Mini Reviews for 9/16

This article was originally published at ComicBook.com on September 16, 2020.

DC

JUSTICE LEAGUE #53

Justice League #53 reads like a footnote—an afterthought featuring B-list characters and subplots for something much larger. That’s a very strange approach for a series that is supposedly about the greatest team of heroes at DC Comics, and it’s one that reads poorly regardless of expectations. About half of the issue is spent explaining what events led to this apocalyptic series of events, both in prior issues of Justice League and various “Metal” events. What little story is told here relies on a reader’s familiarity with those plots, as well. Packed into an oversized omnibus fusing all of these moving parts together and issue #53 might be a useful inflection point, but when read on its own it appears like scribblings at the margins of a story so large and unwieldy that even those picking up all of the related issues are left to guess at how this all fits together instead of appreciating the grand scale and wild twists that Death Metal purports to possess. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 2 out of 5

TEEN TITANS #45

Teen Titans is drawing to a close, but no part of this finish feel planned or purposeful. The Titans are both mending wounds caused by Robin… by following his instruction. They are making amends for illegally incarcerating people… by legally incarcerating them. Issue #45 raises a lot of questions it doesn’t possess answers for in a mad dash to wrap things up. That also means that most of the action sequences are rushed with the tone of a sideshow before a main event that never arrives. The Titans fight some small problems, then some bigger versions, while guest stars poke their heads into the issue. It’s the definition of treading water, and that makes the upcoming conclusion seem like a welcome relief. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 2 out of 5

Marvel

EXCALIBUR #12

Excalibur #12 takes one of the most poorly designed and written relics from Marvel Comics in the 90s and transforms the Externals into a compelling piece of its narrative. Strange strands of lore come together in an issue that delivers an extended climax (and no forced “X of Swords” references) from multiple perspectives. Apocalypse’s story is the most compelling by far as his villainous philosophy is reimagined with some careful thought and an appreciation for collective action. Even as he fills centerstage, every other member of Excalibur to appear in issue #12 plays a crucial role. This is the best issue of Excalibur and finally begins to realize the promise found with the many talented creators and story elements at play. It also includes the best infographic from any “Dawn of X” title this month. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

HELLIONS #4

This team exudes charisma in an issue where both individually tortured personalities and idiosyncratically charming relationships are on display in every page. The resolution of their orphanage battle speaks to the violent joy the Hellions bring to each page, and offers a highlight for nearly every character on the team. The aftermath is every bit as striking with some moving one-page character studies. Even if this issue’s infographic delivers an extended expository infodump, it’s hard to slow down Hellions. This is a series fueled on ultraviolent action, black humor, and Coen-esque characters; it’s a joy to read. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

THE IMMORTAL HULK #37

The Immortal Hulk #37 could have simply reimagined The Leader in so many frightening forms as to make him one of the most haunting villains in all of Marvel Comics. That would have been sufficient to earn this single a spot in the Marvel canon, but it goes one step further. After several issues slowly reintroduced this big-headed arch-enemy, his plan unfurls across an extended climax of a comic—a single action sequence using almost the entire series’ cast across multiple settings—with the complexity of an orchestra, and it hits every last note. Each turn of the page builds momentum and heightens the stakes, making it feel like a race to the very last page, one that lands like a bass drum. It’s one of the most thrilling single issue experiences of 2020, and it remains so on a second, third, and even fourth read. Bravo. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 5 out of 5

Other Publishers

HEAD LOPPER #13

The mythos of Head Lopper feels like a much greater thing than it did a few years ago—the opening pages of issue #13 lay out a recap of the story so far, lines from ancient texts, and a gorgeous map of this fantastical world. Yet the story is as accessible as ever with a compelling quest narrative and abundance of eccentric characters. Even the most violent or terrifying pages exude a sense of fun that makes this oversized issue impossible to put down until you’re done reading. Like each of the prior 3 arcs, this beginning reintroduces its characters and important elements while introducing a new story thread. There’s plenty of action for readers who don’t need to be caught up either, including an astounding sequence at the very start of the issue featuring one of MacLean’s ugliest antagonists to date Head Lopper offers a perfect blend of Heavy Metal style and Lord of the Rings style questing fused by superb cartooning and style. If you’re looking to forget the world outside your door for an hour, there’s nothing better to read. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

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