Mini Reviews for 6/9

This article was originally published at ComicBook.com on June 9, 2021.

DC

AMERICAN VAMPIRE 1976 #9

It’s not that my core criticisms of American Vampire 1976 (i.e. convenience-driven storytelling) are addressed in issue #9 so much as the good bits shine brightly enough to make the flaws far less noticeable. This is one last, desperate ride in the mode of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and it absolutely nails that tone. Readers are given neat character moments for most of the series’ heroes and they crackle with energy delivering lines and moments that meet the saga-like build to this confrontation. In the face of death, there is a lot of fun to be had and part of that fun is the very face of death. Albuquerque, when not quickly shuffling characters around in the midst of action, summons a hellish form for The Beast which dominates each page it occupies. As plans change and readers are treated to surprises driven by character (specifically one character) rather than plot, it becomes clear that the endgame may be worth the wait. American Vampire 1976 #9 sets up an epic conclusion for the last great Vertigo series ever—I’m hoping it delivers the same sense of momentum and style shown here. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

BATMAN: THE DETECTIVE #3

Every issue in a 6-issue miniseries is precious real estate, so to spend an entire one investigating the origins of a character sets expectations for how their past story connects to the present very high. This look at Henri Ducard and Bruce Wayne’s stories does not rise to the occasion. It’s a fine narrative in its own right and one that leaves me wanting to see more of Ducard in future Bat-books as a “frenemy” with both a useful skill set and justifiable counterpoint to Wayne’s worldview. However, that digression adds very little of the ongoing mystery or many other characters present in Batman: The Detective. Both the white-cloaked killers and Bruce’s ally Squire are entirely absent from these pages and it’s unclear how this issue connects to readers’ focus over the past 2 issues. It’s that lack of connection that leaves this perfectly functional one-shot as something of a head scratcher. Of course, Kubert’s depiction of the French manhunter and his misadventures with both Bruce and Batman are excellent, but they would have been far better if they amounted to much more than a seeming distraction here. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3 out of 5

JUSTICE LEAGUE: LAST RIDE #2

Last Ride wisely divides its attention between the past and present starting in issue #2. The first half of this installment looks at the chaos Darkseid brought to the galaxy, which led to the Justice League’s fractured state. This action-packed flashback creates space for characters in the present moment to define themselves and establish tension surrounding their capture of Lobo. Every page of this comic can be defined as solid work—the dialogue and choices feel true to these characters and the mounting darkness offers a sweeping scope. There’s nothing outstanding on those pages, either, as they don’t surprise or offer anything wholly original. All of which is to say, readers who appreciate good Justice League stories will almost certainly continue to enjoy Last Ride. Perhaps it’s wise to just not set expectations too high, though. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Marvel

CHILDREN OF THE ATOM #4

Children of the Atom continues to improve in the one X-comic from this month that doesn’t focus on the Hellfire Gala. The event is mentioned, but the focus remains on these mysterious mutant wannabes and that’s to the series benefit as it pushes the entire crew forward. This installment focuses on Benny a.k.a. Marvel Guy. While the captions fall into the same routine of telling readers what makes this person unique, they’re trimmed to read much more efficiently and play off what’s occurring on the page. That includes expanding upon the team dynamics of these five thoroughly considered individuals and the newest shape of their plans to join mutantdom on Krakoa. The issue provides a number of interesting new threads and utilizes its text pages to suggest even more. That provides this concept with a sense of momentum for the first time and that, in turn, offers some risk and clearer stakes for everyone involved. Let’s just hope that Children of the Atom maintains the strengths it displayed this month and continues to carve out a niche for this very odd addition to the Krakoa era of X-Men comics. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

EXCALIBUR #21

Excalibur #21 is the first entry to the Hellfire Gala that feels like a misfire. Things continue to happen and that’s largely the problem. Since its inception Excalibur has functioned as a plot-driven narrative in which characters are left to respond to events. There are several notable changes to Excalibur’s status quo that unfold in the course of one night, but each occurrence reads as a discrete event. While it’s enjoyable to see so many characters and outfits on display, the pleasure of this particular mix has been showcased better elsewhere and Excalibur’s outfits leave something to be desired when compared to more ambitious designs. There is a highlight in Rictor and Shatterstar’s reunion as a natural moment of characterization given room to breathe, one that’s easy to see because of how rare they are within Excalibur’s pages. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Other Publishers

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #40

Mr. Tinker was one of the most intriguing new facets of the relaunched Sonic the Hedgehog and, while the character appears to be gone for good, issue #40 establishes a worthy legacy in Belle the Tinkerer who seizes the spotlight here. Amidst a team of Sonic’s most capable companions, the conclusion of this space-time warping adventure provides her with a heroic arc that’s bound to keep fans’ attention. Balanced against this excellent character definition is a climax that fails to meet the expectations set early in this reality warping challenging by ending the threat in the most straightforward fashion possible. What’s more is that the opening sequence is drawn with no variation in line weight leaving an impression of cheapness before the best panels arrive in better fashioned pages later. Sonic the Hedgehog is a mixed bag that will, luckily, leave all of its flaws in this issue, but keep the best parts (specifically, Belle) going forward. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3 out of 5

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