the overall story more than it was aiding it, which was a bit disappointing considering that Conrad and Clooney have otherwise created such an engaging adventure thus far. Additionally, the change in the style of art for this issue, while somewhat fitting to the theme, did no favors. Jill Thompson’s art has its charms generally speaking, but here it’s just messy and juvenile, coming across more as idle doodles than actual comic book artwork. Overall, this is just not as strong an entry in the run as we’ve seen thus far. — Nicole Drum

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Anthology stories in comics can sometimes be difficult when it comes to running under one distinct theme, but Wonder Woman: Black And Gold has hit it out of the park in terms of capturing Diana’s aesthetic while also instituting an artistic style that is appealing to readers. There are some stories here that are slightly better than others, but each offers a unique story and art for Wonder Woman and is most assuredly a perfect grab for fans of Themyscira’s wayward daughter. — Evan Valentine

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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Marvel #1

There are many things to like about Amazing Fantasy #1. Although the story hasn’t sunk its teeth into me just yet, I’m hoping the coming chapters will prove more interesting as we move progress. And if nothing else, the attention to detail from Andrews in carefully crafting an interesting new setting here is worthy of commendation. If you’re looking for something associated with Marvel that is still unique compared to everything else available at the current moment, Amazing Fantasy could be just what you’re looking for. — Logan Moore

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

The Amazing Spider-Man pushes forward with a new issue this week, and it delves into Mysterio’s past with flourish. As fans learn more about the villain and his ties to MJ, we’re given a better idea of how Osborn is faring back in prison. But when things come to a close, MJ is left facing a foe far worse than the devil. — Megan Peters

Rating: 3 out of 5

The final issue of the entire series that was billed as being “the Avengers fight in giant robots” should probably have more of that but just two panels of this entire issue are dedicated to its namesake. Writer Jed MacKay throws some fun ideas in the final story, including alternate versions of the Avengers that are awesome with a Capital “A,” but the premise is almost entirely gone. Artist Carlos Magno continues to be the biggest selling point, even without getting much of a crack at the big robots, delivering crisp action and fun easter eggs. — Spencer Perry

Rating: 3 out of 5

The final showdown with Surtur in Beta Ray Bill includes some of the best splash pages ever crafted by Daniel Warren Johnson, and those familiar with his work know what a bold claim that is. Each phase of that duel incorporates the characters and ideas that led to it, allowing space for everyone from Pip to Skuttlebutt to leave their mark. It’s Skurge who fares best in this issue, however, as the one character who already found his own ending. He has been himself without needing to change from the start—a stalwart companion with a love for revelry and big guns. He provides readers with a sense of what a warrior at peace looks like, which in turn provides the clearest relief for Beta Ray’s own conclusion. Given the titanic nature of events in this series, the denouement is shockingly quiet. That seems purposeful given the lack of change in Beta Ray’s own status; he’s left to reflect on questions of the interior that his violent quest left unanswered. And so Beta Ray Bill feels incomplete as it leaves its hero and Skuttlebutt without a clear destination or understanding. If there is no more to come in this story, Beta Ray Bill will remain an outstanding piece of spectacle with some of the best pages produced at Marvel Comics in 2021. However, readers will likely be left hoping Johnson plans to continue Beta Ray’s story as issue #5 ends with an interlude rather than a conclusion. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

A new arc begins in Black Cat #8 and while first issues in a new story can sometimes be a bit of a mixed bag, Jed MacKay just knocks it out of the park with part one of “Infinity Score.” Pretty much everything works here. We get to see Felicia dealing with the personal impact of her actions in saving New York City and what that meant for her mentor and father figure Black Fox. MacKay approaches the obvious trauma Felicia has endured in that with a dignity that is both honest to the character but also really relatable, which is always wonderful to see. We also get to see her dive headlong into her next heist and it immediately goes from zero to sixty. There is a ton of action, plenty of heart, and a major surprise all of which give this book the narrative equivalent of a racing heartbeat. C.F. Villa’s art is spectacular and truly captures the full elegance of Black Cat in action. If you’re a Black Cat fan, this comic is an absolute feast of good things. It is a little wordy in some places but other than that it’s a solid, exciting read. — Nicole Drum

Rating: 4 out of 5

Black Knight: Curse of the Ebony Blade reaches its finale this week with issue #5 and while the entire run has been an action-packed ride that simultaneously delivers on some deeply thought-provoking concepts about the accuracy of the history we’re told as well as mental health, Si Spurrier saved the biggest punches and most exciting moments for this finale and the result is a fantastic book. With Dane near death, it’s a final showdown with Mordred who appears to have the upper hand—as well as been manipulating things for quite some time, it’s revealed—but Spurrier takes a left turn with the story that not only closes this chapter but completely reinvigorates the Black Knight character and sets up for new, fresh, incredible adventures. What works here is that Spurrier incorporates a lot of big ideas, but does it in a way that feels very authentic. Mordred lets his own weaknesses blind him while Dane leans into his. There’s a lot to be said about showing a hero who learns from his errors and uses his mistakes as power and this issue does that brilliantly. The only real flaw, if you can call it that, is that some of it feels very sudden. Even at that, though, this is a fantastic issue that maintains the integrity of its characters and injects a lot of interest while still delivering on a spectacular conclusion. — Nicole Drum

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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Marvel #2

Black Widow never ceases to be consistently and stunningly good. This installment deals with the immediate fallout of Yelena’s injury, before shoving Natasha and the group into a new escalation of the conflict with Apogee. Kelly Thompson’s script has the dynamics and rapport of the series’ characters down to an exact science, to the point where seeing any combination of them together in a room is an absolute joy. And Casagrande’s art and Bellaire’s colors continue to be among the best in the business, especially as the issue’s events and scope grow even more fantastical. I could not love this series more. — Jenna Anderson

Rating: 5 out of 5

“You make me proud at any age.” And thus comes to an end one of the greatest entries in the X-Men’s “Krakoa Era,” which also is subsequently the best Cable story that I can think of. Duggan has a fantastic understanding of all things Nathaniel Summers, and Noto continues his amazing artistic streak here. The final issue of the series acts as a worthy goodbye to the teenage version of Cable, seamlessly blending together the time travel adventures of these different Summers boys. I’d be hard-pressed to find any faults here, and this twelve issue mini-series makes for a must-read for X Fans and general Marvel fans alike. — Evan Valentine

Rating: 5 out of 5

Bullseye’s return is every bit as bloody as readers likely anticipated, but its presentation is a largely bloodless affair. In what’s perhaps the least believable portion of this comic, New York City finds itself under lockdown as Bullseye engages in randomized murder; I call this unbelievable because between pandemics and mass shootings, it’s difficult to believe that all of New York City would lockdown for a single gunman, no matter how deadly. Setting that aside, the updated setting and status quo makes everything very tense and allows for some effective moments of dialogue and characterization in this pressure cooker. The same applies to Matthew’s ongoing problems in prison as the story introduces not one, but two big mysteries at its end. What began as the terrifying return of Daredevil’s most deadly foe is quickly becoming something much more twisty and it’s equal parts excitement and anxiety imagining what is coming next in Daredevil. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

The finale to this first Eternals arc has arrived, making one of the biggest revelations this critic has seen in a comic in quite some time. Judging by the countless deaths and other shocking events, that should be saying something. Make no mistake, Gillen and Ribic’s run so far can probably be best described as dense. The duo has reinvented a decades-old group for a new audience and the story began to falter under that weight at times. In this arc finale, however, the fabric begins to lay flat as Gillen irons out most remaining creases in a satisfying conclusion. This particular story took six issues to tell and it might be best reading through them all in one sitting because the pace lends itself to the binge model. Luckily for this creative team, they ended the arc on arguably the highest note of the series yet, with good signs pointing to the second arc next month. — Adam Barnhardt

Rating: 4 out of 5

This feels like an issue that’s all about the fight without doing much to progress the story forward, and that’s mostly true. The action is decent but there’s just a lot of it, ironically leading one of Fantastic Four‘s most action-packed issues to feel like a bit of filler. It ends with some great turns and character beats, though, providing new and enticing challenges for Marvel’s first family. — Charlie Ridgely

Rating: 3 out of 5

I expected The Mighty Valkyries #4 to pick up in a major way, and in some respects, it does do that. The final few pages of the book definitely ramp up quite a bit which will lead to the conclusion that is set to take place in the next book. Otherwise, issue #4 slows down the pace quite a bit and instead focuses on a lot of characterization of the main faces involved in this series. This additional context behind each character in the book is very much welcome, but it does seem to have come at the cost of building more anticipation to the climax that is about to take place. As a whole, The Mighty Valkyries feels like it might be headed for a very rushed conclusion and I’m not sure if it will stick the landing. — Logan Moore

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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Marvel #3

Comic Reviews - Amazing Fantasy #1
(Photo: Marvel Entertainment)

Longtime X-Men fans know that anytime you can get Storm and Doctor Doom into the same room, it’s likely to be a good time, and Al Ewing does not squander this opportunity. There may be a galactic crisis raging in the background, but the verbal jousting between Doom and the newly christened Regent of Sol steals the show thanks to Ewing’s pointed dialog. It’s a moment that draws a line in the sand between where Doom stands and where Krakoa stands and foreshadows a moment in the future when violent waves may wash that line away. As for the attack by Dormammu’s forces, Casselli’s positioning of the “camera” at eye level, along with some wildly expressive faces, sells the sense of this being a never-ending last stand for the monarch, which helps the maintain impact of the cavalry arriving in a moment revealed months ago. The overall “The Last Annihilation” story is, thus far, pretty simple “bad guy attacks” material at the moment. Still, Ewing, Caselli, and company take what’s simple, at least on the surface, and make it worthwhile by executing exceedingly well. — Jamie Lovett

Rating: 4 out of 5

Shang-Chi remains the most consistently enjoyable comic book I am reading at the moment. It’s clear that writer Gene Luen Yang and the team working on this series are having so much fun with every issue. What continues to work so well for me with this current run is that the appearance of popular Marvel characters showing up alongside Shang-Chi never feels forced. Wolverine is the well-known face that shows up here in issue #3, but the way in which he does pop-in makes sense. I’m also impressed by how this series continues to have self-contained, crazy stories while still being able to build up to something greater in the background. In short, pick up Shang-Chi if you haven’t already. It’s quite good. — Logan Moore

Rating: 4 out of 5

Luke Skywalker lends some assistance to the Rebels and the Starlight Squadron during an intense battle with the Galactic Empire, all while Leia, Lando, and Chewbacca track Han Solo in carbonite at the Crimson Dawn auction. Despite being part of the “War of the Bounty Hunters” event, this issue largely felt like a standalone adventure akin to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, showing Luke demonstrating his combat skills, as well as the resourcefulness of the rest of the Rebellion. There might not have been many major reveals in connection to the pursuit of Solo, though once the reader comes to grip with that fact, they’re given an entertaining and action-packed experience that captures the spirit of the saga. In some respects, being at all connected to the War of the Bounty Hunters hindered the book, making us wish we could get a series of standalone books that follow this formula, delivering high-octane combat across the galaxy during the Galactic Civil War. — Patrick Cavanaugh

Rating: 4 out of 5

Keeve Trennis is starting to feel a bit like other troubled Star Wars protagonists of the pasts, but her battle with the darkness inside her still finds a way to remain interesting throughout each issue. Cavan Scott is smart to consistently rotate the characters around her, giving her a chance to show different sides of herself throughout the series. It’s especially nice to finally see some of the characters from the novels appear on comic pages. The more Orla Jareni the better. — Charlie Ridgely

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

The fourth chapter of the Symbiote Spider-Man story, Symbiote Spider-Man: Crossroads #1 takes a bit of a different approach this time around. The issue sees Peter Parker utilize the Crossroads dimension, an extremely deep-cut element from Marvel Comics that hasn’t been since since the early 1980s and for those deep cut Marvel fans, it’s an interesting choice. With Crossroads being a pocket of things that hasn’t been explored much, there’s a lot of directions that Peter David and Greg Land can go with this story, but it also comes in with a built-in weakness. Because Crossroads is such a deep cut, there’s a lot here that isn’t quite going to land with most mainstream fans and we already see some of that, to an extent, in this first issue. There are some jokes that fall flat and if you don’t know what you’re looking at when you’re looking at it, the reveal of Moondark as a main villain here can be a bit of a headscratcher. What remains consistent, and has across all of the Symbiote Spider-Man titles, is that the art feels fun and fresh and helps with the overall readability of things. Even if you don’t “get” the story, the art will help you along well enough. Ultimately, this issue hints at some potential for a really unique and perhaps even bizarre Spider-Man story, but already sets some concerns as to just how much payoff will come from digging into obscure, unexplored territory. — Nicole Drum

Rating: 3 out of 5

The first issue of The United States of Captain America set up this series to be something truly special and now issue #2 is delivering on it. Steve and Sam have head out on the road on the trail of a mysterious person who has not only stolen Cap’s shield but is also targeting others who use the symbol of Captain America to make a change in their communities. It’s a fascinating premise, but what makes this issue stand out perhaps more so than the first one is that it truly digs into the darker parts of America by offering an unflinching look at the injustice and inequity that many deal with – particularly when it comes to people of color and law enforcement. Christopher Cantwell does an impressive job of maintaining the integrity of what Captain America stands for while also pulling back the curtain and forcing the reader to look at reality for what it is and in doing so, reminds the reader about what Captain America is really about. All of this is done while also tucked in a very well-executed story about who is actually behind these attacks and what their motivations are. This is a story that feels both comic book-y but also cuts very close to the bone and it’s an absolute revelation. Also fantastic is Mohale Mashigo and Natacha Bustos’ story about Nichelle Write, the Captain America of Harrisburg the main story centers on. Overall, this issue is absolutely incredible and if the series continues along this path we’re in for not only a real treat from an entertainment standpoint but an education as well. — Nicole Drum

Rating: 5 out of 5

You’ve got a murder mystery, Wolverine is playing the detective In Madripoor alongside pirates jousting on speedboats. What’s not to like? — Connor Casey

Rating: 4 out of 5

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Other Publishers #1

Barbaric #2 maintains everything excellent from its debut—the humor, the violence, the fast pacing—and builds upon that momentum. The second issue is an interstitial piece that develops the series’ first adversary while developing the bond between Owen and Soren. After missing her name altogether in the first issue, Soren receives a complete origin here that, while somewhat familiar, expands the world around her well. Readers receive a variety of small hints and ideas at where Owen and Axe come from and what questions are worth asking, all of which serve to offer more than visceral thrills for returning readers. The visceral thrills in Barbaric #2 are quite good, though, with some might imagery of haunted halls and yawning abysses atop another over-the-top bloodbath. Barbaric continues to provide a modern spin to sword & sorcery comics and delivers all of the laughs and gasps readers could ask for in a single issue. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

I like the story being told in BRZRKR. I like B/Unute’s story, the sad humanity of it and the more we learn the deeper we go – even if so much of it is kind of Wolverine-adjacent. That said, for a story built around an immortal killing machine and a shady government intention with said immortal killing machine, anchoring the comic for yet another issue around flashbacks isn’t serving things well. Yes, BRZRKR #4 is a good read if you’re there for more of B’s history and if you’re into the slow burn of things, but nothing here is new. Nothing is especially revelatory and the twist in the final pages is something we could have gotten to before here. Things do appear to finally be heating up, but it calls into question where that heat will actually go. Overall, this issue kind of feels like a decision point for the title. Either it’s going to kick fully into gear or it’s going to fizzle. In either case, things are just okay. — Nicole Drum

Rating: 3 out of 5

The Department of Truth does its usual “talk don’t show” bit involving the origins of cryptids, but the comic does take an unexpected turn in this issue, namely by showing compassion to one of the people wrapped up in these wild, sinister conspiracies. One of the uncomfortable elements of this comic has been how so many people—even victims—are framed as some kind of enemy or malignant force in this comic for believing in wild reality-distorting conspiracies. In fact, it’s been one of the comics’ big weaknesses (besides the unrelenting exposition drops that occurs every single issue). While this issue doesn’t necessarily mark an improvement, the events of the comic shows a level of thoughtfulness that was lacking in past issues. I’m not sure that was always the plan or an evolution of the story, but it at least makes the comic feel a little more aware of the topics and the “reality” of conspiracies and their actual toll on society. — Christian Hoffer

Rating: 3 out of 5

Dune: Blood of the Sardaukar puts readers in the headspace of Colonel Bashar, one of the elite fighters that serve the Imperium’s Padishah Emperor directly. Anyone who’s read Frank Herbert’s original Dune novel knows that Shaddam IV was not above using these troops for covert operations against political enemies, and Blood of the Sardaukar reveals that Shaddam’s father, Elrood IX, was, unsurprisingly, no different. The story’s present moment is during the Harkonnen raid on House Atreides’ Arakkis compound during Dune‘s events, with Sadaurkar disguised in Harkonnen uniforms doing most of the dirty work. But the bulk of the story is told through dull flashbacks conveyed through Bashar’s rote narration. The art team does a decent job of making the raid seem dark and terrifying and varying the visual palette of each planet that appears in flashback. Still, the metallic captions used for Bashar’s internal monologue clash drastically with the scratchier linework, and some of the location headers are difficult to read against similarly colored backgrounds. But the issue’s greatest sin is trying to convince us of the nobility of these political death troopers with the trite notion that, if not for Bashar’s flash of conscience during the raid, the Dune saga might have played out differently. Color me unconvinced. — Jamie Lovett

Rating: 2 out of 5

The moral quandary at the heart of Firefly #31 feels false. Serenity’s crew, now fighting for a place on Earth That Was, takes on the superheroic notion that killing is wrong under any circumstance and that they should avoid it even if it means putting themselves into greater danger. That doesn’t track what we know of these characters from the television series preceding this comic. During their simpler outlaw days, they did not revel in killing but would take a life when necessary, in the heat of battle, or even sometimes to make a point. I seem to remember an unarmed prisoner getting kicked into a turbine because he was obstinate about the terms of surrender. Maybe writer Greg Pak is using this as a means of showing that Mal, who is particularly distraught after losing Wash, Book, and his mother, is still capable of killing when one of his crew is on the line. However, the seeds of doubt weren’t planted deeply or well enough in advance for the beat to mean anything. Visually, Jordi Pérez’s linework is loose to a fault, creating inconsistent character silhouettes and a vibe that feels better suited to a slice of life cartoon. The pieces don’t come together for this issue of Firefly. — Jamie Lovett

Rating: 2 out of 5

Despite being the penultimate installment, it feels like The Girls of Dimension 13 still has barely gotten anywhere worthwhile. After three consecutive issues of the characters haphazardly floating through different universes, this issue provides even more of the same, all while wasting precious pages retreading the backstory that we basically already knew about Abby, before culminating in a finale set-up that is even more underwhelming than I’d expected. I can’t find myself to care about this series’ group of female characters or really even have much of an understanding of who they are, and I don’t necessarily have confidence that the finale issue will be rewarding in any significant way. Even Bret Blevins’ art, which has almost redeemed its cheesecake proportions with trippy visuals in previous issues, is just a mess in this installment. — Jenna Anderson

Rating: 1 out of 5

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Other Publishers #2

I really love classic heavy metal and everything surrounding it, so I’m definitely in the target demographic for Gods of Brutality. This series centers around a world-renowned rockstar fighting out of hell with some assistance from Norse and Roman gods Thor and Hercules. While the elevator pitch alone makes is enough to make this an enjoyable first issue, the writing throughout is spotty and unnatural sounding at times. If this writing can improve in the future, though, this should make for a very fun series. — Logan Moore

Rating: 3 out of 5

Good Luck #2 continues to explore a very weird world, one where “luck” is a quantifiable statistic. As a group of unfortunate teens head off into a literal luck hot zone, the creative team opens up the world of Good Luck to show how quantifiable luck has actually impacted society. This is still a comic brimming with big ideas, and it’s interesting to see how easily it turned its lead cast into compelling characters that we want to root for. I feel that Good Luck is only going to get weirder in its remaining issues, and that’s a great thing. — Christian Hoffer

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Wagner’s ongoing exploration of human nature in Grendel comics remains every bit as compelling now as when it began. The scope, style, and even genre of those stories have changed, but Wagner’s keen eye for both visual storytelling and humanitarian critique remain. Grendel: Devil’s Odyssey managed to both provide new settings for its titular epic and updated thematic approaches for the end of the Trump era. It’s a keen work that manages to weave its entertainment with insight—cloaking a furious rebuttal to privatized spaceflights on a burning planet with stark designs and deliciously imagined scenarios, he informs us that humanity has no future, amongst the stars or anywhere else. Wagner is still capable of preparing the bitterest of pills in an enjoyable fashion, precisely why Grendel remains relevant. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

Groo Meets Tarzan does an impeccable job of blending these two far-out worlds, with the lord of the jungle sections being particularly stunning when it comes to the artwork of Thoma Yeates. While this certainly makes for a good crossover, the “true life” look into Mark Evanier and Sergio Aragones is somewhat hit or miss when it comes to the humor present. As an old hat comic book fan myself, I can follow along though I imagine it will leave some new readers scratching their heads. This is a must buy for fans of either character, though if you’re in the dark for either Tarzan or Groo, you might want to miss this one. — Evan Valentine

Rating: 3 out of 5

The big picture in Head Lopper becomes much clearer at the end of its fourth arc in a dazzling sequence where the crew discovers something not dissimilar from a stairway to heaven. It’s every bit as metal as it sounds in an enlightening series of events that reshapes many assumptions before one of the most tense climaxes in the series to date. It’s impressive how neatly MacLean establishes and executes a heist in the build towards a much more chaotic bit of action. Every beat along the way lands and each character, even wee Goat, plays a significant role. Whether it’s a massive explosion or a single crossbow bolt, each moment plays perfectly to the grimy high fantasy expectations Head Lopper has set so very high. Four stories into this saga and it’s clear that the ambitions for this minor miracle of fantasy cartooning are only growing; I cannot wait to see what comes next. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Jules Verne’s Lighthouse pushes forward with a tense action that shows our lead’s gutsy nature, but it ends with a shadow hanging over an ally we once trusted. With a friend dead, this issue delves further in the ugly nature of war, and Moses gives an unforgettable reminder about centered survival. — Megan Peters

Rating: 4 out of 5

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Other Publishers #3

The latest issue of this interesting series diving into the differences between man and machine might be predictable when it comes to Jesse’s “indoctrination” by two older classmates, but that doesn’t stop it from being terrifying all the same. Artist George Schall really steps up his game here, not just with characters’ emotions, but integrating sound effects into action beats, making for an engrossing read. You can’t help but feel sick to your stomach as the issue progresses, and it’s a feeling that sticks with you and makes for a solid addition to the series. — Evan Valentine

Rating: 4 out of 5

The penultimate chapter of The Modern Frankenstein finally pushes Elizabeth to question her mentor and the future father of her child. In that progression of events are plenty of enormous red flags, but within the pulpy horror mood Cornell has constructed it’s not too difficult to follow a story’s heroine down some obviously poor decisions. What’s most difficult to understand is exactly who favors and opposes Frankenstein’s experiements—the story seems to fear placing its narrative within any larger systems. So the focus remains almost entirely on Elizabeth and Frankenstein who essentially remain themselves. Crossing a few more moral boundaries does provide fodder to set them at odds and arranges a final conflict with some real potential. There’s not much beyond the pulp to be enjoyed here, but it’s pulpy enough to attract fans who prefer something familiar. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

In any comics anthology there is bound to be a collection of hits and misses, and it appears those misses have landed in Tales Through Time #4. That’s not to accuse these stories of being poor in quality, both get their point across, but they fail to deliver the sort of original or clever concepts that made earlier installment resonate. “How to Make a Ghost Town” is a Western tale that is almost instantly recognizable and then follows its path to an inevitable conclusion; satisfying, if unmemorable. “Love Letters” struggles more as it requires readers to possess some knowledge of The Old Guard to appreciate the framing and several pages throughout its climax fail to clearly communicate the “twist” in this tale. Putting together pieces on the final page isn’t a particularly enjoyable moment for readers and this entry would benefit from greater clarity in the moment. While Tales Through Time #4 is certainly the weakest installment in this collection so far, it also shows that the floor for The Old Guard is set reasonably high. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3 out of 5

The more Cullen Bunn tries to push the boundary, the better his stuff comes across and that’s more apparent here in Parasomnia #2 than ever. The tale unfolding in this series is bizarre and, at times, a bit tricky to follow—but it’s a completely fresh take and this team should be applauded for that. This book does tend to circle itself a bit in the name of mystery, but the plot takes a major step forward here as it begins to answer at least some of the questions posed in last issue. This book is moving in the right direction, there’s no denying that. — Adam Barnhardt

Rating: 4 out of 5

Phantom on the Scan #4 doesn’t do much in the way of plot (it looks like that’s being saved for next issue), but it does dive into the utter despair these characters find themselves in. Being a psychic never sounded so awful. — Connor Casey

Rating: 4 out of 5

I can at least refer to The Scumbag as being interesting because of how disassociated it is from anything resembling actual culture. It’s collection of misanthropes are torn from drive-in B-films to create the sense of a people who never really existed; instead they just exhibit whichever traits seem most outrageous in a given panel. The Scumbag has, in the course of only 8 issues, largely forgotten its original premise and charge and pivoted to throwing (sometimes literal) shit at the wall to see what sticks. It’s simply not an enjoyable or even memorable experience. This is summarized well in the pages of The Scumbag #9 when Ernie calls upon past friends to create an outrageous superteam; the sole woman on this team is renowned for giving “road head,” which makes feats like a throwing bucket of crap somehow seem more impressive. Whatever cleverness was to be found in the pages of The Scumbag early on have faded and all that’s left is a stench that cannot be covered. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 1 out of 5

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Other Publishers #4

Shadow Doctor’s end is just as solid as its beginning, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say there’s a feeling of “That’s it?” when the final page states the story is over. It’s based on a true story, and the arc Nathaniel Calloway goes through is told brilliantly through his grandson Peter, but the decision to halt the story here feels sudden. I guess I just wanted it to keep going. — Connor Casey

Rating: 4 out of 5

The latest blight causes what appear to be drug overdoses in victims, with Shadowman confronting the creature causing the pain, only to result in an unexpected meeting with the one who might be responsible for all of the suffering. While each previous issue of Shadowman has offered audiences relatively isolated adventures, this issue finally starts putting the pieces together to hint at what’s really going on, while the standalone narrative takes somewhat of a backseat. This helps to retroactively contextualize the horrors that came before this chapter, while also priming the reader for some truly exciting encounters, all while witnessing Shadowman’s attempts to do what’s right in the face of seemingly insurmountable and malevolent odds. — Patrick Cavanaugh

Rating: 4 out of 5

If you thought Erica Slaughter’s story in the present was riveting, you aren’t remotely prepared for the story of her past. Jame Tynion IV has crafted one of the most intense, unexpected, and heartfelt origin stories to date over the past few issues, spotlighting the many sides to the Order of Saint George and the many conflicts within. Gary Slaughter’s matter-of-fact and transparent method of communication with Erica is so refreshing when contrasted against the many secrets of the Order, and even in the darkest moments, you feel as if he’s a protective and positive presence. That’s what makes the book’s ending so impactful, and the tether between Erica and Jessie continues to grow by leaps and bounds. This is also one of artist Werther Dell’Edera and Miquel Muerto’s strongest issues, with several panels towards the end that can’t help but elicit all kinds of emotions as you root for Erica to make it through this trying process. Something is Killing the Children has never been better, and if you’re not along for this one-of-a-kind ride you are missing out. — Matthew Aguilar

Rating: 5 out of 5

Todd McFarlane’s series has a back-to-basics style issue that feels like the kind fo combative Spawn story that fans want and less a wheel-spinning set-up for the Spawn’s Universe expansion on the line. Artist Carlo Barberi does good work with the many action beats required for this month’s issue but the drawback is that Jay David Ramos’ colors are at times distracting, especially when the events of the narrative are in bizarre locations, like say, underwater. It’s a weird looking one at times, almost cartoon-level brightness, but a fun read. — Spencer Perry

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Now, this is a series finale. Okay, there’s still one more issue of this story arc and an epilogue issue before saying goodbye to Star Trek: Year Five for good, but the entire creative team behind Star Trek: Year Five #23 nails the sense of gravitas and rising, meaningful stakes rooted in character in this issue. From the opening page, Stephen Thompson shows his skill for creative and dramatic layouts by lacing scenes of the Enterprise’s exterior and the ship’s bridge crew through the threads of the Tholian web they’re seeking to escape, the sizzling red of Charlie Kirchoff’s colors accentuating the threat. Neil Uyetate shows some lettering flourish with Bright Eyes’ dialog, with text both noticeably alien in a wavy world balloon that speaks to the vibratory nature of their voice. Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly do a remarkable job conveying Kirk’s voice at his most heroic while carving out moments of brilliance and heroism for the rest of the crew. The entire engineering team works miracles, Uhura’s communications post extends to ship-to-ship hacking, and Sulu shows his piloting skills based on Chekov’s scratch paper math. It all dovetails into a moment tying the story into not only Star Trek‘s original mission but the entirety of the franchise to date and a powerful theme of fighting for the future in the face of nostalgia. It’d be almost ironic, giving it’s a comic about a 55-year-old television show, if previous issues didn’t back it up by leaning into new ideas instead of regurgitating old ones. Star Trek: Year Five seems poised to go out with more than a bang, but an ending that’ll make fans fall in love with the idea of Star Trek all over again. — Jamie Lovett

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

The first story sees Luke and Leia investigating a planet for a potential new Rebel base after the Battle of Yavin, bickering like siblings despite not knowing they’re siblings. The tone of this book and the premise of the adventure allows for some lower-stakes banter between the characters, which audiences never really witnessed before, as their connection wasn’t revealed until Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. Of course, they don’t know they’re siblings in this book, but it’s a delight for the reader to witness that dynamic in a way that has rarely been captured in the franchise, making for an extremely engaging experience. The back half of the book sees a group of pirates encountering one another and, due in large part to the countless panels full of sci-fi jargon, makes for an almost indecipherable experience. The conclusion does make some sort of sense and this book sees the appearance of some underused sequel trilogy characters, but the journey itself is dense and convoluted, dragging down the issue as a whole despite how fun the first half of the book is. Luckily, the backup story was a standalone experience while the first half will be continued next month. — Patrick Cavanaugh

Rating: 3 out of 5

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Other Publishers #5

Comic Reviews - Grendel Devils Odyssey #8
(Photo: Dark Horse Comics)

There’s something quite magical about what’s happening with Summoner’s War: Legacy, a series that feels as if it’s coming into its own as the two lead characters fully take the reigns. Despite their frequent squabbling, there’s already a compelling foundation to Rai and Tomas’s relationship, and having the Banian in the mix is a lovely counterbalance to their dynamic. Meanwhile, artist Luca Claretti and colorist Giovana Niro have defined this world with a distinct aesthetic, and the characters that live in that world are wonderfully expressive. The lore and magical history at the center of it all remain compelling as well, so if you’ve been looking for that classic sense of adventure in a fantasy setting, look no further than Summoner’s War: Legacy. — Matthew Aguilar

Rating: 4 out of 5

Mirka Andolfo’s Sweet Paprika is unlike anything else in comics at the moment, both from a visual and storytelling perspective. The series follows a CCO named Paprika, and while this is a world full of demons and angels, the core of this story is about a daughter navigating life and how she was raised, and the effect those parental teachings have had. Adolfo and colorist Simon Tessuto do some stellar work here, especially when Paprika’s onscreen, as some of her expressions and comedic gold, and that’s not even taking into account when she goes full demon on some idiot who confused her for the assistant. Paprika’s inner monologues about her shut-off life are entertaining but also elicit some needed empathy. The character of Dill is pretty much a caricature of a person, but that seems to be the point, and I’m curious regarding the character’s potential growth over the course of the series. There is a crassness to the characters and their interactions that at times seems unnecessary, but I still found myself intrigued about Paprika’s current relationship with her parents and what she will do to change how shut off she is from life outside of her work. This series won’t be for everyone, but I found myself hooked by issue’s end and looking forward to what’s next. — Matthew Aguilar

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

In terms of scope, That Texas Blood is about as small as it gets. A small roster of characters makes for a smaller story, yet issue #8 packs one hell of a punch. The vast majority of this issue takes place in a single booth in a small-town diner, yet you could cut the tension with a knife. It’s heavy on the exposition, yet every word helps to move this narrative forward. This comic is very much an ode to the most rural communities across these lands and just like small town America, That Texas Blood will knock you on your ass if you’re not careful about it. — Adam Barnhardt

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Tom Walz, who wrote 100 issues of the ongoing IDW Publishing TMNT series, returns to pen Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Annual 2021. The issue is a prologue to “Armageddon Game,” the next significant milestone in IDW’s TMNT story, and most of it is recapping what’s come before through Rat King’s conversations with his sibling’s in the Pantheon. It’d all be easy to pass off if Walz wasn’t as good as he is at writing Rat King’s playful dialog and having him clash mildly—in terms of personality, not battle—with the other members of his family. The art team does a stellar job of setting the scene for each conversation. Toad King’s bright playground arena is drastically different from Manmoth’s hunting ground, which holds with Rat King’s other meet-up spots as well. They also provide a two-page splash that is purely pinup material, but longtime fans may find themselves poring over it for a few good minutes before moving onto the next page. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Annual 2021 is better than a prologue like this needs to be, becoming a true delight to read. — Jamie Lovett

Rating: 4 out of 5

Transformers: Beast Wars wraps up its first act in a simple fashion, almost like a Saturday Morning Cartoon, which makes sense given the source material. Characters chose sides, fight a battle, and then decompress with a few small moments of character development, primarily focused on Optimus Primal coming into his own as a leader. There’s nothing particularly flawed in this issue, but nothing stands out either, as the characters remain simplistic to a forgettable degree. Anyone enjoying this series thus far won’t find a reason to argue with its sixth issue, but nor will convince any detractors to change their minds. — Jamie Lovett

Rating: 3 out of 5

The serial killers as superheroes analogs were awkward in Vinyl #1 and approach being unbearable in issue #2. Four new allies are introduced throughout the course of this issue and it is instantly apparent that the grizzled mercenaries they face are as doomed as teenagers in a slasher flick. It’s an element of heightened reality that glorifies a very real group of people by making them far more capable and funny than any in real life. As more of these mass murderers come together, the vibe is increasingly like that of the “Cereal Convention” in The Sandman but lacking any sense of self-awareness. Subsequently, all of the murders performed by these predators lack the thrill and joy communicated by a flamboyant art style. It all sits on the page and asks who this might be intended for because a feel-good romp that celebrates psychopaths butchering other psychopaths while forgetting one of its two lead characters on the second issue doesn’t sound great to me. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 1.5 out of 5

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