Mini Reviews for 9/23

This article was originally published at ComicBook.com on September 23, 2020.

Marvel

DAREDEVIL #22

Daredevil fights gentrification plays a lot better in the pages of Daredevil #22 than I could have ever anticipated. A conversation between Matt Murdock and Tony Stark does away with the easy didacticism often attributed to superhero comics, and instead attempts to solve a complex problem while acknowledging nuance. Even in the heightened reality of Marvel Comics, it’s not easy. This approach is present throughout this issue, and the current volume of Daredevil. Characters, conflicts, and interests are interwoven in a way that allows the series to be ground, even when heroes are flying through the air. It’s this approach that makes the fallout of a massive battle so compelling. Courtroom drama, discussion of land buys, and a visit to church are each sequences packed with drama, and that’s what makes Daredevil a much more compelling superhero comic than most other series, even when nobody throws a punch. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

MAESTRO #2

The opening of Maestro #2 transforms the Cold War anxieties that created this dystopian future and reimagines them for our current as human inaction and apathy threaten to destroy our own species along with countless, innocent ecosystems. It is a stirring sequence, and one that provides a direct reason for returning to this story decades later. Peralta’s artwork is desolate and decayed enough to encourage readers to look out their window rather than spend more time in this setting. The back half of the issue is much more plot-oriented, emphasizing where the Maestro title comes from and how his terrible civilization was first built. These elements will appeal to fans of David’s original run, but aren’t well integrated into the apocalyptic strum und drang of Hulk exploring this world ravaged by man. In any case, Maestro #2 is a marked improvement on the tonal imbalances of the series debut, even it fails to wed its obligations to the past with its current reason for existing. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3 out of 5

Other Publishers

DEAD BODY ROAD: BAD BLOOD #4

The original Dead Body Road managed to do the near-impossible and center car chases in a comic book. Dead Body Road: Bad Blood makes it clear why that was such an accomplishment. Each panel of this fast-paced action sequence—both the multi-car chase down the highway and shootout in the woods—fails to build momentum or tension. It reads instead like a series of generally associated panels lacking sufficient cause-and-effect connections. The result is injuries that appear as if from nowhere and cars that blink between locations without the illusion of movement; it makes for a dull read. In the midst of this poorly paced mode of storytelling is a conversation about old flames that lacks enough personality to even land a joke. Keep it. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 2 out of 5

HIDDEN SOCIETY #3

Say what you will about empty calories, that phrase is typically used to describe some very enjoyable food. It’s an accurate comparison for reading Hidden Society #3—a comic from which I can remember specific, pleasing images but have already forgotten much of the story. Each member of the cast receives about as much characterization as the service dog in issue #3; they have a single problem or general trait that defines them. It’s okay because that’s enough to push the story forward through car chases and volcanoes. Those sequences summon up some delightful panels that convey plenty of joy in active fashion. The panels of the aforementioned dog smiling through the chaos was enough to keep me smiling. What happens next? Where will these characters go? Should we care? The answers to those questions don’t feel particularly important, but it is still a lot of fun to read Hidden Society #3 while you’re looking at the pages. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3 out of 5

JUDGE DREDD: FALSE WITNESS #3

False Witness offers a critique of whiteness in America as it reveals one subjugated character after another twisting who they are to serve power and maintain oppressive systems. A young Black man remaking himself as a Tucker Carlson analog is deeply disturbing, but the satire reads as superficial. The story points to problems without providing depth or nuance—so that transformation reads more like the back cover blurb on The Bluest Eye than anything substantial. False Witness picks the right targets and infuses its story with plenty of twists and actions; it is undoubtedly a generally entertaining Judge Dredd story when read. Yet it also reads like another Judge Dredd story updated with hallmarks from our current era, but unable to use familiar characters and story elements to introduce anything genuinely noteworthy. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3 out of 5

SKULLDIGGER + SKELETON BOY #4

“Let’s make them hurt.” Skulldigger + Skeleton Boy is an ode to feel-bad superhero comics and it loves to pay homage to its influences, even having its anti-heroes live on the corner of Miller and Janson. Issue #4 delivers on the promise of that homage in a pair of genuinely horrifying superhero action and some detective sequences that read like scenes from Homicide. There’s nothing wholly original here, but in channeling its influences the series manages to deliver some excellent, if familiar, moments. Lemire’s work rarely entertains romantic sensibilities and that outlook fits this particular Black Hammer spin-off very well. Zonjic’s work is what elevates issue #4, however, as each moment of violence and turning point is stylized to make this parade of carnage enthralling, if not entertaining. You may not be smiling at pages from Skulldigger + Skeleton Boy, but it will leave your jaw hanging. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #32

Sonic the Hedgehog #32 delivers a denouement for the “Metal Virus Saga”—wrapping up one last loose end and delivering a familiar battle as Eggman confronts Sonic and most of his allies. The familiarity works in this issue’s favor, after tracking so many subplots and characters, it’s a joy to witness Sonic and his pals stopping their most familiar foe. This is a reassuring narrative offering a sense of normality after so much chaos, and it works well. The big battle is a lot of fun to witness with a new action beat in nearly every panel. It also creates a path to reset Sonic’s world without requiring much exposition. Sonic the Hedgehog #32 is a fun and straightforward read, the sort that gives young readers an excellent point of entry and old fans a place to seek comfort. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

WICKED THINGS #5

The thing about a good mystery story is that readers typically feel like they have an opportunity to solve the mystery—looking over the detective’s shoulders and trying their best to spot clues and string them together. Wicked Things does not allow for this to occur. It establishes mysteries, then solves them, but the connective tissue between those moments is expository or humorous in nature. Wicked Things #4 presented a clever plot, but only put forth necessary pieces of a solution when explaining it; it appears the same narrative is unfolding with the casino robberies being investigated in Wicked Things #5. The storytelling is as expressive and colorful as one could hope, and Max Sarin delivers a slam dunk black-and-white sequence. However, the story itself remains uninteresting as readers are left to wait for solutions to be set before them, while more interesting characters are squeezed into small sequences that tease but don’t satisfy. Wicked Things possesses all the elements of a winning comic book, but it cannot assemble them into a gratifying experience. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 2 out of 5

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