Mini Reviews for 8/31

This article was originally published at ComicBook.com on August 31, 2021.

DC 

MIDNIGHTER 2021 ANNUAL #1

This annual is a testament to the creative voices assembled in its telling. Abundant ambition is on display in a tale that introduces a new antagonist, toys with time travel, and utilizes a variety of narrative devices to distill what might ordinarily be a “six issues prepared for trade” into a jam-packed thrill ride that tells its story well with nary a wasted panel. Michael Avon Oeming proves to be a brilliant match for characters like Midnight and Mister Miracle – embracing their unique aesthetics and delivering plenty of optically pleasing panels amidst so much action. What’s more is that even with so many less-recognizable DC characters on the page, the issue proves to be a perfect introduction point as well as one bound to please longtime fans—especially those invested in the Midnighter and Apollo romance. From start to finish this is a comic that delivers excellent action, far out ideas, and colorful designs, but also never forgets to add a dash of sincerity and romance into the proceedings. Take a break from drawn out superhero sagas and remember what comics can deliver in a single package; you won’t regret it. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Marvel

DEMON DAYS: CURSED WEB #1

Peach Momoko’s artwork is consistently gorgeous from page-to-page, and it provides reason enough for me to check out each issue of Demon Days – an ongoing collection of one-shots blending Marvel’s mythos with Japanese folklore. Yet the narrative emerging from that mixture is less than compelling. Fight sequences provide the highlights of this issue as Mariko confronts largely unmodified visions of Mystique and Sabretooth in a bloody, samurai style. There’s no hiding the violence and consequences here and that lends some gravitas to the rather dull proceedings surrounding these bloody splashes. Much of the dialogue is barely disguised exposition detailing what yokai and oni are and how that factors into the plot. The characters themselves possess only lore with little personality to display. No matter how dull the narrative may be, it still provides plenty of opportunities to showcase Momoko’s artistic talents and that’s enough to keep me following Demon Days long after Cursed Web. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3 out of 5

HELLIONS #15

Superhero comics marketing wore out the noun “gamechanger” a long time ago, but that’s exactly what this issue is. After two installments of rising action as the Locus Vile avenge themselves on the Hellions, a wide-array of subplots and conflicts come to a head almost simultaneously. It’s that wonderful magic of serialized storytelling where one conflict is imbued with meaning from its many intersections, and Wells has planned this climax perfectly. The personal stakes for several of the most human characters make it tragic, the literal stakes are tremendous giving the grotesque superpowers on display, and the ramifications for the entire “Reign of X” and whatever follows demand to be considered. This is storytelling alchemy executed in splendidly gory detail by Roge Antonio who always gauges just the right level of detail to set readers cringing. Hellions #15 is everything this series offers at its best with gripping, three-dimensional characters, humor and horrific violence that defy imagination, and the freedom to tell a story with no preconceived endings. The results are gripping, as always. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 5 out of 5

Other Publishers

ALMOST AMERICAN #1

“Based on a true story” is not a story hook unto itself; it’s a good joke in a Coen Bros. movie at best. Yet the entirety of Almost American #1 seems to take that line as being sufficient for delivering stakes and excitement. While the story of two Russian agents expatriating to the United States and delivering secrets to the CIA was certainly exciting for those involved, it offers readers little, at least in this debut issue. The two agents in question provide a broad view of where they come from, but little to invest readers in the character’s personal stakes or motives. It’s unclear by the end why they are leaving or what exactly it means for anyone involved, beyond the impossibility of return to their homeland. A series of moments are delivered with an implied “and then” hanging between each in chronological order that resembles a technical report more than a dramatic narrative. While the artwork is consistently functional, characters fail to emote on the page resulting in stiff encounters laid over stiff dialogue. For all of the terror and tension these real individuals may have experienced, it simply cannot be found in the pages of Almost American #1. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 2 out of 5

THE BEAUTY: ALL GOOD THINGS #1

The final issue of The Beauty traces two partnerships to their end. The first story is primarily composed of epilogue with the first few pages wrapping up loose ends from a series that stayed off shelves long enough to leave readers forgetting exactly what was being chased to begin with. It’s a competent affair, but also one that fails to deliver the sort of Bonnie & Clyde finale it aims for. The second half is a much-better delivery that evokes a clearer tone and summons the best of what The Beauty could be – aided in no small part by the return of Jeremy Haun’s artwork. There’s a bittersweet quality overriding the entire affair and affixing a human face to the often ludicrous, genre elements grounds the conclusion in a genuinely affecting manner. Even if it reads as too little, too late, this is a short story that functions on its own terms and will offer an effective denouement and grace note in collected formats. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3 out of 5

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #43

Sonic throws down with the Deadly Six in an encounter with several highlights – including a few surprisingly rough encounters and an excellent showing from Miles “Tails” Prower. Yet those moments don’t make up for an issue with often disconnected action beats and an unfinished quality of artwork. Consistently thin lines fail to differentiate the Deadly Six on the page and several panels appear barely distinguished from roughs in a digital format. It’s a noticeable drop for a series that sets a high bar for consistency in presentation. What’s more is the total dropping of a prominent storyline that is miraculously remembered only at the final page. A lack of cause-and-effect and quality render what could have been a thrilling issue to an easily forgotten intermediary chapter. It’s not terrible, but falls far short of the expectations IDW has set amongst its various Sonic the Hedgehog comics. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

WE ONLY FIND THEM WHEN THEY’RE DEAD #8

Discussions of God Malik lead We Only Find Them When They’re Dead #8 to tread the line between metaphor and allegory – something worth debating when the series is concluding. Here it provides one more facet on a consistently clever puzzle box that juxtaposes timelines and characters in interesting positions to slowly reveal the lore of this thoroughly considered sci-fi landscape. However, it all reads with a certain remove as characters are often articulations of ideology and story roles seem largely interchangeable at this point in the series. As engaging as it may be to consider timelines and new connections or how this story mirrors elements of storytelling-as-industry, it also seems to only invoke the intellectual and never the heart. Perhaps that’s appropriate given the title. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Leave a Reply

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