Mini Reviews for 9/30

This article was originally published at ComicBook.com on September 30, 2020.

DC

JOHN CONSTANTINE: HELLBLAZER #10

John Constantine: Hellblazer #10 lays the groundwork for its endgame as John’s elder self, introduced more than a year ago, returns to (literally) haunt his dreams. It’s a colorful journey that encompasses both the very loose tie-in to DC’s Sandman line and the many new comrades John has picked up along the way. While the issue features several clever moments playing on the concept of dream logic, the final few pages clarify that this issue is table setting for something more meaningful. It’s the set up for a punchline that’s scheduled to arrive in October and November—reminding readers of what’s important, but not adding much momentum to the proceedings. That is with one notable exception: the visual manifestation of John’s guilt. It’s a concept that was utilize to great effect in the original Hellblazer series and a pair of splash panels in issue #10 provide an update that only Bergara could deliver so stylishly (and painfully). Readers have every reason to be excited to see how this series ends, even if it still feels too soon. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #9

The artistic talent on display in Legion of Super-Heroes #9 is genuinely stunning. Just open the issue to its final page and remember the names on that list—those are artists worth seeking out, each and every one of them. However, their individual, page-by-page efforts don’t necessarily elevate this comic. It is centered on a trial and, setting aside a pair of exceedingly brief action sequences, reads more like a Sorkin script than the optimistic sci-fi it claims to be. Many artists are left with pages that fail to provide them with a single highlight of their unique style or storytelling abilities, and as a result leave that final page reading like a roll call, not a celebration. It doesn’t help that issue #9 is focused on how the events of the series so far are minor compared to looming threats, while these minor events have consumed so much space that it’s hard to believe the “great darkness” mentioned here (and calling back to the Legion’s best-remembered adventure) will ever arrive. There are many highlights to be enjoyed among these pages, but Legion of Super-Heroes is failing to make the case for its continuation. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3 out of 5

Marvel

THE IMMORTAL HULK: THE THRESHING PLACE #1

The Immortal Hulk: The Threshing Place features one of my absolute favorite pages of 2020. It features a singular “pop”; you’ll know it when you see it. The issue is not essential to the ongoing story of The Immortal Hulk, and that is to its benefit. Instead, it is drafted as an elegy of contemporary American rage in the mode of Hulk’s status quo. Centering on a missing girl and dangerous government operatives, both federal agents and local police, it is a cathartic smash against systems that abuse children and leave dispossessed families to despair. Del Mundo’s pages are nothing short of stunning. Each moment of violence and reflection resounds with meaning from its moment of publication. We live in a moment where hope is difficult to summon, and The Threshing Place channels feelings of rage, despair, and desperation beautifully into a final few moments that offer a genuine glimmer of hope. I’m grateful for this one-shot and the honest emotion it offers readers today. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 5 out of 5

MARVELS X #5

There’s shade of modern commentary in Marvels X, but it’s presented in a non-specific fashion that allows the comic to present a Rorschach test to readers rather than any substantial statement. There’s an angry crowd and the people of America have been transformed into dangerous mutants, and it’s once again left up to a select (and pre-selected) group of heroes to save those masses from themselves. It all feels a bit condescending, but the standard superhero narrative attached is partially responsible, as well. The climax of this penultimate chapter certainly reads in a familiar fashion and all of the character designs at the back of the issue outshine what’s on the page. Marvels X isn’t a particularly stinging disappointment, but the best it can offer is a general sense of blandness—flirting with relevancy, but incapable of committing. It’s likely the series, like those to which it provides a prelude, will be quickly forgotten by all but a few readers. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 2 out of 5

Other Publishers

ALIENATED #6

Not everyone has a happy childhood and some don’t get to even see its end, but Alienated #6 attempts to find value in those moments preceding adulthood in a constantly chaotic, often cruel world. Even if it does not reach the same emotional highs and moments of catharsis found in earlier issues, it does provide a sense of closure. Each of the three Sams receives an ending, although Samir lacks the appropriate denoumentment that both Samuel and Samantha receive. Chip remains the heart of the series though, a child of imagination and power forced the wringer of earthbound anxieties and pain. It’s his resolution with Samantha that empowers this final issue that reads more like an epilogue than anything else. After five stirring issues of mounting emotions and trauma, some temporary peace is found—that will have to be enough, as it so often is in life. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

THE LUDOCRATS #5

The Ludocrats is dedicated to portraying the most absurd course of action at every turn as it progressed and succeeds in throwing off the shackles of a familiar narrative in its final. Yet how does one conclude that sort of concept? The Ludocrats #5 provides no answers. There’s a single, solid gag at the end followed by some additions in the credits, but the story doesn’t end so much as it abruptly stops. There are a number of noteworthy jokes in this issue, but they play primarily on existing bits of plot and provide more that is recognizable than ludicrous. It’s an enjoyable issue, but nothing that provides readers with an authentically gonzo reading experience. Instead, those final pages read more like one throwing up their hands and declaring enough. It may have been enough, but it’s difficult to imagine returning to what’s here for any purpose. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3 out of 5

THAT TEXAS BLOOD #4

I suspect readers could miss issue #4 and not even notice it when reading That Texas Blood #5 next month. What happens here can be boiled down to a single revelation, the introduction of a character mentioned but not seen so far, and a single choice by the current anti-hero. That choice doesn’t possess much impact. It’s not because the pages lack character—there are several noteworthy compositions—but that there are few defining traits even after three issues of “A Brother’s Conscience.” A troubled narrative thread spells out what’s occurring in the panels rather than adding depth, and hammers a number of cliches. At this point readers are left to wonder why they should be invested in these people and their troubles, but it doesn’t appear any answers are forthcoming, and there’s not nearly enough new in this story to distinguish it from a seemingly endless pile of existing pulp and noir tales. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 2 out of 5

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