Mini Reviews for 8/5

This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on August 5, 2020.

DC

STRANGE ADVENTURES #4

Adam Strange murdered the beloved son of an indigenous people to Rann, then proceeded to lead his entire tribe into a slaughter. However, the focus of Strange Adventures remains on Adam Strange. The Hellotaat are only mentioned by name once throughout all of Strange Adventures #4, and then it is as a fighting force waiting to be led back into battle by the same outsider who violently seized control of their people. Even as this series attempts to open a space for the complexities of war and how societies respond in their wake, it has made its ugly perspective clear. All sympathy rests with Adam Strange, treated like a confused bystander torn between despotic humanoid people of Rann and the truth-seeking Mister Terrific, even as he leads battles and slays both native people and invaders. There is no responsibility placed upon the foreign soldier fighting a war he clearly does not understand. Instead, he is positioned as an update of the white savior, one who may be problematic, but whose values and heart are never in doubt. Yet all of the evil embedded in that trope remains as it washes over the actual cost of war, barely acknowledging the tremendous costs placed upon an entire race of people to focus on the woes of a single outsider. All of the “both sides” rhetoric and fraught considerations in the world can’t cover the abundant flaws of this colonialist narrative far more devoted to an American invader than those he kills. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 1 out of 5

YOUNG JUSTICE #17

The framing device of a young woman helping out during Metropolis’ recovery from a superhero battle offers a nice change of pace and new perspective in Young Justice, but this issue doesn’t spend sufficient time with Yolanda to invest readers in her story and what’s left in the middle is passable B-material for a story many readers may not even be aware happened. Four members of the team meet with their mentors, and each meeting offers some small nugget of information without moving the plot forward or providing more than a single gag for readers to laugh about. The issue reads like a stalling tactic, attempting to hint at a broader world without actually engaging with it. There’s a lot of personality and story to be mined with this cast, but Young Justice #17 simply tells readers why they should care rather than showing them a reason. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 2 out of 5

Marvel

DR. STRANGE #6

Dr. Strange #6 provides a clunky ending for a concept that never quite found its feet. In a rush to wrap up the story of magical weapons smuggling, the issue provides readers an at-length explanation as to who Madame Masque is before proceeding to explain everything that is done to stop her in narrative captions. The plot is clear and the characters all offer their charms, but there’s a deluge of exposition that never allow Kev Walker to imbue those elements with more than momentary excitement. There’s one last half-hearted attempt to tie Strange’s sorcery and medical skills, but it’s a poor metaphor at best. Dr. Strange provided a new setting and supporting cast with plenty of potential for its hero, but readers will need to await his next series before discovering whether that potential will be utilized well. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3 out of 5

EMPYRE: X-MEN #2

Empyre: X-Men makes some space to continue fleshing out Hordeculture, the group of elderly botanists posed to cause trouble for Krakoa. They steal the spotlight in this issue as they play frenemies with the X-Men in the midst of battling both plants and zombies. Even if that central conflict loses focus until the issue’s conclusion, there are enough laughs and solid action sequences to carry the issue toward its next destination. In spite of the name, this remains primarily an X-Men story rather than an Empyre one, and that’s to the miniseries benefit. Everything that occurs here provides some insight into the “Dawn of X” line as this tie-in continues to read more like an excellent X-title. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #5

The Guardians v. Guardians showdown comes to a number of surprising endpoints in what is, shockingly, only the fifth issue of this relaunch. Not every character in a very busy issue receives a moment in the spotlight, but most do and each of those individual moments brings a special charm. It’s the battle between Moondragons that offers the grandest highlights, especially considering how Juann Cabal’s layouts enhance it. Even in the midst of a caper comic with a lavish, fun-loving tone, Ewing and Cabal continue to reinvent the cosmic region of Marvel Comics at lightspeed offering the ideal blend of entertainment and ingenuity in space-based superhero comics. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

Other Publishers

THE GODDAMNED: THE VIRGIN BRIDES #2

Jael and Sharri’s flight from the Old Mothers and their community continues here and, while the young women don’t get much further, their journey (and all its violent trials and tribulations) is vividly rendered by R.M. Guera. The landscape of their garden and community provides a harsh and often surprisingly beautiful backdrop for a tale that’s as influenced by Thelma & Louise as the Old Testament. It’s a journey that’s much more about rebellion and friendship than the structure of oppression against which they are rebelling. Biblical references provide set dressing, but it’s the lively moments of action that allow Guera’s work to grip readers with sequences of terrible tension and rare elation. Strangely enough, that makes The Virgin Brides a thrilling comic with highlights of fun in spite of its too self-serious dialogue. This is one ride intended to be enjoyed, step by small step. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3 out of 5

ICE CREAM MAN #20

Ice Cream Man #20 offers an increasingly dark pastiche to classics of children’s literature, including Goodnight Moon and The Giving Tree. Series stalwarts will recognize the nihilistic tone and bug-filtered style that hang over this specific narrative of family hostage-taking, and those elements can still capably send a shiver down one’s spine. There’s an absence of depth beyond the horrifying reimaginings of the familiar, though. The cruelty and darkness are obvious, but they also represent decreasing returns on the series’ eponymous antagonist. It’s the reinterpretation of each illustrator’s style that offers the most notable highlight, while a familiar form of madness oozes out of each page along the way for another solid, if not stellar, installment of this series. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3 out of 5

JUDGE DREDD: FALSE WITNESS #2

Judge Dredd is a fascist, which makes his focused disdain for the simulacrums of Fox News personalities presented in False Witness so baffling. In the midst of a Mad Magazine-like dilution of metaphors for current topics that make a Dredd adventure so much fun, this one’s emphasis on the evils of talking heads also pushes Dredd to close to the role of superhero. He’s still an unrepentant thug who abuses even the notion of civil rights here, but the comic seems to shout that even he still stands for certain things. There’s a bit too much sympathy and direction of creative wish-fulfillment to make it read as the definition of obvious. Of course the story told around Doctor Filth and his like are colorful and don’t steer away from gratuitous violence. It’s still an enjoyable 2000 A.D.-style romp, even if it trips over itself along the way. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3 out of 5

PROTECTOR #5

Protector captures Emily Dickinson’s idea that “hope is a thing with feathers.” Its final chapter offers no easy future, but it offers a future, and it reads like the best one can hope for in the wake of a heartless warmachine fueled by the blood of any human being in its path. The final conflict, taking place at a source for what destroyed our own society, frames humanity against the ideas and powers that ruined so much. It’s a brutal showdown that comes with a heavy price, but it’s ultimately framed by artist Artyom Trakhanov’s vision of a wild North America. The final page frames both the story of Protector and the possible future it hopes can still be realized—a wild and dangerous place, but one that still supports life. It’s a realistic vision of hope and one that still finds a place for humanity within its luscious greens and flourishing fauna. Protector summoned a vision of humanity that, much like Dickinson’s description of hope, are capable of taking flight in spite of their fragility. The result is one of 2020’s most honest comics. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 5 out of 5

RAGNAROK: THE BREAKING OF HELHEIM #6

The conclusion of The Breaking of Helheim also draws the first “book” of Raganarok to a close, and positions itself as an interstitial chapter—offering closure for existing story threads while framing the series’ future conflicts. Even as it quickly moves between different points of focus and returns to subjects barely mentioned since the first few issues of Ragnarok, every sequence is delivered with clarity and striking eye for design. Thor’s greatest battles still lie ahead, but his moments of reflection and combat here offer plenty to satisfy readers even as they await bigger things. The Breaking of Helheim #6 doesn’t provide a climax so much as it offers a pause before intermission. Readers will know as they prepare for this pause that whenever Simonson and his new vision of Thor returns, it will be a grand spectacle worthy of the gods it showcases. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

USAGI YOJIMBO #11

Usagi returns home to discover not all is well at the start of what already appears to be an essential story for one of comics’ longest-running series. Stan Sakai uses the first chapter of “The Return” to effortlessly introduce and frame Usagi’s history for new readers, ensuring that even three decades of stories will not prevent this from being a welcoming starting point for the curious. Both the present narrative and flashbacks also frame the stakes of what’s to follow a particularly portentous cliffhanger. While most of Usagi Yojimbo #11 is dedicated to the work of introduction, it also showcases Sakai’s ability to modulate tone as it moves between a tense present and genuinely delightful vision of Usagi’s childhood. Those moments in the past provide a snippet of fun that plays with shonen tropes to invest readers in the narrative’s core trio of characters. That single flashback is sufficient to justify the cover price, but what is prepared in these pages offers even more promise as “The Return” continues. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

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