Mini Reviews for 10/7

This article was originally published at ComicBook.com on October 7, 2020.

DC

AMERICAN VAMPIRE 1976 #1

It has been more than five years since the last issue of American Vampire landed, and that leaves American Vampire 1976 #1 with the unfortunate task of catching readers up to speed. There are long sequences of the issue that read like a Dungeons & Dragons adventure guide—listing organizations, plots, and characters of import so readers will understand the adventure ahead. It’s necessary, but tedious work to frame the series’ climax. However, as slow as the first issue may read, it also reminds readers why this title caught fire about one decade ago. Albuquerque’s artwork is astonishing in sequences, including some Evel Knievel-style stunt work. Vampiric forms loom with long shadows and devilish eyes, and the few moments of horrific violence in issue #1 are enough to inform readers that far more dreadful moments are on the horizon. American Vampire 1976 reestablishes the series and prepares for one final push, even if that effort delivers some tedium in its initial outing. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3 out of 5

YOUNG JUSTICE #19

Young Justice #19 reads like the climax of a long-simmering subplot as Cassie Sandsmark’s relationship with the omnipotent half of her family tree comes to a head. However, that subplot has been left unminded for almost all of Young Justice and this climax relies heavily on narration for readers to make sense of what’s happening in a series of well-detailed spreads. It’s a lot of action with very little impact, and while that can be fun to read in the moment, it is also easily forgotten. Sudden shifts in focus are unearned and read like a summary of a story planned to run longer. Nevertheless, it is an enjoyable romp with monsters and gods through the streets of Metropolis, even if the plot is easily forgotten after the final page is turned. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3 out of 5

Marvel

X-FORCE #13

Didn’t the Wolverine tie-in to “X of Swords” also drop this week? The thrill of X-Factor #4 came in part by watching the series’ writer weave the story of its ongoing series into a massive crossover event; X-Force punts in pushing the crossover’s story forward, but failing to acknowledge a single reason why readers pick up this series. It’s a disappointment as a fan of the core series because of that disconnect. Unless someone is all in on the current X-Men line, there’s nothing of value to be found here. As a continuation of “X of Swords,” X-Force #13 gets the job done and delivers a last panel that is satisfying primarily for the mystery it delivers that’s bound to be paid off outside the pages of this series. One must hope that the successes of “X of Swords” don’t kneecap the momentum and interest cultivated across the “Dawn of X” line throughout the past year. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 2 out of 5

Other Publishers

ADVENTUREMAN #4

The opening sequence of Adventureman #4 is astounding. It’s a thesis on power as its heroine grapples with ever growing abilities and form, and it’s delivered in the familiar grammar of superhero and pulp genre tales as summoned by the Dodsons. What follows is a mixed bag of events, exposition, and threads that never quite feel like they are part of the same story. Unpacking Adventureman’s demise, revealing new threats, and tying the Connells together all move their own plots forward, but each shift in focus reads like a shift in text, too, as the stories function independently of one another. It’s only a matter of time before they all collide, but in this moment Adventureman still reads in a scattered fashion. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3 out of 5

AMERICAN RONIN #1

ACO’s presentation of gonzo action sequences is the reason to read American Ronin #1. The debut issue only explains about half of the series’ premise—introducing a heightened form of empathy into super spy storytelling, without bothering to examine why this spy or his mission might matter—but it does offer plenty of eye candy. It’s indulgent to the extreme with characters occupying the highest echelons of wealth and engaging with related vices. What might normally seem lascivious is fun when framed with curious new layouts. Additionally, when things do go awry, ACO is capable of filling even an extended cell phone conversation with tension. The primary problem rests with a lack of context as it’s unclear what purpose the events of this issue serve or why anyone should bother feeling concerned about the cliffhanger beyond wondering how cool what comes next may appear. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3 out of 5

BANG! #4

Bang! #4 finishes assembling a diverse team of adventurers with more genre and pop culture connections than one cares to count. The final addition requires some additional patience with an accent that makes Bang! read like Claremont comic, but they make for a very pleasant surprise both as an individual and with the inspirations they embody. It also begins to question the nature of Thomas Cord in a fashion far more convoluted than most fan theories on James Bond continuity. Like each issue to date, this introduction delivers its own brief adventure wrapped in a much broader conspiracy, and it intertwines the threads seamlessly with style to spare. Now that Bang! has finished with its introductions, readers can anticipate seeing just how far this modernized League of Extraordinary Gentlemen will go to celebrate and explore the films, novels, and shows that have infused it with meaning and so much fun. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

DECORUM #5

The education of Neha Nori Sood is a delightful single chapter that reads like a complete volume. Three years of book learning, practice, and practical application are mapped out in a model that rewards readers in its repetition. Style is modulated in both layouts and artwork for different elements that then play out like the building verses of a song. The real power of Decorum #5 rests in how it pays off that repetition in the final sequence with some expected turns and some far more surprising twists. Interspersed with this heightened high school drama filled with rivalries are elements of design that also enhance questions about space eggs hatching, even as they go unmentioned in this single chapter installment. As both a continuation of Decorum and a self-contained read, issue #5 delivers an excellent afternoon read. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

LOST SOLDIERS #3

The opening sequence of Lost Soldiers #3 more than fulfills the promise of the second issue’s cliffhanger. Bullets land with horrific consequences, and there’s never a moment of ambiguity regarding the reality of violence. There’s nothing glorious to be found amid the mud, and the blood, and the misery all detailed in a powerful fashion by Moore’s colors. What’s even more impressive is how the quiet sequences that follow some of comics’ most impressive shootout, chase, and fight sequences this year are every bit as impactful. Interwoven panels of painful memories and previous wounds wind up a conversation between the oldest of friends, and one man’s living room is transformed into a tomb far creepier than anything decorating most houses this month. Lost Soldiers #3 does not hesitate to grapple with the terrible realities and costs of violence, both its impact on the human body and the more difficult to discern impact on the soul, and in doing so delivers on all of the promise found at the story’s start. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 5 out of 5

MOONSHINE #21

The final sequence in Moonshine #21 finally ignites a series that has been simmering on a narrative backburner for far too long. It’s a thrilling moment featuring some of Risso’s most stunning panels in the series to date—one shadowed image of a wolf’s face stands out. There’s still a meandering trail through this issue to arrive at that moment, however. Most of the space is spent explaining events that have been ongoing for more issues than I care to count. It’s tripping over the same ideas as they slowly amount to something. When the action kicks off and events proceed quickly, style carries Moonshine a long way, but this issue only bothers to lift its feet in the final few pages. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3 out of 5

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG: BAD GUYS #1

IDW’s relaunch of Sonic the Hedgehog has confirmed the evergreen fun to be found in the franchise’s expansive cast of characters. Dozens of faces fill the regular series and now a spinoff makes room for some secondary villains to flex their muscles. The first issue of Bad Guys reads with a very familiar tone and style as the core series—placing Doctor Starline in Sonic’s role as protagonist, however. It follows a familiar “getting the gang together” plot with a comfortable mix of action, intrigue, and gags suitable for a children’s comic. It’s well paced and entirely unobjectionable, but never manages to make itself feel essential either. The stakes are unclear and the sole purpose of this issue reads as showcasing villains outside of Doctor Eggman. While it functions in a comfortable mode, Sonic the Hedgehog: Bad Guys would benefit from borrowing its originator’s sense of import as well. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3 out of 5

WE ONLY FIND THEM WHEN THEY’RE DEAD #2

Only a few moments occur between the end of the first issue and this one, but in that brief span of time the story builds great momentum. The crew’s launch of their desperate mission to find a living god is interspersed with flashbacks that develop each member’s motives and outlook. It’s easy to see the efficacy of this structure in the final few pages as Georges pleads with a pursuer and everyone responds to his words. It’s a gut wrenching moment and one that invests meaning into their quest, even if it’s still unclear exactly what that quest means. The neon colors and slanting panels assist in propelling the story (and its many spaceships) forward, and also creates an isolated atmosphere across time that makes the bonds between this team seem all the more precious. It’s an effective and exhilarating sophomore installment to one of 2020’s most promising new series. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

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