Mini Reviews for 9/2

This article was originally published at ComicBook.com on September 2, 2020.

DC 

STRANGE ADVENTURES #5

Strange Adventures #5 speeds up both of its plots and, even if some extended sequences of dialogue become a slog, manages to provide the first amusing issue of the series since its debut. The sections drawn from the past by Shaner are pure pulp, moving away from their unexamined colonial politics, if only briefly. Gerads’ pages in the present deliver a wider array of settings, including both a congressional testimony and a (quite literally) high-class rendezvous. Earth and Rann alike are shown to be fascinating worlds by these artists, and they provide the issue’s highlights in silent moments of passion and violence. However, much of their pages are devoted to disquisitions on how and why these worlds operate with Alanna speaking in a voice that reads as much like an outside narrator as the character introduced and emphasized thus far. The extended page count does the comic no favors as it’s easy to identify what works between long stretches of explanatory dialogue, much of which reads as being unnecessary. Strange Adventures #5 doesn’t eschew politics, but steps so far away from its earlier assertion that it’s possible to simply enjoy the reimagined world of this odd, B-list superhero, and briefly imagine where else this concept could have gone. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3 out of 5

YOUNG JUSTICE #18

Young Justice #18 focuses on Spoiler and delivers fans of teenage sidekicks and Batman alike an excellent one-and-done adventure. A long conversation between Drake (who appears ready to drop the new alias, thankfully) and Spoiler overlays an extended series of events, including an impressive flashback sequence drawn by Michael Avon Oeming that introduces a new villain who emulates KGBeast in the best ways. While the inclusion of Young Justice in this adventure reads like an afterthought, the action and intrigue of Spoiler’s solo investigation provide plenty of fun and still tie into the group’s collective outings by the end, with Stephanie firmly embedded in their dynamics. Although the end of Young Justice looms on the horizon, the series could go out on a high note if it continues to deliver succinct single issues in the mode of Young Justice #18. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

Marvel

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #6

After five propulsive issues—perhaps the most stacked debut of any superhero series this year—Guardians of the Galaxy finallys takes a moment to breathe as Richard Ryder heads to therapy. It’s a shift in style and pacing as Marcio Takara takes over art duties. The painterly touch accents Richard’s internal journey well, and it makes the dramatic high points appear more poignant. Ewing’s script accomplishes quite a feat in recontextualizing continuity to deliver a new story. Reminiscing about past galactic events and years of interpersonal history arrives at some new conclusions, and a particularly affecting rendezvous between Nova and Gamora. It’s a showcase for both how well this relaunch appreciates its characters and how flexible the new team is in offering a wide array of different stories. Expectations for Guardians of the Galaxy have never been higher, which is what makes the final pair of pages such a significant letdown. If you didn’t read Empyre #6 this week, then it’s a cliffhanger that reads like a wet fart, but everything before it is still excellent, at least. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

Other Publishers

BANG! #3

The third issue of Bang! introduces a third character ripped straight from the pages of pulp adventure, and it’s the most stylish and original debut so far. Michele Queen and her cybernetic enhancements make for a thrilling start, and one that offers plenty of haunting tech as the mysterious threat of Goldmaze mounts. Bang! is easy to read on an array of levels with Wilfredo Torres delivering a thrilling adventure that can be taken as pure superficial fun, but leaves space for both the development of conspiracy and shockingly human characters. Both Queen and Cord make for compelling protagonists and it’s not difficult to imagine either of them as the centerpiece for unique series. However, Bang! is focused on bringing them together and assembling a team of allegorical heroes. With each issue so far adding a fully developed protagonist in the midst of their own drama and adventures to the cast, it’s hard to wait for issue #4 to arrive. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

LOST SOLDIERS #2

Lost Soldiers #2 blurs the line between reality and fiction as a list of vocabulary at the issue’s end implies the old men in Juarez can only see the world through the haze of their past wars and so much violence. It’s a disorienting, but never confusing, read and one that embeds readers firmly in a state of mind. As that effect is developed, so are mysteries about what happened in Vietnam and what cause these soldiers now serve. It ratchets up tension and leads to a moment that readers hope will not arrive, but is ultimately inevitable. Lost Soldiers remains an intense read applying a dazzling mix of colors and moods to develop an experience that extends far beyond the plot. Whatever happens next, it’s apparent that this long trail of misery still has some more pain to share. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

MOONSHINE #20

Moonshine #20 would read better if the series’ characters were something more than a mix of gangster stereotypes and dialogue trying too hard to be clever. A collection of encounters is interesting because of who occupies them, but here they rely almost entirely on Risso’s stellar artwork, including a particularly effective sequence on what it’s like to sleep beside a werewolf. However, most of the issue rambles between moments that are building towards some eventual conflict, but Moonshine one that is taking far too long to arrive. When the most memorable element of a comic book containing vampires, gangsters, and Elliot Ness is a new nickname for Tony, that’s a problem. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 2 out of 5

SEX CRIMINALS: SEXUAL GARY SPECIAL #1

One of the most consistent joys of Sex Criminals was the consistent background gags—sex-filled puns reimagining famous films as pornos and twisting so many pieces of iconic imagery into something lewd. Sexual Gary Special is a last hurrah for all of the jokes that never managed to make it into the series, and there are some excellent jokes to be found here (Umberto D.(ick) is a personal favorite). That’s the reason to read this one-shot, though. Sexual Gary isn’t so much a character as an avatar to carry the weight of neverending sex schticks, and his Dirk Diggler routine quickly wears out its welcome. Even the inclusion of a familiar Sex Criminals character does little to bolster interest in panel after panel of unused comedic ideas. Read from front to back, it can be exhausting, but there are plenty of chuckles to be had for fans who want to flip through a few pages at a time. The order of reading doesn’t matter much. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3 out of 5

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #31

Sonic the Hedgehog finishes picking up the pieces from the sprawling zombot saga, and begins a new adventure in the final pages of issue #31. All of the characters who receive a check-in here offer some personality and joy, but the overall effect is comparable to a clipshow. The relief of victory has worn off and now these brief check-ins read like status updates. Some moments work better than others, Chaotix’ work specifically highlights the positive, collaborative themes of the series, but it creates a relatively mellow issue waiting for new conflicts to arise. Now that the heroes have had a breather, new threats are prepared and it appears that Sonic the Hedgehog #32 will return readers to the colorful, fast-paced adventures this series excels at providing. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3 out of 5

WE ONLY FIND THEM WHEN THEY’RE DEAD #1

It should come as no surprise to fans of artist Simone Di Meo that this series is absolutely gorgeous. Sleek starships shoot through space several centuries in the future harvesting the corpses of dead gods floating in the void. It’s a high concept that is elegantly presented in Di Meo’s spreads and designs, accompanied by an economical script that emphasizes the most important elements rather than dumping loads of exposition on readers from the jump. That makes this big idea a pleasant read, too, the sort of comic book that’s easy to read and re-read—discovering new details and making connections without that process ever feeling like work. Introducing the series’ high concept leaves little space to develop characters or summon a plot, but there’s just enough here to hook readers into at least one notable conflict (making the antagonists police doesn’t hurt either), and the final page provides all of the reasons one would want to return for issue #2. We Only Find Them When They’re Dead is one of the most ambitious debuts of 2020, and it appears that Di Meo and Ewing are ready to deliver on all of its strange promise. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

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