Mini Reviews for 9/8

This article was originally published at ComicBook.com on September 8, 2021.

DC

THE NICE HOUSE ON THE LAKE #4

Issue #4 turns its focus to David – the comedian and seemingly least serious member of the group. As with every prior issue, Tynion deftly reveals a three-dimensional human being embedded into the stereotype-career provided at the start. David’s willingness to push boundaries and find humor reveal themselves as a crucial skill in this setting as he avoids the most obvious assumptions. What’s most impressive is how Tynion and Martinez Bueno draw readers through his experience and reasoning. In the final few pages these circumstances of this apocalyptic retreat are made clearer, but every revelation is addressed earlier and attentive readers will perceive how David is solving this mystery in his own fashion. Each step in that journey provides additional nuance to David and those he interacts with. Facial expressions are so clear and enhanced with color in a fashion that can shift the tone between each room and collection of residents. It’s an immersive experience in character and setting, which only deepens the draw into this dark and twisted mystery. I can’t wait for The Nice House On The Lake #5 to arrive. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

SUICIDE SQUAD 2021 ANNUAL #1

Unlike some of DC Comics’ other late summer annual, Suicide Squad 2021 Annual adds a lot to the lore of this new series – redefining a couple of characters and the scope of the conflict in which they are all engaged. Each change is additive, providing new depth to Superboy and some interesting action for Rick Flag. These are engaging hooks for those already invested in the series. Their delivery is essentially bog standard, though. Artwork is consistent, even with multiple art teams, but an overreliance on splashes results in lots of big panels with barely any impact as the Annual reads like a bloated single issue. Action beats and conversations along the way offer little of interest beyond changes to the plot with most of the new Squad members still struggling to exert personalities that sing a second note. There’s plenty of potential in these teams and their complex configurations, but they’re still missing a spark of inspiration here. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3 out of 5

SUICIDE SQUAD: GET JOKER! #2

Suicide Squad: Get Joker! #2 delivers a handful of excellent sequences. Although Joker remains an overhyped entity within the story—continually romanticized and explained in captions with little effect on the page—his appearance creates a tense sequence in which several characters are able to make interesting decisions. Every member of this Squad embraces their status as unredeemed degenerates, even if many lack any characteristics beyond that initial sheen. Maleev’s depiction of some subtle shifts before the action explodes is particularly intriguing. However, much like in issue #1, an abundance of pages are spent reestablishing the premise before a quick reversal of affairs is delivered in the final 10 pages. It’s formulaic in a way that makes the deaths less than surprising and the wordplay read like passing the time for the first 75% of the story. Get Joker! is an uneven affair with a few notable highlights. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

THE SWAMP THING #7

Readers finally come to understand exactly what led Levi to his cursed state in The Swamp Thing #7 as he is hunted through the jungles of Kaziranga by toxic members of the Suicide Squad. Levi’s story possesses tragic elements, but there’s little sympathy shown for Levi’s own decisions – constant betrayals of his family and heritage. As The Swamp Thing has interrogated systems and ideologies, it has focused on the flaws of capitalism, but Levi’s sense of self-importance and obsession with knowing what’s best for others creates a clear critique of liberalism. The flaws and responsibilities are clearly defined in the midst of memories and battle, never losing momentum or excitement to narrative exposition. Only the pacing slows here as members of the Squad crawl through the jungle to encounter Levi one by one. While the final splash delivers an excellent cliffhanger, it also feels overdue after two issues of jungle encounters between these entities. However, the ideas and images are crystalline and remain a pleasure to see articulated across each page. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

Marvel

DAREDEVIL #34

The final chapter of Daredevil approaches and the many story threads woven across the past several years are drawn together into a tight knot. The individual character arcs form a compelling medley as everyone from Matthew Murdock to Detective North, from Elektra to Typhoid Mary are compelled to make incredibly difficult decisions. All of this action is portrayed with a deft hand as a prison riot with plenty of tense moments promising the upcoming showdown with Bullseye will be some can’t-miss action comics fare. However, this close to the end of the story, the limitations of this Daredevil run also reveal themselves. It’s clear in Daredevil and North’s showdown what has driven them so far and left the world in such chaos, but in confronting the massive systemic justice of the American carceral state leaves both men fumbling for answers. Daredevil appears quite literally mad and Cole can provide no reasonable alternatives for the horror and injustice on display. There is no satisfying answer except revolution—as showcased in the (justified) fire and violence at Rykers—but the genre constraints cannot accept this. It’s unclear how exactly this drama will settle, but it is obvious that superheroes imprisoning petty thieves and drug dealers will remain central to Daredevil and its associated series in the future. No matter how compelling it was to see these critical issues addressed in the pages of Daredevil at the end it seems this may be an outstanding series greatest weakness as it is ultimately unable to confront its own central conflicts in a meaningful manner. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

DEFENDERS #2

Defenders #2 delivers on all of the spectacle its debut promised with an assortment of wonderfully designed spreads featuring cosmic action enhanced by a panorama of powerful colors. Given the setting and lore-laden characters on display, it meets expectations and offers plenty of fireworks but that leaves little space for this new team of Defenders to express themselves. Doctor Strange, Silver Surfer, and the Masked Raider are so busy explaining their circumstances (albeit as neatly as they can) that there’s little space for any characterization beyond one-liners, much less for readers to recall Harpy or Nebula are also along for the ride. To that end Defenders is becoming a balancing act and here it defers to develop the cosmic mythology that Ewing has elaborately divised across so many different series and other stories – it has never looked better than it does here either. That comes at the cost for characters and even any sense of tension as this tour through Marvel’s very distant past is focused on the “what” above all else. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

EXCALIBUR #23

Excalibur #23 concentrates on the series’ lore with a guest appearance by Doctor Doom dictating the terms for a tour of Otherworld. Readers who may have left the series or are just looking to catch up will be in for a treat with a bevy of characters, settings, and antagonistic entities all neatly summarized in these pages. They collectively speak to potential wrung both from the modern “Reign of X” status quo and decades of prior Excalibur stories. The appearance of Furies makes for an excellent case in point as the superpowered automatons speak to an abundance of potential even without any notable action sequences or even a single panel showcasing their still impressive design. What’s on the page rarely lives up to its own promise, but the promise remains incredibly enticing given the sprawling stakes and rich elements of lore ranging from Arthurian tales to modern, reality-bending sci-fi tales. It’s hard to look away even when much of the execution comes up short. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3 out of 5

EXTREME CARNAGE: TOXIN #1

If nothing else, Extreme Carnage: Toxin #1 is the first issue of the “Extreme Carnage” event to attempt developing a character hook. While Toxin’s newest host Bren Waters may be an amalgamation of teen superhero tropes, his troubled relationship with a violent father provides an obvious connection to his symbiote partner and the story at hand. It thrusts Toxin into a heroic role and allows exposition (re)delivery to read as something more than pure plot. The psychic battle within The Hive also creates some space for interesting displays of the symbiotes’ flexible forms that rates above another generic bloodbath. Ultimately, this issue is space to pull another character into proceedings moving at a crawl, but there’s character to it which makes it the best installment titled Extreme Carnage yet. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

X-FORCE #23

Tensions increase between Krakoa’s black ops outfit, the mutants of Russia, the mysterious XENO in X-Force #23 – a comic that revels in uncertain power dynamics. It’s clear that every organization possesses their own motives and none of them (except, perhaps, XENO) are entirely aligned. This plays out in two very different scenarios as readers receive a peak behind Russia’s new, anti-mutant Iron Curtain as well as a peak inside Beast’s head. Both of these sequences provide a mix of action and intrigue, but develop little tension along the way as they re-establish dynamics readers are already familiar with alongside some additional detail. Beast’s increasing darkness transitioning from subtext to text adds no additional clarity on his perspective or ideology. In a similar vein, XENO being shown as one large fish in a pond with plenty of others doesn’t clarify how this changes the overall dynamics of X-Force as it continues. There is clearly a grand design with so many key ideas still developing from the earliest issues, but small touches aren’t enough to outline a vision and X-Force #23 is an issue that drifts as a solitary installment. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3 out of 5

Other Publishers

ARMY OF DARKNESS 1979 #1

It appears that licensing The Warriors proved too expensive and so “1979” is attached to the end of this title. The crossover between two cult films reminds readers why they would be better off watching either at home. Obvious references to The Warriors quickly builds a landscape, but one without much merit. The roving gangs are easily identified but their members possess essentially as much personality as the Deadites they confront. The antagonists, Necronomicon-wielding gang members, provide little interest in action as every figure they confront collapses into a tumble of dull, brown lines and some vague skeletal shapes. Even the arrival of Ash offers readers little of interest in terms of action or humor with jokes that barely count as first draft material and action beats that fail to tell a story. Army of Darkness 1979 is never actively offensive, but it is certainly dull from start to finish with no redeeming qualities to be sussed out. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 1.5 out of 5

BLACK COTTON #2

Marco Perugini’s artwork delivers stylish sword and gun fights – minimalist backgrounds accentuate the action with broad motion lines and clearly defined shapes. This makes the opening pages of Black Cotton #2 quite the thrill ride, but that same style when applied to numerous discussions throughout the rest of the pages leaves much to be desired. Figures are often blocked out in a fashion indiscernible from thumbnails, which actively distracts from the content of these conversations. The potent ideas filling the story fluctuate in focus with some statements reading more like a thesis, but others offering life to their characters. Yet with a world that’s hardly defined in the artwork and characters whose appearances collide throughout their interactions, it’s difficult to provide a good faith reading to often confusing presentations. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 2 out of 5

HELM GREYCASTLE #4

Endings provide some clarity and the ending of Helm Greycastle has a more coherent plot in that it resolves itself in a clear position. The value of this understanding is debatable as the many revelations and events found in the climax land with a thud. This remains in no small part due to a lack of clarity on its underlying concept – something only compounded in the final page’s cliffhanger. Characters explain their motives and feelings in plain language with only strange accents offering inflection. Historical alterations are undermined and the fantastical elements somehow feel small set alongside them. This strange amalgamation may provide a lot of fun in the wild imaginings of a roleplay session, but it never managed to resonate in comics. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 2 out of 5

MOONSHINE #27

The penultimate issue of Moonshine hurries to tie up loose ends before a climactic showdown that delivers Eduardo Risso at his very best. The montage of gang war possesses a hurried quality that allows for some excellent splash panels but little that resonates beyond looking cool. These moments are tied to details of a conspiracy-laden plot, but none of them are memorable. That is saved for a showdown that reflects Moonshine #1 in a number of interesting parallels and holds the same dense tension of the 100 Bullets finale. The final page holds a single loud “BLAM” and that’s a promise that Moonshine #28 will be entertaining, regardless of this reader’s criticisms. The final few pages of Moonshine #27 are an absolute terror to read and promise a great deal of horrifically violent sequences in the series finale. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3 out of 5

REDSHIFT #2

The launch issue does not disappoint as a few twists and turns reset expectations with some very promising character dynamics. There are moments scattered throughout the issue which deliver some stiff dialogue, including a forced goodbye that’s straight from a cheap 80s sci-fi flick considering the stakes. However, McKee’s figures deliver the emotionality of each scene including some impressively subtle expressions in the final few pages. He fills these characters with life and promises a more realistic vision of space travel with clean linework that at times reminded me of the windswept vistas of Astonishing X-Men. His characters breathe life into the compelling motives and interwoven themes of Redshift. Redshift #2 delivers on the initial promise of the title and its creators with the second half of this story’s introduction – the promise of what’s to come seems nearly limitless after this issue. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

THE SIX SIDEKICKS OF TRIGGER KEATON #4

All six of Trigger Keaton’s sidekicks have distinct opportunities to showcase their character for the first time in The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton #4 and they do so with style and humor. Chris Schweizer organizes a series of pages juxtaposing their many different trajectories in a compelling and (more importantly) coherent balancing act. It’s a dazzling mix of quick-hit action, gags, and intrigue. Even as the story provides some of its most compelling emotional beats yet, there’s rarely a single page that doesn’t deliver a grin-inducing joke. The comedy seems effortless, which is a testament to how well these jokes (and the characters who deliver them all naturally) are written. The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton would be a must-read for its comedic merits alone, but it still insists on delivering outstanding examples of action, character work, and mystery plotting in each issue meaning even its middle chapters are a delight from start to finish – because the interview back matter in this issue is truly outstanding. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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