Mini Reviews for 6/30

This article was originally published at ComicBook.com on June 30, 2021.

Marvel

BETA RAY BILL #4

In order to keep moving forward Beta Ray is compelled to confront his past as Daniel Warren Johnson takes ideas introduced nearly 40 years ago and lays them out in stark and painful detail. His transformation and the loss of his homeworld have primarily existed as an origin story—text explaining how this strange alien came to Asgard—until this miniseries, which confronts the tremendous horrors of Beta Ray’s prior life. These moments are shown with the same humanist’s eye that Daniel Warren Johnson brought to immensely personal projects like Extremity and Murder Falcon, with Bill’s expressions revealing untold layers of buried pain and anxiety. This includes one homage to Walt Simonson’s work that evokes slight changes in Johnson’s pencils as though the two artistic titans are in conversation across generations. The montage of past moments are exceedingly well-chosen, too, including sprawling space battles and intense moments of personal connection alike. It’s a varied walk down memory lane that serves to transition readers into this miniseries’ climax and re-establish just how personal the stakes are as Beta Ray Bill attempts to claim a sword tied to his people’s annihilation. Even as Johnson focuses on retelling and reworking Marvel Comics’ continuity, he remains focused on the ideas, style, and story that have made Beta Ray Bill one of Marvel’s best comics in years. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

DAREDEVIL #31

This shouldn’t be taken as a backhanded compliment, but Daredevil #31 reads like another issue of Daredevil. It neatly divides its narrative between its three protagonists and provides each of their stories with a new twist or added momentum, while addressing an array of social themes ranging from prison labor to American gun violence. All of this is portrayed with clarity of image, quick pacing, and a style that’s easily taken in with just enough grit to set Daredevil apart from most mainstream Marvel fare. In issue #31 all of this is building towards the next disaster as Bullseye is set loose, but there’s nothing that sets this issue apart from the standards this series already established. It is well-crafted and told, yet focuses almost entirely on the continuation of existing narratives in a fashion that’s rarely surprising. Daredevil #31 is incredibly competent superhero comics delivering a middle chapter with style; I won’t complain about any of that, even if I won’t remember many specifics (beyond Daredevil making a prison warden scream) next month. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

Other Publishers

CHAINED TO THE GRAVE #4

Chained to the Grave #4 is a classic case of “out of the frying pan and into the fire” as things continually go from bad to worse for the series’ heroes. With two different sets of villains on their trail, one confrontation results in the bloodiest encounter yet while the other creates an even more imposing posse. The action sequences in Chained to the Grave are often the clearest, which makes a showdown between supernatural wolves and alligators a highlight in this issue. Unfortunately, clarity remains an issue elsewhere as some characters and critical actions are difficult to discern on the page. Whereas the relatively simple designs add to a dream-like (or nightmarish) quality, it also fails to introduce four supposedly distinctive new threats with purpose. While those riders may bear some clear danger based purely on the symbolism of their form and number, it’s ineffectively communicated on the page. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3 out of 5

MY LITTLE PONY/TRANSFORMERS II #3

I can say that this was a perfectly comprehensible comic that focuses its narrative on few enough characters that even all of the (typically interchangeable) Transformers are recognizable on the page. Additionally, it presents its ongoing plot in a fashion that will be assistive to new readers, even if it clarifies that there’s barely a story to hang these crossover jokes upon. Sombra, the villain of the piece, fails to appear until the final panel as his plot is primarily an excuse to set these characters side-by-side and allow them to comment upon how the other is a silly concept. Those jokes are amusing the first few times they appear, but fail to fill a complete issue (much less an entire miniseries). What’s worse is when they become repetitive, like Yona shouting her preferences as she moves from a funny to tedious inclusion. You can call this crossover cute or amusing, but either description wears out its welcome before the end of this single issue in an event that will only appeal to die hard and very young fans of either franchise. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 2 out of 5

WE ONLY FIND THEM WHEN THEY’RE DEAD #7

The decades-long sliding timeline in We Only Find Them When They’re Dead has been one of the series’ most engaging features from the start and issue #7 clarifies its value as this is a story as much about systems and history as the individuals who populate them. This is a terrain in which writer Al Ewing thrives and so I find myself more drawn to this story in its second arc than its first. The presentation is every bit as stunning, even without the expansive deities of space to populate spreads here—the slow morphing of a young optimist’s face into that of a weary cynic is every bit as enthralling. There may still be some distance to travel in defining this exploitation of space and its resources, but the shape of this metaphor is beginning to cohere around characters and a timeline that will define their relationship to humanity for better or (almost certainly) for worse. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

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