Mini Reviews for 6/2

This article was originally published at ComicBook.com on June 2, 2021.

Marvel

HELLIONS #12

This is the funniest issue of superhero comics I’ve read all year. Barely a page goes by without a genuine laugh-out-loud moment occurring as the Hellions crash the Hellfire Gala. It’s absolutely as chaotic and violent as readers of the series would expect, and it plays out in a fashion that provides depths for these characters and moves many plot points forward. The Hellfire Gala event could have been written as a brief distraction, but instead Hellions #12 makes clear that this summit has the potential to simultaneously enhance ongoing stories and provide a colorful respite from the expected stories. Everything from splash panels of the invited Hellions’ outfits to Nanny drunkenly threatening Sinister fits neatly within the norms of the series and delivers something truly outlandish. What’s more is that this issue makes for a fine introduction to the entire Gala with cameos galore and plenty of small moments that will be appreciated by readers of other current X-series. It’s a glorious (and cringe-inducing) celebration of this bizarre new society of Krakoa, and one that puts the dark humor contained in Hellions to wonderful use. Bravo. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

HEROES REBORN: MARVEL DOUBLE ACTION #1

Be aware that the “double action” in Heroes Reborn: Marvel Double Action refers to the length of the story inside; this is a single story homaging several classic golden age issues of Amazing Spider-Man while focused on “The Night Gwen Stacy Died.” The issue goes all in on the homage with multiple iconic panels only replacing characters and small advertisements running along the bleed. It’s a fun concept initially with a scavenger hunt quality applied to this retread of 70s storytelling. The premise quickly grows thin as it becomes apparent the events being retread here will have little impact beyond these pages. This era exemplifies the interconnectedness of Marvel superhero comics with constant callouts to non-existent back issues and similarly spectral concurrent series. Yet without anything there to connect with this recalled story, there’s no weight to the events on the page and so they simply lay there as a retelling of a story every Marvel fan is familiar with. You can only execute a thing like this so well, and the creative team tries their damndest, I suppose. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3 out of 5

THE IMMORTAL HULK #47

And just like that the final pieces fall into place and it’s time to enter the final act of The Immortal Hulk. This battle against the Avengers proves to be even more vicious than their first appearance at the series’ start with Hulk pulling some particularly nasty new tricks out of his sleeve. The brawl is well depicted and enjoyable for its pacing and creativity, but still reads as part of a stall extending from the past several issues. It’s the addition of a largely absent cast member, Jennifer Walters, who makes the issue feel more necessary than a multi-issue battle with the U-Foes. Her current status as an Avenger places her at the center of this fight and refocuses the conflict on connections to the Green Door. When the final few pages land, it’s clear who will be present for a final battle with the hellish new form of Samuel Sterns and that there’s still more strange to be discovered in these pages. It’s a welcome invitation and one that promises the wait for this finale will have been worth it. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

X-FORCE #20

The Hellfire Gala is an opportunity to return to some of X-Force’s greatest mistakes, from both the current series and distant past. Despite the colorful distractions of the Gala—wonderfully depicted with rich backgrounds and a fitting mix of cameo appearances and interactions—this remains as relevant an issue of X-Force as any other as it uses the wider event to tell its own story. It’s an issue about consequences and ego, which means Beast sits at its center. One info page in particular transforms his role as the series’ primary villain from subtext to text, and it’s clear that relatively brief adventures are set to have a tremendous impact on both the team and, likely, Krakoa’s future. That attention to detail combined with all of the frivolity and character moments contained herein speaks to what makes X-Force one of the most consistently engaging X-series, as well as the astounding construction of this one month, linewide event. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

DC

CRIME SYNDICATE #4

Crime Syndicate #4 turns its focus to Power Ring a.k.a. John Stewart as the various metahuman factions on Earth-3 begin an arms race in the wake of Starro’s arrival and Power Ring is the most powerful person without much of a mind to make up. This shift creates some much needed space for the series to explore its characters and setting beyond the repetitious cycles of the first three issues. Something new happens with all of the core characters, but these events unfold in a scattershot approach; it’s possible to imagine rearranging almost every sequence in this issue to little effect. What’s more is that all of the characters involved continue to strike a single note: Luthor is “good,” Quick and Atomika are sociopaths, Power Ring is weak willed. As Crime Syndicate moves into its second half, it becomes apparent there’s very little here to be discovered. Perhaps that cliffhanger offers some glimmer of hope, but based upon what we’ve read so far, I wouldn’t bet on it. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 2 out of 5

THE SWAMP THING #4

Levi and Jennifer finish their exploration of The Green in The Swamp Thing #4, establishing it as a land of metaphor existing since plant life on Earth first connected with mankind. It builds a bridge to the introductory issues in which the very notion of narrative was established to be a powerful force in the universe, but as a result plays as an additional prologue for the story to come. Woodrue’s presence remains untrustworthy and a couple of new characters also enter in a villainous space. Their additions are intriguing and even suggest a connection to the classic story “The Anatomy Lesson,” but by the final page of issue #4 there is a sense it’s time to move ahead with whatever is planned. While the plotting here is focused on definitions and introductions, Mike Perkins depictions of The Green and this growing cast of characters elevates the comic above its slowing pace. An explanation of The Green across four panels is stunning and each spread contained here meets that same high bar. His illustration of the Wodewos in The Swamp Thing #3 imparts a craving to see more than a few brief glimpses here, and that sets a high expectation for what’s still to come. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

Other Publishers

BEASTS OF BURDEN: OCCUPIED TERRITORY #3

If you thought Occupied Territory had already explored Japanese folklore, prepare for a surprising number of introductions. As Emrys and Mullins are introduced to the surprise Shibas they gain a clear vantage point on how magic functions in Japan, including a thorough overview of yokai. It’s a joy to see Benjamin Dewey depict such a diverse pantheon of mythical creatures, enough that it’s easy to overlook the extensive exposition and dialogue sequences in this issue. Fans of Beasts of Burden will know that danger is never too distant and there’s another harrowing sequence that plays with shadows and light to increase tension before this issue concludes. Occupied Territory proves itself to be a consistently engaging new story in Beasts of Burden lore, even resting nearly 80 years before the current narrative. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

DEAD DOG’S BITE #4

There is a lot of story left to be told in the final issue of Dead Dog’s Bite and much of it is tangentially related to the mystery established in the series’ first three issues. The explanation, when it arrives, rises to meet the ever-present oddities of this small town. That explanation also raises many questions that the preceding story never even gestured towards, which makes the resolution a primarily baffling affair. There are broad strokes of social criticism laid out here, but their inexact positioning and failure to build upon what was previously established ensures that nothing really connects. Instead, it’s a dazzling pinwheel, playing upon the absurdist tone, which can only dazzle, never reveal. This is another striking installment and the final twists and revelations make for an enjoyable read in the moment. Yet Dead Dog’s Bite was something I anticipated before as it held my attention; I don’t suspect I’ll think of it again after this ending. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3 out of 5

FAMILY TREE #12

Family Tree #12 sprints through the finish line and that intense pacing, combined with total clarity in the telling, makes for a gripping finale where the sacrifices and brief denouement feel all the more personal. This is a series that always sought to grapple with change, specifically the astonishing, accelerating, and horrifying changes brought about by climate change. They impact the just and the unjust alike and even when delivering blockbuster-style action, Family Tree does not shy away from the costs of violence. What’s most striking is seeing how far this family has grown from its introduction only 11 issues prior. It recalls Ian Malcolm, “Life will find a way.” That sentiment is offered with a realist’s tone with both wonder and fear found in the concept. Family Tree sought to reflect a great coming change and it has delivered a potent and personal story that grapples with the personal complexity of our moment. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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