Mini Reviews for 8/18

This article was originally published at ComicBook.com on August 18, 2021.

DC 

SUPERMAN AND THE AUTHORITY #2

Superman and The Authority #1 provided readers with a thesis statement as two characters engaged in an extended conversation essentially across its entire page count. This decompressed approach to developing the titular concept does not accelerate as the miniseries arrives at its halfway point. The second installment follows a “getting the band back together” approach with each member providing a vignette highlighting their own abilities and outlook, except only about half of the members are assembled in these pages. Each section taken on its own merits is appealing with problems that fit their corresponding characters in revealing fashions, as well as a mix of guest artists who create a sense of distance between their different spaces. Yet each of the three encounters included here reads as being separate from any core narrative, like ideas that could not justify their own pitches distilled into a dozen page story. In spite of their individual appeals when assembled in this framework they all read as being inconsequential by the end—reintroductions before a party, really. Given the space devoted to those introductions, it’s questionable whether the party or even a follow-up to the ideas centered in issue #1 will ever arrive. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

SUPERMAN: RED AND BLUE #6

The final issue of Superman: Red and Blue favors overtly romantic stories, much like the miniseries debut, but finds a better balance that avoids too much uncomfortable sermonizing. Sophie Campbell’s “Hissy Fit” delivers the best comic in the issue with a silent story focused on Streaky that cat lovers are bound to adore due to its playful and caring tone combined with outstanding expressions. Both “The Special” and “Son of Farmers” play upon Superman’s small town roots. The latter is somewhat saccharine, but avoids outright falsehoods in its appreciation of farmers. However, the former rings true to this writer from small town Kansas emphasizing the small connections and consistency that define life outside of cities. Tom King provides a subtle touch here in merging Superman’s milestones with visits to a diner that ring with romantic truth. And while “The Scoop” fails to discover a point, it’s buried early enough in the issue that it is easily forgotten when the final story arrives in “Ally.” Although there’s never any question as to where this story is going, it functions primarily as meta-text considering how an iconic character might still inspire readers and audiences. For lovers of Superman that approach is bound to work and as a longtime devotee of the character, it’s clear that in its entirety Red and Blue succeeded spectacularly in delivering meditations on modern goodness from some of Western comics’ greatest talents—providing hope, inspiration, and laughs in equal measure. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

Marvel

WARHAMMER 40,000: SISTERS OF BATTLE #1

Marvel’s first foray into Warhammer 40,000 was successful because of how it addressed the intensely alien (and alienating) elements of its hyper-violent mythos—not only explaining the setting, but establishing contemporary parallels that made ugly characters more human. Sisters of Battle retains the info-pages and excesses, but struggles to ground its story. Everything contained in the first issue is competently presented with a vast new cast confronting a frightening antagonist in a brutal new setting. Yet there is no “why” at the heart of this introduction as the never ending cycle of violence that defines Warhammer 40,000 is simply accepted. Following a handful of Sisters on their mission leads to thrilling and gruesome encounters, but the nihilism contained in seemingly every perspective raises the question as to why any individual choice or success ought to matter for readers. Edgar Salazar’s pages capably capture the excesses of empire, but lack any essential element that could not be found in other hyperviolent, martial comics. No matter how neatly this tale is told, it still lacks purpose and that leaves the experience as hollow as the soldiers marching inevitably toward death on the page. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

WAY OF X #5

Way of X #5 may be the end for this series, but it’s only the penultimate chapter in the story it was telling. Following the pattern established in prior issues – this segment contemplates Krakoa’s third and final law: Respect this sacred land, and does so in fashions both metaphorical and terrifyingly literal. What’s most impressive is how this climactic contemplation ties into Nightcrawler’s supporting characters with both Fabian Cortez and Lost playing pivotal roles with their own power sets and personalities; the issue achieves a tragedy that is equal-parts surprising and moving. Nightcralwer’s growing understanding of his mutant culture has opened a window into both the inner workings and thematic sweep for the Krakoa era, and it culminates in an astonishing final action sequence in these pages. However this tale finds resolution in X-Men: The Onslaught Revelation, it has already made a monumental contribution to the most exciting era in X-Men history since Claremont and Cockrum initiated another. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

Other Publishers

COMPASS #3

Compass #3 goes on an old-fashioned dungeon crawl as the competing archaeologists seeking secrets find different entrances and obstacles within the same sprawling tombs. The issue quickly focuses on their parallel journeys after introducing each of entrances and incentives to find what’s hidden inside. Various traps and dangers bring the excellent, pulpy vibes of an Indiana Jones film, but with a clear eye for what works best in comics and abundant creativity. Splash panels are used to inspire awe between crowded sequences that pace the pages exceedingly well. With the setting and stakes already established, Compass #3 is able to lean into the fun and fear of this exploration phase and produces a compelling mid-point as answers (and possibly more mysteries) rest on the horizon. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

HOME SICK PILOTS #8

Focusing on the music scene provides multiple opportunities that Home Sick Pilots #8 executes exceedingly well. Concerts have been absent in recent issues and an anti-fascist benefit recenters music in the narrative in a stunning sequence from Caspar Wijngaard. Avoiding the cliches of music in comics, like notes and lyrics roaming through the air, Wijngaard opts instead to fill the very air with vibration altering the appearance of panels and characters to make them seemingly hum alongside the overcharged amps on stage. It is a visceral effect and one that could not be more clear in the experience it communicates. Combined with taking shots at Nazi punks and it also makes for an endearing bit of storytelling that utilizes both comedic narration and body horror to great effect. Stringing the ongoing conflict between ghost-powered musicians through this single experience makes for a single issue read that manages to simultaneously satisfy and elevate curiosity. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

JONNA AND THE UNPOSSIBLE MONSTERS #5

Jonna and The Unpossible Monsters remains an exemplar of the “show, don’t tell” rule of comics. The nefarious schemes hinted at in issue #4 are revealed without any expository dialogue; it’s immediately clear what the intent and arrangements are as soon as they are revealed. While this may challenge younger readers, there’s no doubt that the thrills of traps and battles make the process of discovery worthwhile. The use of space underground provides a significant and compelling component as the Samnees begin to explore exactly how humanity has reformed itself beneath the reign of kaiju-like terrors. Claustrophobic spaces, terrorizingly tall walls, and hordes of shouting faces all offer a clear perspective and frightening challenge for the young women struggling to keep their family together. Although the pacing in Jonna is unwilling to rush itself to pack more into single issues, this is proving a benefit for the larger story as each issue proves exceedingly enjoyable upon rereads and the first volume (released last week) makes clear how well this saga reads as a whole expanse. In the meanwhile, I’m happy to wait for each new twist in the story as they arrive month-to-month. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

LAZARUS: RISEN #6

After a longer-than-typical wait Lazarus returns with a genuinely climactic affair or, at least, the start of one. Risen #6 is a study in building tension and in this regard it absolutely succeeds. As each character walks into these sequences and new questions are asked, ideas that have simmered beneath the surface for nearly a decade threaten to roil over. Michael Lark’s uninflected panels serve this beautifully as readers are left to study clear expressions and carefully chosen words, never being ushered to an obvious answer or reaction. It’s impossible to discern the truth in these pages and that adds significantly to their effect. However, almost all of this issue’s extensive page count is spent reminding readers of past questions or raising new ones so that when one final hint at the deeply personal nature of this war is delivered, it’s unclear what exactly was understood in the reading. It’s set up without a punchline and I anticipate reevaluating this chapter once it builds to something tangible rather than a more elaborate mystery box. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

NOCTERRA #6

Nocterra #5 provided the series’ best issue to date evoking clear parallels to confronting global crises caused by a rare echelon of seemingly untouchable actors, but the series’ first arc concludes on a more familiar note for both of its primary creators. With its themes clearly evoked in a pulpy, frighteningly effective setting, Nocterra #6 turns its eyes towards the future. The final few pages border upon being a letters column as they lay out questions for readers to puzzle and foreshadow adventures to come – it’s actively pitching mid-story. The build to this climax is similarly filled with material that is repeated to tie all of the introductory threads together. That additional exposition is unnecessary as earlier issues have clearly displayed how these characters, settings, and ideas are in dialogue with one another, but the narration on these pages suggest a lack of faith in well-written work. Daniel’s “smudges” remain an intimidating antagonist and he is able to dish out gore and horror that reminds me of discovering The Darkness at a young age, yet there seems to only be space for beautiful faces (and one old man) amongst the many people screaming through these panels. Nocterra is tracing a number of familiar themes and motifs from Snyder’s recent work, and it does so better than seemingly any series so far, only stumbling in Nocterra #6 as it prepares to drive the long haul ahead. I’m still anticipating that journey a great deal. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3 out of 5

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *