Mini Reviews for 7/29

This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on July 29, 2020.

DC

JOHN CONSTANTINE: HELLBLAZER #8

The second half of “Britannia, Rule the Waves” doesn’t have many surprises to offer, but the long build to its inevitable conclusion is awash in horror so palpable that each turn of the page still aches with tension. There’s not much left to say about the villain of this piece—a jingoistic laborer willing to harm anyone for his own glorification—yet the parallels between his specific arc and increasing xenophobia tied to Brexit make the surrounding darkness much more palpable. Aaron Campbell’s view of the docks and an overfished ocean bring the same sense of decay that surrounds a haunted castle, and Bellaire’s colorwork infuses it all with rot and violence. As Constantine helps to complete a mermaid’s story, readers are left to flounder in a place and problem with no obvious solution. That’s what makes the non-resolution that serves as a conclusion so satisfying, as life finds a way in spite of humanity’s cruelty. The difference between hope and cynicism in those final few pages are ultimately a matter of perspective, and make for one of the most devilishly twisted Constantine series since Hellblazer came to an end. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #7

Stephen Byrne carries the newest installment of Legion of Super-Heroes as the entire issue is devoted to parliamentary procedure without bothering to provide a framework for understanding or distinct character voices to enhance the conflict. Whether it’s a showdown in front of the United Planets or an extended argument about the Legion’s leadership, colorful spreads filled with well-designed characters cover a story that seems to lack stakes or momentum. When Rokk is accused of whining before the United Planets, it reads like new information despite the sequence having just occurred as most members of the Legion speak in a similar cadence and that sense of whining is never made apparent in the actual dialogue. It’s a problem that persists across so many group conversations. It’s not that politics is an impossible pursuit in superhero comics, but without a clear understanding of the systems, characters, and motivations behind a struggle for political power the concept is left without any sense of purpose. If Legion of Super-Heroes wants to provide readers with intergalactic intrigue, then it has some serious deficiencies to confront before continuing. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 2 out of 5

SUICIDE SQUAD #7

How do you make an assassin like Deadshot sympathetic? Show how he is treated by the American government and law enforcement when he tries to break good. Suicide Squad #7 follows Floyd Lawton’s return to his family and makes it clear that ex-convicts have no rights or presumption of innocence with the hyperbolic language of superhero comics. Each moment of his familial reunion is tense and teetering on tragic. Dialogue, images, and action all embed readers in Floyd’s perspective and the weight he must carry even after receiving a pardon. The tension between doing right by his child and simply surviving makes the inevitable violence simply riveting. Furthermore, the ways in which Deadshot’s “power” is shown on the page is one of the most effective uses of a marksman in superhero comics in some time. It’s a thrilling moment filled with threads of sadness and anger, all of which stem from a tragic reality that this colorful confrontation reflects. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 5 out of 5

Marvel

IRON MAN 2020 #5

The penultimate chapter of Iron Man 2020 delivers a “new” Tony Stark and Iron Man armor—all of it presented as the climax of the current Iron Man run. My response can be summarized as: What was the point of all this? The armor manages to convey 100% less excitement than men in suits of steel doing battle, and explaining Tony Stark’s new status quo requires so much space that there’s no energy left to summon any excitement. All of this is dedicated to fighting a war redefined every issue so as to never offer any clear stakes. This approach to the final few pages here and a threat that appears with so little space remaining that it’s difficult to take seriously. What was the purpose of all of this? That remains unclear, but the additions to Tony Stark’s mythos are so minor as to be instantly forgotten (and that’s for the better). It’s unfortunate that an issue as well drawn as this one is set on the task of making poor ideas intelligible; it’s clearly time for Iron Man to find a new, coherent direction. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 2 out of 5

Other Publishers

GHOSTED IN L.A. #11

Ghosted in L.A. delivers a climax—pulling together both the mystery of Rycroft Manor’s secret basement door and Daphne’s ghost-hunting roommate—that never feels quite as climactic as it should. Unfortunately, both of the antagonistic elements in this issue have never been sufficiently addressed in the series prior to issue #11 leaving the stakes unclear until events are resolved. That doesn’t prevent the issue from possessing some impact, but there’s an ethereal quality to the proceedings. The hidden villain of the piece also lacks much definition leaving the action sequence at the end of the issue without much to offer. Perhaps the ideas of cyclical abuse and whatever “ghost rules” govern this world will be better developed in the wake of such momentous events, but for now this turning point reads like a good point to set the series down for a while. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3 out of 5

THAT TEXAS BLOOD #2

That Texas Blood #2 maintains the rugged, weary tone of the series’ debut as it steps away from the life of Sheriff Joe Bob in order to examine a local murder in his stretch of the Lone Star State. However, Randy Terrill’s story never really begins. After the issue opens with the murdered corpse of his brother, there’s only innuendo to be found about who these men were and why Randy is so hesitant to return home. Each conversation dances around issues of the past, but offers no information on what happened and little detail on who it happened to. Even after spending 20 pages following Randy’s journey, it’s difficult to describe this sketch of a character that so many others hold strong opinions about for… some reason. That Texas Blood #2 offers an introduction, but one that never amounts to a substantial beginning. No matter how fun the gritty prose is and how well-realized this smalltown remains, it requires a story to make those elements worth investing in and hopefully issue #3 will finally arrive at a story only hinted at in these pages. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3 out of 5

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