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Comic Book Reviews May 1

DISCLOSURE: The following is a synopsis and reviews of this week’s comic books from multiple publishers. If you like our reviews and would like to purchase these books you can do so by visiting our partners at TFAW.com. If you decide to buy anything through our provided links we get a small commission which helps keep our website alive and running. Thanks for your time.

DC'S SPRING BREAKOUT! #1

DC anthology comics often present a mix of quality due to varied creative teams taking liberties with less highlighted characters and narratives. However, “Spring Breakout!” successfully diverges from this pattern by offering eight compelling stories that capitalize on the unique strengths of the DC Universe. Retailing at $10, the issue provides substantial value with its mix of humor, action, and character development. Standout tales include Harley Quinn and King Shark enjoying a vibrant night out for King Shark’s birthday, Lex Luthor navigating a complex challenge with his typical cunning, and an engaging ‘act-off’ between Martian Manhunter and Clayface. These narratives shine without needing to tie into larger, universe-spanning events, showcasing the potential for fun and depth in DC’s standalone stories.

THE FLASH 2024 ANNUAL #1

This annual is critical for anyone following the current storyline of The Flash. It skillfully condenses several ongoing plots and expository elements into a cohesive, oversized issue. This approach is seen as beneficial, allowing for a more immersive and comprehensive reading experience compared to a stretched-out narrative over several months. However, it also reflects some of the series’ current shortcomings, such as an inconsistent artistic direction. Despite these issues, the annual captures the essence of Simon Spurrier’s interpretation of The Flash, marked by its science fiction elements and metatextual commentary. The narrative weaves through complex ideas and introduces new characters and realms, though the connections between these elements can appear weak at times. The varied artistic contributions occasionally struggle to maintain a consistent visual narrative, but the compilation helps clarify the ambitious scope of the story.

HARLEY QUINN 2024 ANNUAL #1

This annual takes readers on a whimsical journey with Harley Quinn and Zatanna aboard a cruise ship, embroiled in a pseudo-murder mystery. The plot embraces a lighthearted and sometimes overly zany tone, which could be perceived as simplifying Harley’s character. Nonetheless, the comic is filled with engaging escapades and entertaining interactions between the characters. While the art fluctuates in quality and the story resolution feels somewhat hurried, the overall narrative remains an enjoyable deviation from Harley’s typical escapades. It captures the essence of fun and mischief that is central to Harley Quinn’s adventures, making it a memorable issue for fans of the character.

NIGHTWING 2024 ANNUAL #1

In “Nightwing 2024 Annual #1,” the creative team attempts a significant narrative feat: threading together the backstory of Bea Bennett into the ongoing and varied history of Nightwing. This origin story, long awaited by fans, attempts to intertwine multiple plot lines and past character developments. However, while aiming for a comprehensive exploration of Bea’s character, the narrative becomes bogged down by excessive exposition. Some of the information presented seems either overly simplistic or confusing, detracting from the storyline’s impact. Despite this, Travis Moore’s dual role as writer and artist shows commendable effort, presenting a visually engaging issue. Nevertheless, even seasoned fans might find the numerous plot twists and dense backstory challenging to navigate, indicating a possibly overambitious approach in balancing complex story elements.

SUPERMAN: HOUSE OF BRAINIAC SPECIAL #1

“Superman: House of Brainiac Special #1” serves as an interlude between major chapters of the ongoing Brainiac saga, effectively acting as “Chapter 2.5.” This special issue is structured around three distinct stories that collectively provide a deep dive into the current crises unfolding within the Superman and Action Comics series. These narratives are crucial not only for advancing the plot but also for enriching the backdrop against which these events unfold. The issue excels in expanding the lore surrounding Brainiac’s attacks and setting the stage for subsequent developments in his elaborate scheme. The creative teams demonstrate a meticulous attention to detail, maintaining narrative momentum while ensuring the reader remains connected to the personal experiences of those affected by the chaos. This holistic approach enhances the grandeur of the storyline and solidifies the issue’s importance within the broader arc.

BLOOD HUNT #1

“Blood Hunt #1” marks Marvel’s latest foray into a superhero event comic, this time pitting its characters against a vampire threat—a theme reminiscent of past DC endeavors with mixed outcomes. Although it’s only the initial issue, “Blood Hunt” begins with a promising intensity that sets it apart from other recent Marvel events. The concept of superheroes battling vampires isn’t new, but the execution in this opener suggests a refreshing take on the genre. The series kicks off on a high note, capturing interest with its potent mix of action and mystery. This strong start could potentially position “Blood Hunt” as a standout in the superhero event landscape, promising an engaging read throughout the upcoming summer months.

CABLE #4

“Cable #4” explores the intriguing dynamics between two versions of Cable—each with distinct perspectives on their existence and responsibilities. This foundational concept of duality offers rich narrative potential, positioning the characters to delve into profound themes of identity, legacy, and moral choices. However, the execution falls short of expectations, leading to a storyline that feels unremarkable and fails to fully captivate the reader’s interest. Despite this, moments of interaction between the two Cables highlight what could have been, suggesting a missed opportunity to delve deeper into their contrasts and conflicts. These glimpses serve as tantalizing reminders that the series had the ingredients to be more impactful, leaving readers with a sense of what might have been in a series brimming with philosophical and emotional depth.

DEADPOOL & WOLVERINE: WWIII #1

Marvel’s “Deadpool & Wolverine: WWIII #1” reunites the iconic duo in a narrative that promises more than their usual antics. Under Joe Kelly’s direction, the story aims to evolve Deadpool beyond his stereotypical comic relief role, while still leveraging his unique humor. The plot introduces a twist reminiscent of Deadpool’s portrayal in the finale of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” suggesting potential growth or a significant change in his character arc. This development hints at a deeper exploration of Wade Wilson’s persona, perhaps marking a turning point for his character after years of static portrayal. Meanwhile, Wolverine, ever the gritty warrior, contributes to the dynamic with his characteristic intensity. The narrative teases the possibility of either a profound transformation or a clever subversion in upcoming issues, leaving readers intrigued about the direction the series will take.

GET FURY #1

“Get Fury #1” reintroduces readers to a gritty narrative steeped in the horrors of the Vietnam War, featuring iconic Marvel characters Nick Fury and Frank Castle. Crafted by writer Garth Ennis and artist Jacen Burrows, the comic is a departure from traditional superhero fare, immersing its audience in a stark, realistic portrayal of war. The story begins with Nick Fury captured by the North Vietnamese Army, with the CIA preferring his death over the risk of him divulging secrets under torture. Frank Castle’s role as the rescuer is framed not just as a mission but as a grim testament to the brutality of the conflict. Ennis’ expertise in war comics adds a layer of authenticity and gravitas to the narrative, while Burrows’ art does not shy away from the raw and often brutal reality of war. This issue sets the stage for a series that promises to be not just a war story but an exploration of survival, morality, and the human condition amid one of the most turbulent times in modern history.

THE IMMORTAL THOR #10

“Immortal Thor #10” continues the vibrant, satirical journey that began in “Roxxon Presents: Thor #1,” maintaining much of the earlier issue’s sharp wit while addressing moments where the previous parody might have overreached. This issue features a notable shift in the artistic style, which starkly contrasts with its predecessor but effectively complements the darker narrative themes. As Thor is ensnared in a menacing trap, the artwork becomes more shadowy, mirroring the sinister alterations of reality by the enchantress Amora. This visual transition enhances the ominous atmosphere, emphasizing the gravity of Thor’s predicament. Toward the issue’s conclusion, a twist unfolds that is both unexpected and engaging, leaving readers in suspense yet satisfyingly concluded, eager to see how these developments will ripple through future issues.

THE INCREDIBLE HULK #12

Issue #12 of “The Incredible Hulk” stands out as a pinnacle of Marvel’s current offerings, further cementing its place as one of the most compelling reads available. This chapter continues the series’ exploration of folk horror, a theme that the comic handles with exceptional skill and originality. The integration of cameo appearances from other characters is executed with purpose and authenticity, enhancing the narrative without feeling forced. Furthermore, the use of an alternate or pocket universe is portrayed not as a narrative shortcut but as a crucial and justified element of the story. The return of artist Klein adds a familiar and welcome consistency to the visuals, complementing Johnson’s storytelling prowess. The series, under Johnson’s guidance, excels in balancing foundational comic book elements with innovative narrative directions, making it a strong contender to be recognized alongside legendary runs like “Immortal.”

THE INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #18

“The Invincible Iron Man #18” finds itself mired amidst the sprawling “Fall of X” event, struggling to establish its climactic battles as consequential. Despite the presence of powerful characters like Nimrod, Magneto, and Fei Long, their actions feel isolated, lacking impact on the broader narrative conflict with Orchis. The issue introduces potentially significant developments such as Magneto’s manipulation of Mysterium, yet these are quickly sidelined, portrayed as irrelevant to the overarching story. The narrative feels constrained and insular, with grandiose displays of ever-larger Iron Man suits doing little to enhance the sense of scale or stakes. The action, while visually typical of superhero comics, is accompanied by a narration that tends to over-explain rather than show, reducing the excitement and anticipation that should accompany a climax. This approach leaves the issue feeling somewhat flat and disconnected from the high-energy dynamics typically expected in Iron Man’s world.

SPIDER-WOMAN #7

“Spider-Woman #7” marks a dynamic shift in both setting and storyline, as Jessica Drew navigates through significant personal revelations and a renewed conflict with Hydra. Steve Foxe, the writer, captures the essence of Jessica’s character—her humor, charisma, and sarcasm—infusing the narrative with a fresh complexity that enhances these traits. The relocation to San Francisco not only provides a scenic change but also revitalizes the storytelling, reflecting in the narrative’s progression and engagement. The artistic team, comprising IG Guara and colorist Arif Prianto, excels in portraying vibrant, expressive character visuals that amplify emotional beats within the story. Zzzax, under their artistic direction, emerges as a formidable antagonist, adding a substantial threat level to the plot. The introduction of The Assembly adds a layer of intrigue, promising more enthralling developments in this urban setting. Overall, the move to San Francisco appears to be a strategic success, enriching the Spider-Woman saga with new adventures and challenges.

VENGEANCE OF THE MOON KNIGHT #5

“Vengeance of the Moon Knight #5” continues from a pivotal cliffhanger, where the new Moon Knight’s identity is revealed, sparking a mix of anticipation and skepticism. The issue attempts to build context around The Shroud’s motivations, but the explanations fall somewhat short, leaving readers questioning the logic behind his drastic actions. Writer Jed MacKay portrays a tragic backstory for Max, aiming to foster empathy but struggling to seamlessly connect this to his decision to adopt the Moon Knight mantle. However, the emotional resonance of Tigra’s reaction to the threat against Marc Spector’s legacy is palpable, adding depth and intensity to the narrative. 8-Ball’s vulnerability also stands out, reflecting MacKay’s careful development of secondary characters. The artistic team, including Alessandro Cappuccio, Rachelle Rosenberg, and Cory Petit, delivers striking visual storytelling, particularly in their depiction of The Shroud’s eerie abilities. Despite its narrative imperfections, “Vengeance of the Moon Knight #5” excels in visual and emotional storytelling, making it a commendable addition to the series.

WEAPON X-MEN #3

“Weapon X-Men #3” presents a peculiar and somewhat divisive premise as it delves into an alternate Earth scenario filled with variations of Wolverine. Christos Gage, the writer, attempts to inject a playful element into the series, exploring the imaginative potential of this concept. However, the execution reveals the limitations of such a narrowly focused team, highlighting the challenges in maintaining narrative depth with a homogenous cast. Artist Yildiray Çinar shines in this installment, bringing a distinctive visual style to the flashbacks and lending a unique atmosphere to the alternate Earth setting. Çinar’s artwork is particularly effective in the action sequences, with well-crafted paneling that enhances the dynamic flow and impact of each confrontation. While the narrative’s foundational concept may seem better in theory than practice, Çinar’s artistic contributions provide a compelling reason to engage with the series, offering visually captivating moments that stand out amidst the storyline’s challenges.

X-MEN #34

“X-Men #34” finds itself entangled in a web of hastily introduced plot twists and underdeveloped subplots that clutter the narrative landscape. This issue reintroduces a mutant tracker whose involvement in the story is fleeting and puzzling, contributing little to the overarching plot before inexplicably disappearing. Additionally, MODOK’s transformation of the Orchis operatives into monstrous beings is depicted, but these creatures fail to pose any significant challenge to the X-Men, rendering their inclusion somewhat pointless. Amidst these chaotic developments, the issue attempts to resolve the ongoing conflict involving Synch, Talon, and Wolverine, providing some narrative closure. However, even the substantial artistic talents enlisted for this comic struggle to salvage a sense of coherence and impact from the scant material provided by the script. Overall, “X-Men #34” feels like an exhausted continuation of a storyline that has been stretched beyond its natural conclusion, lacking in both excitement and logical progression.

BEAR PIRATE VIKING QUEEN #1

“Bear Pirate Viking Queen #1” offers a unique and engaging twist on pirate-themed storytelling, introducing readers to the adventures of Captain Paul Reddish and his unusual companions—a bear and a rampaging Viking. The comic employs a watercolor art style that, although initially unconventional for the genre, effectively complements the whimsical and rough-edged tone of the narrative. This artistic choice enhances the thematic depth of the story, depicting the vibrant and often gritty life of pirates with a fresh aesthetic. The narrative doesn’t shy away from the darker aspects of pirate life, yet these elements are balanced with humor and action, ensuring the story remains entertaining without becoming overly grim. The bear, characterized with human-like vices and virtues, adds a layer of absurdity and charm that makes the comic stand out. The combination of these factors creates a captivating first issue that promises more rollicking maritime adventures.

THE BLOOD BROTHERS MOTHER #1

“The Blood Brothers Mother #1” launches with a grim and unflinching portrayal of the Western genre, delivering a narrative steeped in nihilism. The story sets a stark depiction of rugged men and innocent boys thrust into a relentless and unforgiving environment, echoing the harsh realities of frontier life. This first issue effectively captures the essence of modern Westerns such as “Bone Tomahawk” and “Hell or High Water,” offering a narrative that is both raw and captivating. The comic’s ability to convey a profound commentary on the nature of humanity remains uncertain, but its initial presentation promises a deep exploration of character and survival. Readers drawn to tales of moral ambiguity and stark realism will find “The Blood Brothers Mother #1” a compelling addition to the genre, setting the stage for a series that explores the depths of human desperation and resilience.

CEMETERY KIDS DON'T DIE #3

As “Cemetery Kids Don’t Die” nears its conclusion in this third issue of a four-part series, the narrative struggles to maintain cohesion amid changes in its artistic direction. Initially handled solely by Daniel Irizarri, the artistic duties are now shared with Gege Schall, introducing a significant shift in visual storytelling. This transition might have been more effective if implemented from the beginning, perhaps with Schall illustrating the real world and Irizarri the digital realms. Instead, this abrupt change in the third installment creates a jarring contrast that may distract from the story’s continuity. The characters of Birdie and Pik continue to be engaging; however, the other two members of the Cemetery Kids lack depth and meaningful involvement, which diminishes the ensemble’s overall impact. While the digital world of the Dreamwave introduces some intriguing, creepy elements, the series seems pressed for time as it approaches its finale, casting doubt on its ability to conclude satisfactorily within the remaining issue.

CRAVE #6

The final issue of Maria Llovet’s “Crave” wraps up the miniseries with a series of resolutions that address the consequences of the Crave app on its youthful characters. This denouement manages to tie up the remaining loose ends from the previous issue, albeit with a few predictable twists and a notably convenient resolution involving a humorously placed password. Despite these somewhat expedient narrative choices, the issue succeeds in delivering a variety of endings for its characters—ranging from romantic reconciliations to bitter partings—that feel both earned and fitting for the story’s themes. While some of the visual sequences rely heavily on close-up shots that may not play to Llovet’s strengths, the facial expressions and minimalist backgrounds are sufficient to convey the necessary emotions and story beats. “Crave” leaves open the possibility for future stories, yet stands solidly on its own, promising to remain a compelling entry in Image Comics’ catalog.

KAYA #18

“Kaya #18” exemplifies what makes fantasy comics captivating: a blend of majestic magic, heart-pounding action, and profound narrative stakes. This issue expands the series’ scope and ambition, contrasting sharply with earlier, more contained story arcs. It features a mix of grand magical displays and poignant personal tragedies, all skillfully depicted to enhance the drama and emotional weight of the story. The use of splash panels adds a sense of scale and wonder, while the denser panels pack rapid developments and crucial decisions, maintaining a brisk and engaging pace. Central characters Kaya and Jin are further developed, deepening the reader’s investment in their journeys, while the broader world-building enriches the setting and hints at complex layers of lore yet to be explored. With a new story arc on the horizon, “Kaya” continues to promise more high-stakes adventures and is a must-follow for fans of epic fantasy narratives.

NEGADUCK #5

“Negaduck #5” marks a pivotal continuation in the saga of Darkwing Duck’s nefarious counterpart, crafted by Jeff Parker and Ciro Cangialosi. This issue, kicking off a new story arc, dives deeper into Negaduck’s latest mischievous plans, following his fallout with the Fearsome Five. Parker and Cangialosi masterfully capture the essence of the original animated series, blending nostalgic appeal with fresh, clever writing that includes witty puns and sharp narrative twists. The comic feels particularly strong, perhaps the best in the series to date, with its engaging plot and character development that promises an intriguing exploration of St. Canard’s darker side. As readers are drawn further into Negaduck’s chaotic ambitions, the issue sets the stage for a deep dive into the complexities of this villain, making it a must-read for fans of the series and new readers alike intrigued by a darker twist on a beloved character.

RANGER ACADEMY #7

Issue #7 of “Ranger Academy” intensifies the ongoing tensions between characters Sage and Tula, culminating in a dramatic confrontation that Maria Ingrande Mora executes with emotional finesse. This issue not only advances the plot but also deepens character relationships, showcasing a complex dynamic where no one is purely villainous. Sage’s journey through a maze of personal revelations draws readers empathetically into her struggles, while Tula’s actions, though flawed, are portrayed with enough nuance to prevent her from being a one-dimensional antagonist. The narrative intricately weaves elements of mystery linked to the Academy, Sage’s father, Tula’s past, and the overarching Grid, creating a rich tapestry of intrigue. Artistic contributions from Jo Mi-Gyeong and Joana LaFuente enhance the storytelling with vibrant illustrations and a compelling color palette, particularly notable in the cliffhanger finale. “Ranger Academy #7” shines as a prime example of character-driven drama in graphic storytelling, making it an essential read for followers of the series.

SPACE GHOST #1

With “Space Ghost #1,” Dynamite Entertainment takes a bold step in reinvigorating the classic character, distinctly separating him from his later satirical talk show persona. This reboot embraces the adventurous roots of Space Ghost, reintroducing him through a high-stakes encounter with Jan, Jace, and their pet monkey Blip, and the villainous Brak. The narrative captures the swashbuckling spirit of early comic adventures from the ’50s and ’60s, bringing a sense of earnest, vibrant storytelling to the forefront. The artistic team excels in portraying these iconic characters in a rich, science fiction setting, devoid of modern cynicism, which might surprise fans accustomed to the comedic late-night version of Space Ghost. This return to origins is a refreshing homage to the character’s heritage, offering both new and longtime fans a chance to experience the genuine heroism and excitement of Space Ghost in a contemporary comic format. While the straightforward storytelling approach might raise questions about its sustainability in today’s market, its initial execution provides a compelling case for the enduring appeal of classic heroics.

WHAT'S THE FURTHEST PLACE FROM HERE? #18

In issue #18 of “What’s The Furthest Place From Here?”, Sidney exemplifies the essence of resourcefulness and resilience. Not only does she face the daunting challenge of giving birth in captivity, but she also devises a daring escape plan. This installment masterfully blends personal triumph with broader societal commentary, critiquing the unquestioning adherence to tradition that permeates many aspects of society. The narrative deftly integrates these themes with a thrilling plot that sees Sidney navigating her captors’ facility to uncover a chilling secret. This issue stands out as it skillfully brings together various storylines, culminating in a much-anticipated reunion of the main characters. The blend of intense personal stakes with wider social observations makes this a compelling read, showcasing the series’ strength in weaving complex narratives that challenge and entertain.

THE WHISPER QUEEN: A BLACKSAND TALE #1

Five years after the beloved “The White Trees,” Chip Zdarsky and Kris Anka return to the fantasy world of Blacksand with “The Whisper Queen #1.” This new installment introduces readers to a trio of characters—Javro, Telkwa, and Waltax—each uniquely compelling and immediately integral to the unfolding narrative. The comic is a model of narrative efficiency, with every panel and page pulling double duty to advance the story, develop the characters, and expand the richly detailed world. Anka’s artwork is particularly noteworthy, bringing to life the vivid landscapes and intricate designs of Blacksand’s cities and inhabitants with striking clarity and beauty. The adventure is both personal and political, combining elements of action, intrigue, and the interpersonal dynamics of its central characters into a seamless narrative flow. The issue ends with readers eager for more, having established a strong foundation for a series that promises to delve deeper into one of the most captivating fantasy settings in modern comics.

THE WHITE TREES: A BLACKSAND TALE #1

“The White Trees: A Blacksand Tale #1” emerges as a poignant exploration of parental sacrifice, the ravages of war, and the enduring impact of trauma. Originally published in 2019, this two-part series by Chip Zdarsky and Kris Anka focuses on a group of veteran adventurers drawn back into conflict to rescue their children from a formidable adversary. The narrative seamlessly interweaves intense, character-driven drama with a backdrop of a larger, tantalizingly hinted-at world. Zdarsky’s storytelling and Anka’s artistry combine to create a melancholic yet captivating atmosphere, highlighting the emotional depth and complexity of the characters’ journeys. The comic not only revisits themes of love and loss but also crafts a vivid fantasy realm that feels both expansive and intimately detailed. For both new readers and those revisiting the tale, “The White Trees” offers a deeply affecting experience that resonates well beyond its pages, making it a standout example of fantasy storytelling in graphic literature.

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