Mini Reviews for 1/08

This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on January 8, 2019.

DC

DAPHNE BYRNE #1

Sometimes you know as you read a comic that no other artist could have made what’s on the page work. Such is the case with Daphne Byrne #1, a comic about a young woman pulled into a mysterious underworld drenched in gothic shadows. Kelley Jones’ exaggerated forms and atmospheric set pieces bring the world to life, providing a clear tone that fills the narration and dialogue with life as they exist in such a specific and clearly defined world. The narrative itself is familiar and observing another young person’s slow discovery of a supernatural underworld offers comfortable potential. However, what elevates that to a creepy, good comic book reading time is how Jones’ infuses the familiar with his own shadow-draped perspective, and makes this another knock-out new series from Hill House Comics. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

YOUNG JUSTICE #12

There’s a nostalgic quality to Young Justice #12, reading it I could remember what it was like coming across a “surprise” crossover in superhero comics. The introductions, cross-references, and pure novelty of the scenario was fun, but without tension, and that fun is similarly evoked in these pages. It’s a testament both to Bendis’ exuberance and the overall quality of the Wonder Comics line how naturally all of these familiar and guest characters come together. Even more impressive is that in an issue largely lacking in conflict, the resulting light read is still a lot of fun. This is the sort of superhero series that’s simply enjoyable to occupy and it occupies its space quite well in this issue. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

Marvel

THE AMAZING MARY JANE #4

It seems like The Amazing Mary Jane is constructed with solutions in mind and the problems that lead to them quickly backfilled into the script. The big reveal in this issue is a concept that lies beyond any reasonable of suspension of disbelief for a Marvel comic in general, especially one that continually raises budgetary concerns. It’s a centerpiece that is lampshaded by Peter Parker himself and just one example of poorly devised conflict among so many. Multiple pages seem to exist independent of the ongoing plot, presenting ideas that are never addressed again and easily ignored even within their own space. It’s bad enough that the series must not only continue to explain its own plot and conflicts at length; it’s worse that The Amazing Mary Jane feels compelled to explain its morality—one where Mysterio choosing to direct a movie (by engaging in crimes) puts him on a redemption path by virtue of him not killing or robbing. The Amazing Mary Jane is a story that makes as little sense as the one being produced in its page. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 1 out of 5

EXCALIBUR #5

The character bits in Excalibur #5 offer a reminder as to why this series still offers plenty of promise, even after multiple false starts and an opening volley of plots that all landed with a thud. This issue reassembles the team and brings most of the current adventures to an end (or at least a pause point) by the last page reveal. It’s only the individual presentations and character pairings (something caustic, sometimes friendly) that make reaching the final page possible, though. Many climactic moments read as something dashed off, filled with monsters and threats that are barely depicted on the page. All of these events read like the B-plot to Krakoa and X-Men, things that can be easily ignored. Yet the strong personalities shine through in these pages, especially Gambit and Rogue, and offer reason enough to give Excalibur one more chance… one more time. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3 out of 5

THE IMMORTAL HULK #29

The Immortal Hulk #29 is an issue best appreciated in the details. Building to a massive showdown in Arizona, there are genuinely impressive splash pages with some very well-named monsters, but it saves most of the carnage for #30. However, in little things, like the names of those monsters, there’s a lot to be enjoyed. For example, Betty’s transformation of lunch choice and readiness to speak when changing forms adds a great deal of subtext and information to the character without anything needing to be spelled out. Choices like that are present throughout the entire issue, one that offers at least a little insight into almost all of its central figures. That attention to detail in art, dialogue, and every other noticeable element is why every issue of The Immortal Hulk—even those that primarily set up the next big fight—is a can’t-miss affair. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

X-FORCE #5

X-Force #5 manages to both take violence seriously and relish the visceral thrills of a violent story—no easy feat. Following the gore-tastic cliffhanger from last month, Wolverine fans will likely be thrilled to see what the hero does with only half of his body. Every other character featured in combat receives their own idiosyncratic approach to mayhem. Yet in the midst of all the carnage, the pain and personal connection is still felt. Domino embodies how every act of violence takes a toll on one’s soul, whether that person is receiving or dishing it out. That hesitation makes the action sequences themselves much more impactful and continues to trace themes present from the very start of X-Force, making #5 both a bloodcurdling delight on its own and a potent promise for what’s still to come. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

Other Publishers 

THE BUTCHER OF PARIS #2

The Butcher of Paris #2 reads like an excerpt from a script designed as a graphic novel for the bookstore market, then chopped into issues based on how many pages Dark Horse would publish each month. There’s no clear structure to the issue, just a continuation of various characters and plot threads from #1, most of which are entirely unremarkable. These strands of a story float untethered from any concept of momentum, bits and pieces that likely read better when buttressed by what came before and will come after. However, as a single issue of comics it’s competence without purpose, a story being told without much of a reason to be read. It’s perfectly fine, I suppose. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3 out of 5

MOONSHINE #15

Moonshine barely knows what story it wants to tell; #15 reads like an assemblage of sequences that could have been cut from other issues. However, it’s still an impressive looking collection of moments that barely mean much for those invested in the series. Risso’s depiction of the deep South has been something to behold since 100 Bullets, and his graveyards, hidden parlors, and streetscapes are as striking as ever here. Even as the dialogue displays too much effort to be clever, the violence and moody lighting surrounding it makes it easy to ignore what doesn’t work in favor of some effective splashes. If you’ve stuck around through 14 prior issues, then you likely know exactly what Risso brings to this series and he certainly doesn’t disappoint here, even if everything else does. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3 out of 5

THE PLOT #4

One of the most difficult elements of any longform ghost story is the constant need to build and release tension and The Plot #4 is a masterclass in doing just that. Every sequence from a small confrontation concerning unrequited love to the terrible experience of drowning deploys a variety of images and ideas to keep readers biting their nails before delivering a gasp. The cloying strands of swamp much and their familiar palette allows even those moments that take place away from the haunted familial home to tease concerns about secrets are buried in its walls. Every opportunity the story finds to literally place its characters underwater though is especially effective with inset panels, color choices, and a potent floating effect that makes the oppressive feeling of drowning all the more visceral. It’s a terrible way to die and a brilliant recurring trope here and across the rest of the series. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 5 out of 5

PRETTY DEADLY: THE RAT #5

We have a long year ahead of us with Pretty Deadly off the monthly schedule once again, but at least it delivers an ending to The Rat worth revisiting. This is a conclusion that addresses both the open-ended nature of endings in life and fiction, understanding that the door never really closes but that we might find a thought worth holding onto. It’s consideration of forgiveness and closure are wondrous things to behold on the page, a transformative experience that evokes meaning in each word balloon and panel. It’s left open to interpretation and re-interpretation, eliding the impermanence addressed in the final few pages. Pretty Deadly  remains one of the best (sometimes) monthly comics around and The Rat is its best installment to date. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 5 out of 5

TREES: THREE FATES #5

Ellis writes great noir and Howard visualizes that narrative wonderfully. The suddenness of violence and quiet, slow march of time define these pages and the story that led to them. It’s quite an experience and one that’s best appreciated with a bit of patience, allowing the silent moments time to rest before moving ahead. It’s also a love story that embraces the lack of definitive endings and inevitability of ghosts. Readers seeking out a sequel to Trees or some sort of conclusion will be disappointed, but Three Fates stands alone as its own thing and succeeds as a story of a smalltown not prepared to meet the future in the cold distance of Russia. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

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