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Comic Book Reviews for This Week: 12/1/2021 – ComicBook.com

By Chase Magnett – December 1, 2021 11:00 am EST
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 Batman: Fear State Omega #1, The Avengers #50, and King of Spies #1.
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.
Action Comics has been working overtime for months leading up to this week’s Action Comics #1037 (and arguably trying to somehow distance itself from Bendis’ miserable run on the title) and now the payoff is here with the showdown between Superman and Mongul on Warworld. There is a lot to unpack with this issue – the political plot with the United Planets council and the highly suspect Durlan we met last issue, the actual battle on Warworld, and a lot of people getting their butts kicked. It’s heavy stuff and a pretty grim book, put it’s interesting, somehow simultaneously feeling like a Superman comic and something larger, more epic. The issue also includes a Martian Manhunter story that’s an actual delight that asks a lot of questions about the underused hero. Overall, this is an exciting and through-provoking issue on all fronts and while the “Warworld Saga” may not be every Superman fan’s cup of tea, the quality here hits the mark. — Nicole Drum
Rating: 4 out of 5
Batman 2021 Annual #1 is, generally, wildly better than the majority of Tynion’s Batman work but it suffers from a lot of the same pitfalls, especially in that it feels more like an imitation of something else rather than an authentic creation. That’s especially disappointing considering that this issue is our finale for Ghostmaker. One of the many “original” characters Tynion brought to his Batman run, Ghostmaker is sort of in the middle—not as wonderful as Miracle Molly, but not as bland and derivative as Punchline or useless as Clownhunter—so it’s nice to get a history and a backstory for this psychotic but in a not terrible way. And, as stories go, it’s not bad. Like Bruce Wayne, a young Ghosthunter witnessed a crime against his family (albeit a different one) that set him on his violent path. It’s actually kind of a nice idea, taking the familiar and giving it some twists. What doesn’t really hold up here, however, is that at varying points the story feels like someone watched a lot of anime, fell asleep, and smashed it all together with a less than optimal outcome. This general vibe is reinforced by Ortiz’s art which is absolutely refreshing and interesting in most cases, but just isn’t at its best here. The result is something that’s okay and only that. — Nicole Drum
Rating: 2.5 out of 5
At its end Batman: The Detective threatens to interrogate some of the troubling premises beneath Batman’s law-and-order modus operandi; it never quite goes there but gets close enough to give readers something to chew on. References to a current criminal’s father dying in prison and another former victim of Batman’s landing behind bars because they saved a life question the carceral state. However, there are no easy answers to that problem (or how Batman contributes to it) and so they’re elided for a familiar, feel-good conclusion. Batman and his allies stop the villains, whose motivations and actions still don’t line up under any degree of scrutiny, and Batman is provided with a number of “cool” moments that are unlikely to be recalled after the final page turn. The action that connects these individual beats is well-conceived and the best thing to come from The Detective in its entirety. Characters who look as beaten and brutal as their work would suggest are perfectly depicted by Kubert’s pencils and desperation hangs thick in close combat sequences. It’s a good looking sheen on a story that never quite made itself into something substantial. — Chase Magnett
Rating: 3 out of 5
With James Tynion IV’s run on Batman at an end and the “Fear State” event ostensibly over, there are some loose ends to tie up. That’s what Batman: Fear State Omega #1 is for with the comic seeing Batman bring Scarecrow to justice while also offering up a montage of sorts to conclude the stories of other major players in the “Fear State” arc. It’s a convenient and rather tidy way to close off Tynion’s run, but while it will satisfy some Batman readers in that it gives a distinct sense of closure, one can’t help but walk away from the issue feeling as though it was all very superficial – a very slick way to shuffle characters around, clearing the board for the next creative team while also never really dealing with any of the issues presented over the course of the run. — Nicole Drum
Rating: 3 out of 5
Mariko Tamaki, Matthew Rosenberg, and David Lapham attempt to have a serious discussion about how Gotham treats its mentally ill in the latest Detective Comics Annual. Falling on opposite sides of the debate are Batman and Nightwing, who argue over whether Arkham Asylum and its soon-to-be successor should focus on rehabilitation or incarceration while chasing down a shadow from Bruce Wayne’s past. The comic wisely points out the innate cruelty of a place like Arkham but doesn’t offer a better solution other than potentially promising an actual focus on mental health rather than a fancy prison in a gothic building. I appreciate that Tamaki is willing to tackle sticky issues in her superhero comics, although I think the fundamental nature of superhero comics (or at least DC’s current status quo) prevents any real lasting change, which feels pretty depressing. — Christian Hoffer
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Let’s get one universal truth out of the way—this anthology is worth reading purely for its first story, which features Danny DeVito making his DC Comics writing debut in a surprising and clever Penguin and Catwoman story. But in the pages that follow, readers can be treated (by and large) to a compelling menagerie of stories. While every story has some form of redeeming quality, there are absolutely some standouts—the stylish and endearing Poison Ivy story “Ophiocordyceps Lamia,” the oddly charming Killer Moth story “The Happiest Man on Earth”, and a dive into Talia al Ghul’s past with “The Second Eye.” While some stories veer dangerously close to being too wordy or too self-involved, that kind of energy does suit many of the villains within these pages—and overall, I can’t help but love the Gotham City Villains Anniversary Giant for existing. — Jenna Anderson
Rating: 4 out of 5
If it hasn’t been apparent by now, Hardware: Season One picks up from the character’s stories of yesteryear and doesn’t miss a beat. With over-the-top villains that simply wear suits, this story is like it was plucked out of the character’s first volume. Sure it helps to have Cowan and Sienkiewicz involved, but this latest story feels undeniably 90s, for better or for worse. — Adam Barnhardt
Rating: 3 out of 5
Tom King and Greg Smallwood’s noir-themed Human Target continues, as Christopher Chance receives a visit from the first member of the JLI – Ice. Ice is portrayed not as much of an active suspect, but more as the motive for why someone else would want to murder Lex Luthor, which led to Chance’s terminal poisoning. I enjoyed the comic right up to the very last page, which features a slightly obnoxious twist that fits the character but feels very much in line with other King “twists” where the male lead seems to have that last ace up their sleeve. While the comic moves at a slow pace, it feels more significant and deliberate than King’s previous mystery comic Rorschach. Smallwood’s art is also fantastic – the bright coloring (which invokes the bright superheroes of the 1980s and early 1990s) really contrasts with the murder mystery plot of the comic. — Christian Hoffer
Rating: 4 out of 5
There’s a time period in the history of Gotham City that is the most interesting for me personally, and that’s when the old school mafia begins giving way to the “freaks” such as Scarecrow, Killer Croc, and of course, the Joker. Tynion, Rosenberg, and Francavilla are able to capture this time period with great aplomb here, exploring Jim Gordon’s efforts of eradicating the crime families, only to unleash something far worse. While the Joker does make a few appearances here, rather than simply being in the background with his shadow looming large, but the solo issue works well at developing the Crime Prince of Crime we come to know and how Gordon inadvertently had a hand in that. If you’re a fan of stories like The Long Halloween, this makes for a fantastic companion piece. — Evan Valentine
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
The latest annual for DC Comics’ premiere supernatural superhero team throws out a lot of interesting concepts but is bogged down by the sheer enormity of the exposition required in order to sell them. Mitten’s artwork is satisfyingly grungy and creative when it comes to portraying the darker side of the DCU, but Ram V & Watters don’t give the creatures and action time to breathe. If you’ve been following Dark since its latest volume’s inception, there might be some things here for you to enjoy but this Annual is definitely one that was not made for new arrivals to the series so be forewarned. — Evan Valentine
Rating: 2 out of 5
After the somewhat incomprehensible nature of Infinite Frontier from earlier this year, Justice League Incarnate #1 mercifully simplifies DC’s massive multiverse plans by narrowing its focus. The multiverse-spanning Justice League recruits its Flash, jumps to Earth-8 (an incredibly unsubtle parody of Marvel) and battles with their version of Thanos and the full-powered Darkseid in an attempt to access the crack in the multiverse and save a lost Barry Allen. If you’re with me so far then dive right in. — Connor Casey
Rating: 4 out of 5
As with most other annuals, this one sidesteps the current story at hand to dive deep into the brotherly love between Dick Grayson and Jason Todd. Taylor’s oversized script excels exceptionally well at telling that story and making a deeply personal tale for fans of some of the Batfamily’s most popular characters. It’s not a Christmas or holiday story by any stretch of the imagination, but it still carries that warmth that comes with comparable stories, despite it being a dark and gritty piece. — Adam Barnhardt
Rating: 4 out of 5
Robin 2021 Annual functions as an addendum to the current narrative in Robin, checking in with Damian Wayne when he returned from Gotham City in Robin #6. The issue itself is all centered around his review of files from his father’s database, providing additional background for Damian’s motives along with a number of other contestants on the island. These “secret origin” style peeks behind the curtain are interesting enough on their own, but only function in the context of Robin where they introduce or develop mysteries tied to that serialized story. It’s easy to imagine many of these pages inserted as backup features across the past year, but here they are delivered as a collection. Flatline’s origin calls the most attention to itself and, while it’s nothing special, it provides her with additional depth and clarification. The same can be said for many antagonists who receive only a single page blending a data block and a few panels of story. Robin 2021 Annual primarily serves to be intriguing as it provides readers with details that couldn’t quite make the cut in Robin‘s limited page count. — Chase Magnett
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Class is officially back in session at the Teen Titans Academy—and the series is absolutely not missing a beat. This installment is chock full of major shifts for the series, including the return of at least one former Titan, new revelations regarding some of the students, and the canon debut of two surprising DC characters. Those narrative nuggets would be noteworthy enough, but the way that Tim Sheridan weaves the web manages to be endlessly entertaining and well executed with stakes and slice-of-life charm. With Mike Norton on art, bringing his characteristic charm and excellent facial expressions, the issue might be one of the best installments of Teen Titans Academy yet—which is high praise, given how the series has been thus far. — Jenna Anderson
Rating: 5 out of 5
Wonder Girl #5 brings back the focus to Yara Flor and benefits instantly from that decision. The first half picks up right here the last issue left off and provides that trademark dialogue and humor that has become such a beloved part of Yara’s character. Plus, the more Yara and Jerry I get the better, and while Joelle Jones doesn’t handle both writing and art duties this time, Adriana Melo’s artwork does a stellar job of creating some of those vivid battle sequences we’ve come to expect from the series. While Cassie and Potira do take a few pages away from Yara, the banter between them is entertaining and leads to some compelling reveals about their tribe, the world of the Amazons, and Yara’s origin, so I didn’t end up minding. We even get a thrilling hook for next issue right at the end, delivering a great issue from beginning to end. — Matthew Aguilar
Rating: 4 out of 5
Wonder Woman 2021 Annual is a really interesting comic. As we move away from Diana’s time in the afterlife and set up for “Trial of the Amazons,” Conrad and Cloonan do a fantastic job of positioning the heroine as being both utterly herself, but also changed by her experience. One of the things that works very well with the issue is that it also shows Diana’s struggle to incorporate back into her regular life through her friendship with Etta Candy – the pair just can’t seem to get a chance to sit down and chat. There’s also a good bit of action in the book when Diana faces off with a mysterious new foe who presents her with some shocking information about her people and her home and sets the heroine on edge. What distracts a bit from this is Andy MacDonald’s art. Overall, it’s not bad at all, but the crafting of the new villain Altuum is not great. He looks like a very under-developed sketch and Nick Filardi’s colors don’t do anything to fill in those gaps. Fortunately, he’s intriguing enough that you can get past the rough appearance and invest in the threat he poses to Wonder Woman. It’s a really good comic, just with a few rough edges. — Nicole Drum
Rating: 4 out of 5
Wow. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. At long last, DeConnick and Jimenez have released the first part of their highly anticipated mini-series—and it only takes the flip of a front cover to realize it’s been well worth the wait. The script for this oversized debut recalls the earliest days of Themyscira, about how the island—and subsequently, Wonder Woman—came to be. DeConnick weaves an incredible tale using pieces from classic mythology while spinning it to fit into the overall DC narrative, and it’s an incredible sight to behold. On top of that, you have an artist like Jimenez who turns out career-best work on every single page. The lineart is downright incredible, and his layouts create a masterful work of art. The story is important, and the artwork is gorgeous. It’s easy to throw around the superlatives, but there’s no denying this—Wonder Woman Historia #1 is one of the best comics you can pick up this week. In fact, I’d go so much to guess this issue’s going to find itself atop many year-end comics lists. Rightfully so, because it’s sequential art done perfectly—a new standard the medium should aim to achieve. — Adam Barnhardt
Rating: 5 out of 5
The Amazing Spider-Man #80 may be more of a Kraven detour than a Kraven tale, but it captures the Hunter’s antagonistic charms in brilliant style. This brilliant Arthur Adams cover promises exactly what is delivered with Ben Reilly hallucinating an increasingly dangerous encounter with a classic nemesis. Drops of himself fly through the air as individuals are shaped and reshaped by Kraven’s drugs. The related effects never grow dull as artist Michael Dowling and letterer Joe Caramagna each deliver a diverse visual vocabulary to simulate Ben’s state of mind. By the issue’s end the focus returns to Beyond and simmering subplots, all of which bring Bronze Age charm with them, but this issue sells itself on a creative reconstruction of the classic Spider-Man vs. Kraven the Hunter mechanics with abundant flair. — Chase Magnett
Rating: 4 out of 5
Jason Aaron’s Avengers is certainly massive in scope, with multiverses, celestials, time travel, world conquerors, prehistoric Avengers, devils and Gods, and international adventures all in the mix so far. Somehow things are only getting warmed up, at least if Avengers #50 is to be believed, and the mega-sized issue brings several stories to a close before setting up new threads for what’s still to come. At times it feels like one of those teaser montages of what’s to come but in narrative form, and that’s why some parts work and others don’t. It’s a bit of a rollercoaster ride, and a long one at that, so buckle in because there is a lot to cover. — Matthew Aguilar
Rating: 2.5 out of 5
“The Last of The Marvels” hasn’t really slowed down much since it kicked off 3 issues ago, and the foot is still firmly on the pedal in Captain Marvel #34. Kelly Thompson had one heck of a cliffhanger last issue, and while we knew she would get out of this particular scenario, the execution of this particular sequence and the solution that’s discovered is what makes it all work so well. It’s an ingenious development that ends up being one of those “how has that not been done before” moments, and artistically these moments leap off the page and make Carol feel like a true force of nature courtesy of artist Sergio Davila and colorist Jesus Aburtov. It was also nice to see some justice for Phyla-Vell, and while Carol does make a questionable decision that might have you scratching your head a bit, it does also seem plausible because of what’s been established in this arc thus far and whom she is currently facing. “The Last of the Marvels” has been a thrilling ride so far and seems to be hitting on all cylinders at the perfect time. — Matthew Aguilar
Rating: 4 out of 5
The climax of Zdarsky’s Daredevil sets the stage for the upcoming event series Devil’s Reign, but that doesn’t rob the issue of its individual poignancy acting as a capstone for a memorable collection of character arcs. The simultaneous release of Matt Murdock from prison and the wedding of Wilson Fisk pairs both men with women who have notably impacted them across years of fictional life and decades of comics. Together these couples reflect the degree to which every one of them has been reshaped in the course of this title. Some reconciliations, like Elektra’s graceful acceptance of Murdock’s faith, seem too pat—a requirement of limited space as the series ends—but each also reads as earned. Daredevil #36 primarily serves as character study and provides a monument to this outstanding run punctuated by one moment of violence that is made far more powerful in its relative quiet. Only the dim, undistinguished faces in some panels, lacking Checchetto’s charms, pull attention away from a series of increasingly potent moments. All of the power struggles and morality plays that made Daredevil a riveting read remain here and present a world changed by their consideration. — Chase Magnett
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
The original incarnation of Darkhawk was frequently tied to Spider-Man back in the day, even though he wasn’t a traditional Spider-character. It’s fitting then that this new Darkhawk would also be tied to a Spider-Man, so writer Kyle Higgins brought Miles Morales into Darkhawk’s world as opposed to Peter Parker, and it turns out to be a brilliant choice. Miles and Connor relate to each other in a very different way than Christopher and Peter did and having someone his age to relate to in this superhero world allows more of Connor’s personality and inner conflicts to manifest, and it makes him more relatable as a result. The Darkhawk side of the equation also gets a chance to shine due to the presence of a certain Star-Spangled Avenger, and artist Juanan Ramirez and colorist Erick Arciniega deliver a fight sequence that shows off the mix of style and power that the Darkhawk suit contains. I wasn’t exactly sold on their Captain America, but the duo shines when they are working with sleeker suits and fighting styles such as Spider-Man and Darkhawk. I loved this issue through and through, and Darkhawk continues to hit all the right notes in this so far stellar revival. — Matthew Aguilar
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Black Bolt’s tale of a twisted reality in which his mainstream dreams are transformed into nightmares emerges as a blend of gothic romance and Silver Age-style aesthetics in a plot centered upon its unreliable narrator. The essential twist at its center is hinted at early in the pages and, while it’s nothing superhero fans haven’t seen before, is delivered in a very satisfying fashion. What sets this classic retelling apart beyond its confident slow revelations of the truth are David Cutler’s depictions of Black Bolt’s current state and his past in Attilan. Kirby-inspired tech fills the city and its fashions in splash panels filled with impossible machines and royal attendants. These bright visions lit with the same charm as prime-era Fantastic Four ideas highlight just how grim Black Bolt’s own predicament truly is as well as an artist who is developing a polished and promising style perfectly suited to the genre. The Darkhold: Black Bolt emphasizes its own tale of horror and executes on its premise quite well, regardless of how this may factor into the larger event design. — Chase Magnett
Rating: 4 out of 5
Crafting a relevant tie-in to a major comic book event can be a tricky beast. Thankfully, Death of Doctor Strange: Spider-Man #1 is an entertaining tie-in to the Marvel event series currently taking place. Even if you haven’t been reading to main series, the title gives away all of the pertinent information Spider-Man fans need to get caught up. Jed MacKay, Marcelo Ferreira, Wayne Faucher, Andrew Crossley, and Joe Caramagna offer up a new twist in the Spider-Man/Black Cat relationship with Ben Reilly replacing Peter Parker after the events in Amazing Spider-Man‘s “Beyond” story arc. Whereas Black Cat is crazy about Peter, she wants nothing to do with his clone. Watching them bicker brings some humor to the festivities. I enjoyed the subtle references MacKay dropped for longtime Marvel readers (i.e. Ben Reilly and Black Cat’s prior adventures with Doctor Strange), plus a cameo from another street-level hero felt natural. There’s another appreciation for how Doctor Strange was able to rope Spider-Man into this “Last Will and Testament” mission, that ends up making even more sense when we find out Ben and Felicia Hardy’s final task. — Tim Adams
Rating: 3 out of 5
This isn’t so much an extension of The Death of Doctor Strange as an excuse to continue the stories of recent introductions and publisher favorites White Fox and Sword Master. Both superheroes appear regularly in one-shots and other sales-boosting fare, and the Sorcerer Supreme’s demise provides an opportunity for the pair to crossover. Much of the issue is spent with both characters explaining their origins, powers, and motivations over action sequences to catch new readers up. However, the action ranges from somewhat engaging in the front half to a very stylish delivery of magical adventure and battle by Luciano Vecchio in the back half, although the two artists feel mismatched by time when set side-by-side. Clean lines and exaggerated forms show appreciation of Tradd Moore. Even though the villain is two-dimensional the issue does not skimp on consequences providing the rare one-shot with stakes. For all of its flaws, it’s difficult not to appreciate The Death of Doctor Strange: White Fox #1 even more for its merits as it carves a space for these barely known new heroes. — Chase Magnett
Rating: 3 out of 5
Turning the action and adventure of the Fantastic Four into a courtroom drama about a superhuman custody battle actually works really well? This series has had its ups and downs, but it has always worked best when focusing on the dynamics within the family. This court case delivers, with a fantastic villain in the Wizard and a well executed guest appearance from Jennifer Walters. — Charlie Ridgely
Rating: 4 out of 5
One of the things I happen to adore about Marauders is how it lets stories and characters breathe, fleshing out the small details in characters’ individual arcs while also creating compelling intrigue in Mutantkind and Krakoa’s political dealings and relationships. Marauders #26 is a brilliant example of this, as while it doesn’t move a larger narrative or story forward, it presents so many smaller yet no less delightful moments throughout that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Gerry Duggan frames the issue around two scenes, with one being mostly a discussion between Emma Frost, Sebastian Shaw, and Harry Leland, while the other is mostly a battle between Iceman and Fin Fang From. The first unearths quick-witted dialogue and promising new threads amongst the old Hellfire Club members, while the second just makes Iceman look like the complete force of nature he should be, and good Lord is it amazing. Seriously, if you’ve ever wanted to see Iceman own a giant dragon, artist Matteo Lolli and colorist Rain Beredo deliver a scene even better than the one you imagined in your head. As great as all that is, I can completely understand why some will dismiss this issue, as it doesn’t move any major stories forward and the characters don’t seem that much further along than they were at the beginning of the issue. That said, if you’re willing to live in the moment a bit, you will likely find so much to enjoy. — Matthew Aguilar
Rating: 4 out of 5
I hope you like backstory, because that’s all that The Marvels has in store for you with issue #6. Rather than bouncing around between different time periods and showcasing a number of different characters, The Marvels takes a much different approach with this installment and solely fleshes out one of the story’s main villains, Lady Lotus. While this might sound uninteresting, an issue like this was kind of needed at this point for The Marvels to better explain some of the larger conflicts that we’ve been exposed to so far. In the grander scheme of this series, this isn’t one of the more memorable issues, but it does some much-needed heavy lifting with the larger storyline that I’m sure will be appreciated as we move forward. — Logan Moore
Rating: 3 out of 5
New Mutants #23 sees both generations of young mutants joining forces to confront the Shadow King. Vita Ayala approaches the conflict with nuance as the newer mutants attempt to distinguish the Shadow King and its host, Amahl Farouk. Ayala’s dialog is at times too practiced, the kind of thoughtful back and forth and makes sense in a safe space, but that drains some of the tension out what should be a life-or-death situation. Luckily, Rod Reis amps up the Bill Sienkiewicz inspiration to new levels of surreality, which proves more the enough to carry the narrative to a satisfying, cathartic conclusion. — Jamie Lovett
Rating: 4 out of 5
The first issue of Phoenix Song: Echo showed great promise, but issue #2 looks to turn that promise into actual results, and for the most part, it succeeds. Writer Rebecca Roanhorse gives us some needed context on Echo’s new ally and the force that is hunting her, though Roanhorse never forgets to let Echo get her due shine. She’s a force to be reckoned with and consistency commands your attention, both in moments of badassery and moments of tragedy, and boy does the latter make an impact. The differing styles of Luca Maresca, Kyle Charles, Carlos Lopez, and Bryan Valenza are utilized to great effect throughout the issue, especially when things blast to the past, and it seems that aspect of the book is only going to expand as the series goes on. The villain is probably the least interesting part of this series at the moment, but they do manage to create some tense and even creepy moments in this story, so hopefully, they can live up to the book’s potential as we move forward. As it stands though, there’s a lot to like here, and issue #3 could really be the one that sends this series into overdrive. — Matthew Aguilar
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Following a conflict with Vader, Valance has been built back stronger than every, if only to be used by the Sith Lord as a personal assassin to weed out members of the Crimson Dawn. Bounty hunters like Bossk and Zuckuss are attempting to find a use for themselves without Valance, which merely sees them inadvertently causing even more conflicts. As teased in the previous issue of this series, Boutny Hunters finds itself in a good reboot point, thanks to Valance’s recruitment into the Empire and an almost-complete physical upgrade, hammering home the point that we’re embarking on a new journey. Making this journey now seem exciting is that Valance is somewhat embarking on a solo mission, while the rest of the bounty hunters are united together, as opposed to the ways in which previous storyline featured overly cumbersome, interwoven stories that resulted in a difficult tone and narrative momentum to perpetuate. Between the promise of this premise and stronger narrative cohesion, Bounty Hunters might actually become a book worth reading. — Patrick Cavanaugh
Rating: 4 out of 5
After losing out on Han Solo frozen in carbonite due to the Crimson Dawn, and realizing how much the organization has infiltrated the Empire, Darth Vader attempts to put together a group of assassins to find all usurpers to put an end to the organization permanently. The final pages of the issue, however, reveal that, while Vader searches for Crimson Dawn, an unexpected figure from his past is searching for him, with anyone rarely wanting to actively confront the Sith Lord. While the book might be titled “Darth Vader” and while the villain does play an important part of the overall trajectory of the narrative, this book mainly focuses on introducing a variety of new characters, despite audiences not quite knowing how much of this information will be pertinent going forward. Surely the book wouldn’t spend the time introducing these characters if this exposition wasn’t going to be necessary, yet it still feels a bit underwhelming for a Darth Vader series to kick off a new narrative arc while spending such little time with the titular figure. Luckily, the tease in the last few pages does offer some excitement and potential wrinkles for Vader, so things wrapped up in a more appealing way and will possibly allow the upcoming adventure to jump right into the meat of the action more effectively. — Patrick Cavanaugh
Rating: 3 out of 5
The follow-up to the all-new Venom series takes what really worked about the debut issues and sticks to it, though writer Ram V takes a detour into the villain plotting territory that takes up a lot of real estate. Bryan Hitch’s artwork is at its best when he gets to make the symbiotes actually do something, otherwise the dialogue heavy scenes and pages devoted to tactical squads seem basic by comparison. Inker Andrew Currie does great work though, bringing a solid elevation to Hitch’s already decent pencil work. Venom seems to be headed toward a new future without depending on Eddie Brock, but it might take a while to get there. — Spencer Perry
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
The penultimate issue of Sisters of Battle adds a genuine wrinkle to this paint-by-numbers plot and the addition of a corrupted Inquisitor bound kicking to this elite squad is engaging. This also creates clear objectives that were ill-defined in earlier issues. Even if it’s a loser’s game to care about any person in this franchise, the clear distinctions between failure and success at least provide something for readers to invest their interest in. It doesn’t add much to the series sense of style, however, as the action sequences remain uninventive and plainly presented. With only one issue remaining, Sisters of Battle finally possesses some momentum and may yet deliver an entertaining overall story. — Chase Magnett
Rating: 3 out of 5
After a dialogue-heavy third issue, Winter Guard #4 brings the series to an end in a climactic manner that I had been hoping for. Nearly every character that has been featured in Winter Guard gets its own time to shine in this issue, which is something that has been absent since the first installment. Other than these sequences, though, the larger narrative that this series was spinning just falls slat at the end. Winter Guard as a whole just became a bit too convoluted for its own good in its middle chapters. Despite this, it does end on a higher note to close out. — Logan Moore
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
The title X-Men: The Trial of Magneto increasingly feels like a misnomer. Thus far, there has been no trial, and this issue barely features Magneto at all. Its true purpose seems to be in restoring Scarlet Witch to an uncomplicated-ly heroic status quo, a bit of continuity triage on a character that’s become folklorish boogeyman in mutant culture in recent years. As such, the plot is a meaningless jumble of notions that amounts to little more than willing away all of Wanda’s baggage. With two different pencilers, the art is another distraction adding to the chaos, as Wanda shifts back and forth between being an Elizabeth Olsen lookalike and something more generic. Simply one of the messiest ventures to come out of the X-Men’s Krakoan era. — Jamie Lovett
Rating: 1 out of 5
Buffy the Vampire Slayer #32 is the big climax of this Buffy story in the Spider-Verse mold. The dialog works, and the art is stylish, but there’s little in the way of emotional stakes. Things are happening, but it’s hard to see why the reader should care. What’s worse is that the series has tripped over itself in a mad dash to get to this moment and here fails to give the wonder of the moment realized the visual space and splendor it deserves. It seems the series’ creators can’t grasp the correct pacing to give any of the story beats in this comic the appropriate weight. — Jamie Lovett
Rating: 2 out of 5
Campisi: The Dragon Incident certainly ends on a high note with its fourth and final issue. The series never quite found a way to blend the low-level crime family storyline with the fantasy elements, but the climactic confrontation went about as well as one could hope for. — Connor Casey
Rating: 4 out of 5
John Layman and Dan Boultwood deliver a hilarious conclusion to Chu‘s “(She) Drunk History” story arc. It mixes creative time travel, cartoonish art, and clever twists to feature Saffron Chu’s master plan. She comes across as totally in control of every situation she finds herself in, always one step ahead of her competition. A love triangle is also teased, which looks like it’ll be follwed-up on in future issues. The expressive art from Boultwood fits perfectly in the Chew Universe, and closely resembles Rob Guillory’s work. As one story comes to a conclusion, the next one is set up in an enticing epilogue. — Tim Adams
Rating: 4 out of 5
I’m not sure Cross to Bear knows what it wants to be. The first issue was all about a secret society doing the dirty work and pulling strings from the shadows. This second issue uses that setup to… deliver another set up? Cross to Bear #2 is nothing but a classic fridge scenario, killing off its female lead to send the man at the center of the story on a vengeful killing spree. These two issues feel like totally different approaches to beginning the same story, but if there’s one thing they do have in common, it’s that they both possess the ability to make 24 pages feel like 42. — Charlie Ridgely
Rating: 1 out of 5
MacKinnon and Casalanguida weave the next issue of Connor and his lady love and it’s the definition of a mixed bag. The art by Casalanguida fits well in the story that the team is trying to tell here, but MacKinnon’s world and the character’s within it aren’t able to hit the same emotion and charisma that the facial expressions of the artist are able to hit on a regular basis. In a comic book world that is laden with crime thrillers, Dancing With The Dragon just doesn’t have an appealing enough hook to set it apart from the competition, especially when it comes to its characters, who simply aren’t able to hook in readers to really make this thrilling. This is definitely a series that I want to see out until the end, but for now, it needs a spark to stand out from the rest. — Evan Valentine
Rating: 2.5 out of 5
The penultimate issue of Dark Blood in many ways still feels like it’s only the beginning of what this series should have in store. Many of the larger plot details that have remained hidden in the series up until this point are disclosed in this issue, although these revelations aren’t all that interesting. At this point, it feels like Dark Blood is merely tying up lingering plot points rather than building to a climactic conclusion. I’ll hope to be proven wrong, especially since I’ve largely enjoyed this series so far. –– Logan Moore
Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Wes Craig’s art is the star of the show, making a dialogue- and character-heavy issue of Deadly Class look as visually interesting as any of the recent action orgies. Rick Remender’s script is sharp, and the way he is evolving the characters after the time jump works well, but the ending feels like one of those things that Deadly Class has done five times before, and unless it pays off in a different way than it has before, it’s a little disappointing that a great book is heading into its final arc with a resounding “again?” — Russ Burlingame
Rating: 4 out of 5
We finally get an explanation about the Woman in Red who has haunted the Department of Truth since the first issue. As with every issue, the explanation is delivered through a rambling exposition with surreal art that’s tied to real-world figures and some sort of pop culture conspiracy theory. Guest artist James Parson aside, it feels like The Department of Truth is reusing the same storytelling pattern over and over again. At this point, it feels less clever and more of a challenge to figure out how to tie weird bits of Americana conspiracy fodder into the lore of the series. — Christian Hoffer
Rating: 2 out of 5
While it takes a good chunk of this issue for Dirtbag Rapture #3 to really hit its stride, the journey is ultimately a worthwhile one. To an extent, I was fine existing in the status quo writer Christopher Sebela had set for Kat, but seeing her pulled into a conflict for the fate of all humanity proves to be rewarding and interesting, with some clever twists and turns in the second half. When you factor in Kendall Goode’s expressive art and Gab Contreras’ pastel colors, Dirtbag Rapture proves to be the right mix of unnerving and entertaining—and I’m still excited to see what’s next. — Jenna Anderson
Rating: 4 out of 5
Dune: House Atreides wraps up this first prequel to Frank Herbert’s sci-fi classic. The issue revolves around the trial of Leto Atreides, the young Duke framed by the Harkonnens for the destruction of a Tleilaxu ship aboard a Spacing Guild transport ship. Dev Prevanik’s unusual and complex layouts make the proceedings feel chaotic, though whether that’s intentional or not is unclear. He employs such over-the-top arrangements with such regularity that the trail scene fails to standout one. One exception is a moment depicting soon-to-be Padishah Emperor Shaddam Corrino speaking on Leto’s behalf. In a genius moment, Prevanik uses a diagonal line to Juxtapoz Shaddam and the Tleilaxu representative. Shaddam’s panels become larger in inverse relation to the Tleilaxu as if visually depicting the scales of justice tipping. That layer of meaning sets it apart from the other often arbitrary angular panels that Premanik deploys. But the issue ends on an odd note, driving home that the series title refers to Leto’s coming of age, referring to himself as House Atreides. The final page emphasizes that this is about Leto, but the young Duke does almost nothing in this chapter. He’s left to live or die by the whims of others, a spectator in his own story, making the concluding statement feel as hollow as most of the story that preceded it. — Jamie Lovett
Rating: 2 out of 5
Ernest Gleckman is a mild-mannered candidate for student-body president, who also happens to enjoy heavy metal. While Ernest thinks this is a dark enough secret, a chance encounter will see him embracing an even deeper darkness that he’ll have to fight even harder to hide. For lack of a better term, this debut issue of Evil Ernie is immensely dorky, not only due to its main character demonstrating such qualities, but also due to the tone being used in the ways it depicts a “heavy metal rock” nightclub, as well as its more sinister components. I suppose one could argue that it is intentionally campy or exaggerated for effect, but such irony typically needs to be heightened to the point that the satire is overbearing, and this book surely doesn’t get that point across. It’s possible that future chapters could walk that line a bit more effectively, with this debut issue instead feeling like a relic from the ’50s warning readers about the hazardous effects of rock music. — Patrick Cavanaugh
Rating: 2 out of 5
The “giant space portal back to Earth” plot may feel out of place as a Firefly tale, but writer Greg Pak mines some genuine tension out of it in this issue, and artist Simona Di Gianfelice leans into it with their expressive, cartoonish style. There’s one moment involving Mal and Inara that’s almost (unintentionally) laugh out loud funny, but Pak commits, and the followthrough helps lend in emotional heft. The jokes land (mostly on Jayne), and there’s plenty of twists and turns. The Firefly series is way out of the franchise’s comfort zone at this point, but this installment makes for solid reading. — Jamie Lovett
Rating: 3 out of 5
The childlike appreciation for fast cars, gunfights, and naked women in King of Spies #1 provides artist Matteo Scalera with plenty of opportunity to showcase his craft. Individual moments and brief sequences are regularly impressive. Roland even manages to make a sympathetic appeal as he inhabits a dad-type mold that appears endearingly pitiful with blood in his beard. The larger narrative often fails to cohere – characters who die midway through the introductory sequence are revealed as corpses many pages later to no effect. Yet the action itself is always exciting and offers readers something of value to provide their attention in a hackneyed narrative that barely contemplates its own premise. Beyond the visual appeal, there’s very little to be said about King of Spies and that seems to be a key selling point of the Millarworld brand now. — Chase Magnett
Rating: 2 out of 5
Magic: Master of Metal #1 spotlights Tezzeret, the Planeswalker who appeared recently in the ongoing Magic: The Gathering series. The other Planeswalkers are wary of Tezzeret, who once reluctantly served an even greater evil, and Master of Metal gives readers a sense of why. Through these three stories, writer Mairghread Scott paints a picture of Tezzeret as an entirely self-interested master manipulator, one who plays the long game and will do anything to ensure his survival on a neverending quest for self-realized perfection. More specifically, it reveals how many of the problems plaguing Ravnica in the main series were of Tezzeret’s design. French Carlomagno’s artwork on the issue’s frame story fits comfortably into the Boom house style (clean, expressive, Dan Mora-like) while the stories couched within take a darker, more detailed approach. It’s a stellar character piece that should serve those already invested in Boom’s series and those looking for a jumping-on point equally well. — Jamie Lovett
Rating: 3 out of 5
First off, artist Stuart Immonen and colorists Sunny Gho and David Curiel create some truly outstanding work in The Magic Order II #2, consistently finding unique but also disturbing ways of conveying death, destruction, and tension. Whether it’s clocking the world in vibrant greens with death on electric lines, flying guard sharks cloaked in dark blues and shadow, or displaying the pain and depression of addiction using tight spaces and a stark palette of dark blues and purples. There’s actually one scene that was a bit off-putting for me personally, so when I say things can get a little dark, especially for parents, I mean it. Then the art team combines for a stellar final battle sequence that is energized with bold colors and abilities that allow the art team to deliver the sequence with style and flash. While the issue is a bit on the darker side, Mark Millar does keep things a little light early on and hits enough comedic moments to break those up. It still doesn’t feel as if we have an actual force of heroes yet, but the villains have made up for that in spades, and issue #2 keeps things moving in the right direction. — Matthew Aguilar
Rating: 4 out of 5
I didn’t care much for the first arc of Maniac of New York and The Bronx Is Burning hasn’t done much to change my mind out of the gate. The best thing I can say about this follow-up series so far is that it seems to be moving at a bit of a slower pace and is doing some better character work as a result. That being said, much of this issue continues to contain the same problems that I have previously had with Maniac of New York. We’ll see if my feelings change over the course of this series. — Logan Moore
Rating: 2.5 out of 5
It isn’t often that each single issue of a series is outstanding on their own as well as when taken as a complete body of work, but that is absolutely the case with The Me You Love in the Dark and, especially this fifth and final issue. The issue sees Ro finally realize the truth about the entity she’s spent the previous months with and while the same elements that have made the previous issues fantastic hold true here—pacing, well-constructive narrative, incredible art with a fantastic use of color and tone—what sets this issue just a notch above is how it presents abusive relationships in a way that doesn’t diminish the fantastical horror aspect of this specific story but also is gut-wrenchingly real. The real horror of this horror story is not the entity, but the manipulation and the abuse and Corona’s art along with Beaulieu’s colors bring this to exquisite, unflinching life while Young gives voice to the gaslighting and twisting that abusers often use in a way that is chilling and unsettling. It’s not an issue for the faint of heart or for those who might see their own experiences reflected in it, but at the same time it strikes a chord that will make the story and its lessons impossible to forget. This is a stunning book in the very best way. — Nicole Drum
Rating: 5 out of 5
It’s no secret that I adore Once & Future, and once again there’s plenty to love about issue #22, though it does get held back just a bit by its cast. When I say that, I don’t mean the people themselves, as Gran, Duncan, Rose, Merlin, and everyone else are as delightful and creepy as ever. What I’m referring to is the size of that cast, which has grown little by little to include the villainous Arthur and his forces, the one calling himself the true Arthur and their forces, the government’s various forces, the people our lovely trio are protecting, and of course the actual trio of Gran, Duncan, and Rose. When you start to have all of those various characters and new mythological beings cross over with one another, it can be a bit difficult to keep them all straight and whom they are sided with, and this issue does suffer a bit from that problem. Writer Kieron Gillen, Dan Mora, Tamra Bonvillain, and Ed Dukeshire consistently capture your attention with gorgeous chase sequences that feel larger than life, and the navigating of this deadly world with Gran in the lead is as charming and hilarious as ever. The only thing holding it back is the sheer number of characters in the mix and the slightly cluttered feel such a massive cast moving in and out is starting to produce. That’s a small nitpick mind you, and there is far more to love here than not, so once again Once & Future is an easy recommendation. — Matthew Aguilar
Rating: 4 out of 5
An interlude of sorts to Mirka Andolfo, Luca Blengino, and company’s current Red Sonja run, this special provides two stories that put the red-headed warrior in the spotlight. While these stories aren’t overtly festive—outside of “Sonja’s Carol” being a violent take on a certain Charles Dickens classic—they do prove to be intriguing expansions of Sonja and her world. If anything, the issue only further proves how Andolfo and Blengino have an intriguing, but nuanced take on Sonja, which the kinetic art from Carmelo Zagaria and Zulema Scotto Lavina accents pretty well. This is by no means an essential Red Sonja issue, but it will bring you just enough holiday cheer. — Jenna Anderson

Rating: 3.5 out of 5
The first issue of Redneck‘s final arc reads almost like a series epilogue, jumping forward in time and skipping the great war altogether. But it’s effective in setting up the future and aftermath for this family, and how tragedies can also bring someone fulfilling endings. There is a lot left to happen in these final five issues, but knowing where it all ends up surprisingly makes it all the more exciting. — Charlie Ridgely
Rating: 4 out of 5
Search for Hu is a story stuck in an odd narrative loop of its own making. The previous issue’s dramatic ending is diffused here by the opposing family simply saying, “we didn’t do it,” and our protagonist has no retort. He doesn’t question. He doesn’t wonder who, if not the Hu, could have attacked his family. He proceeds to the next bout of violence. Yes, that’s the point to the degree that this life of conflict is alluring and easy to slip into for a wayward veteran with little to call him back home, but there’s no tension in the act here. There’s an almost perfunctory gesture towards Aaron having unfinished business but no attempt to establish the character’s interiority. Couple that with some awkward emoting in this issue’s artwork, and Search for Hu increasingly feels like it’s forgotten its purpose. — Jamie Lovett
Rating: 2 out of 5
Mike Mignola’s long awaited return as writer/artist takes him back to one of his best places as a storyteller, Hell. With Acheron Mignola is tying together countless threads from his entire Hellboy/BPRD storylines, delivering an epilogue that reveals there is still life in a world that seemed like it had concluded. The most minor of stumbles is when the series takes a quick shift into whatever the next wave of stories will be, not holding the reader’s hand and instead sending them into the deep end. It’s an exciting prospect that will likely feel rewarding in the end but for now is a sudden shift. — Spencer Perry
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Writer Rory McConville takes the reins from Todd in the latest Spawn and the difference is noticeable only in that the prose doesn’t resort to being juvenile, it’s still as lengthy and wordy as ever. Artist Carlo Barberi, typically a high point of any given recent issue of the series, seems to be in a rut as his work and that of colorist Jay David Ramos seems to clash. Visually there’s nothing wrong with how either of them operate, but they’re coming at the material from two different tones, Barberi likes the brooding side while Ramos tends to bring out the pop elements. — Spencer Perry
Rating: 2.5 out of 5
In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #123, writer Sophie Campbell zooms in from the community-wide politics of Mutant Town to focus on Leonard, the Splinter Clan’s leader. While his brothers have found other groups to involve themselves and relationships to cultivate, Leonardo has come to realize that his commitment to his family and loyalty to Splinter has left him with no outside support group in the wake of his father’s death. This realization leads to a personal journey as he ventures out into the night, reconnecting with some old friends and perhaps making new ones. In her last issue on the series, Jodi Nishijima shows her skill and versatility, offering clean panels and cartooning for action scenes, emotional beats, and moments when memories loom large. It’s a stellar, relatively quiet, character-focused issue that will please all TMNT fans, especially Leo lovers. — Jamie Lovett
Rating: 4 out of 5
White Ash steps out with a gorgeous first issue that brings fantasy and true crime together in perfect harmony. When a human village finds some of its own missing, readers are introduced to star-crossed lovers who are doing their best to find a shadowy coven. This first issue fleshes out its fantastical characters with ease while pacing exposition through some easy dialogue. From first to last, each page unfolds new context that will keep fans hooked, and a cliffhanger of royal proportions proves White Ash is ready to thrill readers for issues to come. — Megan Peters
Rating: 5 out of 5
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