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DECEMBER 2 COMIC Book Reviews

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.

BATMAN #140

This issue, part of Zdarsky’s current Batman series, presents a story with underutilized potential. While there are elements that could lead to an intriguing narrative, the execution lacks a clear direction. This results in a repetitive plot where Batman seems to be metaphorically chasing his own tail, particularly in his mental battle with Zur-En-Arrh. The issue feels like a retread of the Failsafe storyline, without much innovation or progression. Additionally, Batman #140 leans heavily on a collage of Batman references and callbacks, which, while nostalgic and entertaining, don’t contribute to a cohesive story. The reliance on these elements appears more like a means to mask a rather uninspired story than to enhance it. The high point of this issue is Jimenez’s artwork, which injects a visual appeal and energy into the narrative, offering some redemption to the overall experience.

BATMAN/SANTA CLAUS: SILENT KNIGHT #1

This unique crossover combines the grim world of Batman with the whimsical character of Santa Claus, resulting in a peculiar yet charming story. As the start of an unexpected team-up between these two iconic figures, the issue establishes a solid foundation while embracing the distinct qualities of both Batman and Father Christmas. The comic balances meaningful narrative development with light-hearted, festive elements, making it an enjoyable read for the holiday season. The success of this crossover will depend on how well future issues build on this intriguing start, but “Batman/Santa Claus: Silent Knight #1” is off to a promising and entertaining beginning.

BIRDS OF PREY #4

Issue #4 of “Birds of Prey” marks a climactic moment in the series with its Themysciran battle. Kelly Thompson’s writing shines, skillfully escalating the stakes while maintaining a sense of grounded realism, avoiding any drift into sheer absurdity. The highlight of the issue is the much-anticipated confrontation between Big Barda and Wonder Woman, which is teased in the preview pages and lives up to the hype. Leonardo Romero’s artwork complements Thompson’s script beautifully, delivering both brutal and aesthetically pleasing visuals throughout the issue. The combination of compelling storytelling and striking art makes this issue a standout and justifies its place in the series.

BLUE BEETLE #4

In “Blue Beetle #4,” the evolution of the supporting cast is a testament to Josh Trujillo’s writing prowess. The series, while firmly centered on Jaime, showcases the growth and development of each character with finesse. Jaime’s own progression as a hero and leader remains a pivotal aspect of the story, acting as the anchor around which other characters revolve and flourish. This particular issue sees significant advancements for characters like Victoria, Paco, Xiomara, and especially OO’LI, who emerges as a scene-stealer. The interactions between Jaime and OO’LI, as well as his dialogues with Starfire and Victoria, are highlights of the issue, demonstrating Jaime’s central role in the narrative. The artistic team, comprising Adrian Gutierrez, colorists Will Quintana and Nick Filardi, and letterer Lucas Gattoni, elevates the storytelling with their exceptional work. Their contributions make the visual experience of this issue stand out, solidifying “Blue Beetle” as one of the most visually compelling series in DC’s lineup. This issue continues the series’ streak of excellence, showcasing a harmonious blend of character development, storytelling, and art.

FIRE & ICE: WELCOME TO SMALLVILLE #4

“Fire & Ice: Welcome to Smallville #4” is a charming entry in the series, although the overarching plot remains somewhat ambiguous. However, the story is beginning to take shape, marked by the appearance of Lobo and the deepening rift between Fire and Ice. This issue stands out for its focus on exploring interpersonal relationships, a less common theme in superhero comics. Writer Joanne Starer skillfully navigates these dynamics, adding depth to the narrative. A particularly enjoyable moment involves a bigot getting punched, adding a satisfying twist to the plot. Despite not adhering to typical superhero conventions, the issue holds its own with a unique approach to storytelling and character development, making it a noteworthy addition to the series.

POISON IVY #17

Issue #17 of “Poison Ivy” is a strong continuation of the series, skillfully advancing the plot while giving due attention to each character, including minor ones like Janet from HR. The story’s pacing, however, encounters a slight hiccup towards the end, concluding rather abruptly. This could be perceived as either a minor flaw or a reflection of the story’s engaging quality, leaving readers wanting more. Writer Wilson adeptly positions all the narrative elements for what seems to be an impending major conflict, not just for the future but for Ivy’s very soul. The artwork in this issue is particularly striking, with Croc emerging as a standout character. Overall, “Poison Ivy #17” shines as a gem in the series, blending intricate plot development, character depth, and stunning visuals to create a compelling issue.

SHAZAM! #6

In “Shazam! #6,” the series resolves its initial crisis with a thrilling conclusion at the Rock of Eternity, where Billy receives timely empowerment from the gods. This issue introduces new antagonists, adding fresh challenges to the narrative. A significant aspect of the story is the emphasis on Billy’s family as a source of strength, which plays a crucial role in the climactic battle against gods like Zeus and Achilles, who bring an unexpected touch of humor to the proceedings. The series skillfully incorporates elements from past Shazam stories, celebrating the family’s history and their bond. Artist Mora excels in striking a balance between excitement and humor, a feat that enhances the storytelling. The showdown, while not as grandiose as moon battles or as quirky as encounters with T-Rex bureaucrats, hits the core theme of the series: the celebration of family and the embrace of the wonderfully strange. The issue concludes with hints at future storylines involving more familiar villains and even more dinosaurs, suggesting that the gods’ influence on Earth is far from over.

SUPERMAN '78: THE METAL CURTAIN #2

“Superman ’78: The Metal Curtain #2” introduces Metallo as the new antagonist, but the character falls short in terms of design and motivation, lacking depth and originality. The issue maintains a familiar tone that caters to fans of this iteration of Superman, but struggles to offer new or innovative content. The narrative somewhat relies on elements from previous series, such as the survival of Superman’s birth parents in a shrunken state. While there are humorous moments, particularly concerning Superman’s identity and his interactions with Lois, these themes feel repetitive, echoing similar scenarios from past movies and comics. The setting, primarily the arctic landscapes and the vaguely defined Fortress of Solitude, contributes to a sense of sameness and lack of novelty in the story. Overall, “The Metal Curtain #2” seems to miss opportunities to explore new ground, staying within the confines of established Superman lore without significant expansion.

TITANS: BEAST WORLD TOUR – METROPOLIS #1

“Titans: Beast World Tour – Metropolis #1” sets out to build on the intriguing premise established in DC Comics’ latest crossover, but the first part of the issue struggles to deliver a compelling narrative about Metropolis’s inhabitants coping with the aftermath of the Titans’ space adventure. The issue finds its footing in the second story, featuring a memorable showdown between bartender Bibbo and a beastly Jimmy Olsen. This segment stands out for its unique take and engaging storytelling. The final story shifts focus to Superman, serving more as a setup for his future adventures than a direct contribution to the “Beast World Tour.” While the issue has its strengths, particularly in its middle segment, it doesn’t quite live up to the potential of its concept or the promise of the main “Beast World” series. The anthology format offers varied perspectives, but the overall impact could benefit from additional depth or innovation to fully justify its place in the crossover event.

TITANS: BEAST WORLD – WALLER RISING #1

“Titans: Beast World – Waller Rising #1” is an ambitious but ultimately disorganized comic. It tries to pack too much into its 40 pages: an introduction to the “Beast World” event, the complex machinations of Amanda Waller, and the introduction of The Kingdom, along with subplots involving Doctor Hate and Black Manta. Ideally suited for a more extended series, this multitude of elements feels overwhelming in a single issue. The storytelling suffers from a lack of coherence, with too many characters and plotlines jostling for attention. The art style adds to the confusion, often being ambiguous and failing to clarify the narrative. This results in many panels where character identification and situational context are unclear. The dialogue is burdened with the task of conveying too much exposition, which strips away the characters’ distinct voices and fails to create a clear narrative flow. The comic exemplifies the challenges of compressing a potentially rich and complex story into a limited format, leading to a product that is challenging to engage with and enjoy.

ALPHA FLIGHT #5

“Alpha Flight #5” concludes in a predictable but fitting manner, with the team facing off against Department H’s Box Sentinels. The issue is marked by sacrifices and reveals some positive developments for the mutants in Krakoa North, tying up the current arc while setting the stage for the next phase of the “Fall of X.” Despite its predictability, the story feels authentic to the genre, with the heroes facing significant challenges but not achieving a complete victory. Some pacing issues are evident, yet the comic remains an engaging read, especially with the hint of these characters appearing in other comics soon. The narrative aligns with typical expectations of superhero conflicts, offering both tension and resolution in a way that feels true to the characters and the larger narrative universe they inhabit.

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #39

In “The Amazing Spider-Man #39,” the “Gang War” storyline kicks off impressively with intense power struggles and dynamic superpowered battles across Manhattan. The comic spotlights artist John Romita Jr., who excels in creating visually striking and engaging scenes. The issue features memorable encounters, like She-Hulk and Spider-Man fighting giant monsters, and skillfully written exchanges between long-standing adversaries. The story’s breadth is remarkable, showcasing a diverse range of scenarios right from the start. It’s clear that this event has been meticulously planned, as minor characters from previous issues contribute in surprising ways, enhancing the narrative’s depth. This level of planning indicates a significant ambition, aiming to interweave numerous characters and long-standing conflicts into a cohesive and impactful storyline. “The Amazing Spider-Man #39” marks an exciting chapter for the series, promising that the “Gang War” event will be a standout in Spider-Man’s storied history.

THE AVENGERS #8

In “The Avengers #8,” the focus is on Myrddin’s Twilight Court, a group intriguingly similar to the Avengers, complete with complex internal dynamics. The parallels between the two teams add depth to the storyline, making the Twilight Court characters particularly compelling. The prospect of a spin-off series featuring the Twilight Court post-battle is an exciting idea, suggesting rich storytelling potential. Jed MacKay’s writing provides distinct and engaging voices for the characters, while C.F. Villa’s art complements the narrative with its bombastic style. Together, they form a strong creative team, bringing this issue to life with a blend of action and character-driven storytelling. The issue stands out for its ability to create a mirror image of the Avengers, offering a fresh perspective on the superhero team and their adversaries.

DAREDEVIL #4

“Daredevil #4” intertwines a demonic subplot with Matt Murdock’s ongoing struggle against The Heat, a new criminal gang in Hell’s Kitchen. A highlight of the issue is the latest encounter with Bullseye, showcasing his danger and instability, especially in a standout panel where he uses his dislodged tooth as a weapon. However, the issue faces a slight setback with the unexpectedly easy defeat of the latest demon, especially after its promising introduction in the series’ first issue. This abrupt resolution raises concerns about the potential repetition of such quick resolutions in future issues, potentially diminishing the impact of these supernatural antagonists. The issue balances exciting action with character development, maintaining the series’ momentum while leaving room for more complex challenges ahead.

FANTASTIC FOUR #14

In “Fantastic Four #14,” the team grapples with ethical dilemmas surrounding artificial intelligence, juxtaposed against their battle with the latest incarnation of the Sinister Six. The opening sequence, showcasing the Fantastic Four’s confrontation with the Sinister Six, is a highlight, particularly a detailed spread summarizing the action-packed battle. The issue then shifts to explore the implications of a new legal technology, presenting a thought-provoking sci-fi concept. This exploration leads to several pages of exposition, where the characters’ discussions mirror the reader’s own engagement with the complex themes. The issue delves into topics like capital distribution, complicity under capitalism, and the consequences of unregulated technology, treating these serious themes with a somewhat lighthearted approach that may not fully resonate with all readers. Despite this, the narrative is compelling, ending with the return of the Baxter Building and a cliffhanger that sets up intriguing possibilities for future issues. The Fantastic Four’s role as both superheroes and arbiters of moral judgment is central to this issue, presenting an interesting, if somewhat unconventional, take on superhero storytelling.

THE INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #13

In “The Invincible Iron Man #13,” the narrative’s progress from point A to point B is deliberately slow, but writers Duggan and Frigeri make this journey engaging by weaving in multiple subplots. The comic has evolved from a solo series centered on Tony Stark to a more integral part of the larger Marvel Universe narrative. This shift has allowed for a more diverse spotlight, with characters like Emma Frost, Ironheart, and Forge gaining more prominence. Despite the leisurely pace, the story remains fresh and captivating, avoiding stagnation by effectively developing its characters and their interactions. This approach enriches the series, offering depth and variety to the storyline and maintaining reader interest as the plot gradually unfolds.

THE SENTRY #1

“The Sentry #1” marks the beginning of a new chapter for the character, but the issue struggles to make a strong impression. While visually vibrant, the story lacks distinctiveness and depth, resulting in a somewhat average debut. The series has the potential to redefine Sentry in the Marvel Comics universe, but this first issue doesn’t quite establish a compelling tone or direction. There’s an opportunity for future issues to develop a more engaging narrative and character portrayal, setting the stage for a more impactful and memorable take on The Sentry. As the series progresses, it will be crucial for it to find its unique voice and approach to stand out in the Marvel lineup.

STAR WARS #41

“Star Wars #41” brings a conclusion to the storyline involving Lando Calrissian’s efforts to save Lobot, forcing Lando to confront difficult decisions and unexpected revelations. The issue underscores the risks and dilemmas faced by Lando, Lobot, and the Rebel Alliance, adding tension to the narrative. However, the overall impact of the Dark Droids event has been somewhat underwhelming, leaving readers relieved yet hopeful for more engaging storylines ahead. The final pages hint at potentially dire consequences, but given the established events of the original Star Wars trilogy, readers are aware that certain dramatic outcomes are unlikely. This knowledge creates a sense of apprehension about the series’ future direction. Nonetheless, fans of Lando will appreciate the focus on his character in this issue, even if the story doesn’t fully satisfy in the broader context of the Star Wars universe. The issue serves as a transitional point, setting the stage for new developments and possibilities in the ongoing saga.

THUNDERBOLTS #1

“Thunderbolts #1” emerges from the remnants of recent Captain America storylines and the “Cold War” crossover event, introducing a new team of anti-heroes crafted by writers Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing. This inaugural issue efficiently provides the necessary backstory, assembles an intriguing team, and offers a self-contained adventure, setting the tone for the series. Geraldo Borges’ artwork complements the storytelling, enhancing the narrative’s impact. The issue serves as a mission statement for what’s to come, promising each installment will not only provide a fulfilling standalone story but also contribute to a broader narrative arc. Despite any previous shortcomings in Bucky Barnes’ adventures, this issue presents a compelling case for investing in this ensemble of lesser-known Marvel characters, positioning the series as a potentially refreshing addition to the Marvel Comics lineup.

VENOM #28

“Venom #28” seems to struggle with maintaining momentum and narrative engagement. Writer Torunn Grønbekk’s plotting appears sluggish, with the story pacing giving the impression of stalling, even unnecessarily extending certain scenes. The artistic team of Julius Ohta and Rafael Pimentel brings some creativity to the depiction of symbiotes, which may appeal to fans, but the human characters lack vibrancy and emotion, diminishing the overall visual appeal. This issue signifies a shift from the series’ previously dynamic and innovative storytelling to a more mundane and repetitive approach, losing some of the unique charm that once defined the “Venom” series.

X-MEN #29

In “X-Men #29,” writer Gerry Duggan plays to his strengths, combining a bold superhero narrative with his flair for witty dialogue. The issue features an exciting storyline where the X-Men venture into Latveria to rescue mutants held by Doctor Doom, highlighting Doom’s complexity as both a foe and potential ally. This portrayal reaffirms Doom’s status as one of Marvel’s most compelling villains. Joshua Cassara’s artwork is impressive, with a particular strength in depicting dark tones that suit the story’s atmosphere. Cassara also demonstrates artistic versatility by altering his style for flashbacks, reminiscent of the classic “Giant-Size X-Men #1.” Although the color work doesn’t fully highlight Cassara’s linework, the overall visual presentation is effective. “X-Men #29” stands out as a highlight in the “Fall of X” era, offering a well-crafted balance of action, character development, and humor, and marking a high point in the series amidst some uneven storytelling in recent issues.

BLOOD COMMANDMENT #2

This issue is a masterclass in creating an atmosphere of terror and suspense. The art, executed in striking greyscale, adds to the ominous mood, making the readers feel as though they are walking through a world shrouded in dread. The narrative is tense and gripping, with each panel building up to a climactic reunion that is both life-threatening and emotionally charged. This reunion leaves readers on a cliffhanger, eagerly anticipating what will happen next in this thrilling series from Image Comics.

BLOODRIK #1

Bloodrik is reminiscent of classic Conan the Barbarian tales, yet it manages to bring a fresh perspective to the archetype of the musclebound warrior. The story is engaging, partly due to the personal journey of its creator, Andrew Krahnke, who spent a decade bringing this vision to life. What sets Bloodrik apart are its visuals – the panels are an eclectic mix of mind-bending imagery, raw violence, and splashes of blood, creating a visual feast that is distinct and memorable in the realm of comic books.

BUFFY THE LAST VAMPIRE SLAYER #5

This issue of Buffy the Last Vampire Slayer presents a mix of compelling ideas and missed opportunities. The narrative feels overloaded with background information, particularly focusing on a precursor to the main antagonist, which detracts from the current storyline. The artwork, while containing some standout moments like a beautifully crafted two-page spread, often fails to align with the script, creating confusion about plot points and character actions. For example, a demon’s complaint about a dress’s color not changing visually, despite the dialogue suggesting otherwise, and the lack of visual cues to support a political rally scene. Additionally, the issue parallels Buffy’s story with Angel from the TV series, adding a layer of nostalgia, but overall, it feels like an unfinished and uneven end to the series, leaving readers with more questions than answers.

CAT FIGHT #5

This issue continues to escalate the narrative tension, following an unexpected twist in issue #4. The surprise element in issue #5 not only enhances the storyline but also keeps readers engaged with its unpredictable nature. Andrew Wheeler’s writing showcases his ability to cleverly navigate the plot, skillfully incorporating twists at critical moments. Even when some plot points are anticipated, the path leading to these outcomes is filled with originality and unpredictability. The second half of the issue focuses more on espionage elements, which is a strength of this series. The artistic team, consisting of Ilias Kyriazis (artist), Dennis Yatras (colorist), and Auguste Kanakis (inker), excel in bringing the story to life through vivid and dynamic settings. They effectively handle intense close-quarters combat scenes, adding to the chaos and excitement. Cat Fight is celebrated for its vintage spy aesthetics and continuous twists, making it a standout in this year’s comic offerings. There is a keen anticipation for how this thrilling adventure will conclude.

CREEPSHOW HOLIDAY SPECIAL 2023 #1

This special edition features two distinct stories. The first, “Christmas Man,” starts as a seemingly harmless prank but evolves into a horrifying tale with a moral lesson about the consequences of teasing siblings. The story introduces a new monstrous figure in the Christmas lore, adding a fresh dimension to holiday tales typically dominated by Krampus. The art styles vary, offering both a realistic depiction of the events and a child-like rendering of the creature’s backstory. The second story, “Package Thieves,” presents a more grounded horror narrative. It follows a group of package thieves who encounter ominous warnings about their actions. This story, while less whimsical than the first, concludes with a moral twist, holding the thieves accountable for their actions. The finale leaves some ambiguity regarding the nature of the justice-dispensing figure, which adds to the eerie atmosphere. Both stories, while not drastically altering Christmas lore, deliver a blend of creepiness and campiness that aligns well with both Creepshow’s essence and the spirit of Christmas.

DARK SPACES: THE HOLLYWOOD SPECIAL #4

This issue combines striking artwork with a somewhat disjointed narrative. The layout creativity is notable, with unique perspectives and a clear delineation between an ‘overworld’ and ‘underworld.’ The overworld is depicted with fine lines and brighter colors, while the underworld is characterized by darker tones and purplish hues. However, the story struggles with a lack of focus, attempting to cover too many themes without enough specificity, which makes the plot feel somewhat hollow. While the series doesn’t necessarily require an exhaustive backstory for the creepy monster beneath the town, a clearer understanding of its motivations and actions would enhance the narrative’s depth and coherence.

THE HUNGER AND THE DUSK #4

In this issue, the series takes a moment to slow down its usual fast-paced action, allowing for a deeper exploration of character dynamics and relationships. This approach proves to be highly rewarding, as the issue not only enhances character development but also manages to introduce a significant plot twist towards the end. The narrative focuses on the personal growth and changes experienced by the characters, highlighting their evolving friendships and blossoming romances. These characters, regardless of their fantastical races, are portrayed with such authentic dialogue and expressive art that they come across as genuinely human. The issue skillfully balances these personal developments with elements of political intrigue and looming threats, ensuring that the tension remains high. The promise of long-term payoffs, coupled with consistently high-quality individual issues, solidifies “The Hunger and The Dusk” as a must-read series from IDW. The fourth issue confirms that the series is only getting better, making catching up with it a rewarding experience.

THE MIDNITE SHOW #3

This issue ramps up the excitement with classic monster-on-monster action. The battles, such as The Mummy versus Frankenstein’s monster, are thoughtfully constructed and surprisingly logical, while The Creature From The Black Lagoon is depicted as more menacing than ever, especially in its confrontation with The Wolfman. However, the issue falls short in its treatment of human characters, who primarily serve as expendable victims for the monsters. This aspect makes the human characters’ dire fates less impactful and somewhat predictable. Despite this, the dynamic and action-packed scenes between the iconic monsters make this issue a thrilling read.

NEGADUCK #3

The third installment of “Negaduck” marks the return of the Fearsome Five, focusing on Drake Mallard’s darker alter ego as he attempts to eliminate his rivals in villainy. The writing team of Parker and Cangialosi demonstrates a strong understanding of the character Negaduck, effectively capturing his essence and motivations. While the series often pays tribute to the original Darkwing Duck animated series, this issue manages to stand out by incorporating a good balance of humor. The homage to the Disney series is evident, but Parker’s inclusion of comedy adds a fresh layer to the narrative, making it a worthwhile and entertaining read for both new and longtime fans of the Darkwing Duck universe.

NIGHTS #3

“Nights” presents a world that is as complex and vibrant as its characters. The series, an offering from Image Comics, crafts a supernatural narrative rich in layers and colors. The storytelling by Kennedy and Formisano is so packed with events and details that summarizing the plot succinctly becomes a challenge. This issue, in particular, stands out for its cover, which pays homage to Studio Ghibli, reflecting the influence of the iconic animation studio’s spirit in its pages. “Nights” emerges as a dark horse in the comic book world for 2023, offering a unique and immersive experience that demands attention from readers. The series brilliantly captures a balance between a visually stunning world and deeply crafted characters, making it a standout choice for comic enthusiasts.

OUR BONES DUST #1

“Our Bones Dust” tackles the challenging task of weaving together two distinct narratives, each radically different in nature, and succeeds in making them complement each other. Ben Stenbeck, known for his consistency and style that perfectly matches his stories, takes a creative leap in this series. After years of working on scripts written by others, Stenbeck’s foray into a narrative of his own creation is both refreshing and impactful. The core strength of “Our Bones Dust” lies in its embodiment of the comic book medium. While it draws inspiration from various sources, the story is quintessentially a comic book tale, utilizing the strengths of the medium to tell a story that feels best suited for this particular format.

PETROL HEAD #2

Petrol Head” continues to deliver high-octane entertainment in its second issue. The series distinguishes itself with its stunning robotic designs and emotionally charged flashbacks. The majority of this issue is dedicated to an extended chase sequence, which is executed with excellent pacing and interspersed with crucial character development moments. These elements combine to create a narrative that is not just about thrilling action but also about depth and emotional resonance. “Petrol Head #2” manages to strike a balance between fast-paced action sequences and moments that offer insight into the characters, making it a compelling read for fans of action-packed, character-driven stories.

RANGER ACADEMY #3

“Ranger Academy” continues its streak of impressively developing its core characters while intertwining intriguing mysteries into their evolving narratives. In issue #3, writer Maria Ingrande Mora successfully captures the unique essence that defines a Power Rangers story, while also adding new layers to the foundation. The interactions among characters like Sage, Lindy, and Theo are particularly engaging, filled with a delightful dynamic. Sage’s conversations with Nika are equally captivating, contributing to the story’s depth. The issue also explores profound moments of sadness and grief, rendered heartbreakingly real by the artistic talents of Jo Mi-Gyeong (artist) and Fabiana Mascolo (colorist). The unfolding mysteries are hinted at with well-placed clues, moving the plot forward significantly, though leaving many questions still to be answered. “Ranger Academy” has found its rhythm and promises even greater developments in future issues.

THE SACRIFICERS #5

 This issue of “The Sacrificers” takes an unexpected turn, delving deep into the themes of death and suffering. The shock factor of the events depicted is undeniable, but the series struggles with character depth. The children, who appear to be central to the narrative, lack individuality, making their tragic fates impactful more because of their youth rather than their distinct personalities. The story leans heavily on brutality and fear, with moments of extreme sadism that may be off-putting to some readers. Despite the grim theme of child sacrifice for the benefit of the elite, artist Fiumara’s style remains strikingly impressive. However, the repetitive emphasis on this dark theme, while artistically well-executed, might not be enough to keep the readers engaged.

THE SPACE BETWEEN #2

This issue presents a compelling story set in a society confined to an interstellar ship, marked by intricate political maneuvers and betrayals. The narrative focuses on Lonan’s efforts to ascend to a position of power, even attempting to manipulate Pari into being his pawn. However, Pari’s strong bond with Bee proves to be unbreakable, despite numerous instances where she has reasons to abandon him. The plot weaves through various tensions and alliances, leading to an unexpected happy ending. “The Space Between #2” successfully combines political intrigue with personal relationships, set against the backdrop of a unique spacefaring society, delivering a story that is both thought-provoking and emotionally resonant.

STUFF OF NIGHTMARES: SLAY RIDE #1

Slay Ride #1: R.L. Stine’s latest addition to the “Stuff of Nightmares” series, “Slay Ride,” struggles with coherence and narrative direction. The story’s central character, a former mall Santa turned killer, lacks a consistent and understandable motive. He oscillates between being a rational individual driven by financial motives and an unhinged murderer using a sack of rats as a weapon. This inconsistency in character development makes it challenging for readers to understand his actions, leading to a less impactful resolution than the story intends. The attempt to innovate on the killer Santa trope falls short, leaving readers with a disjointed and unsatisfying horror narrative.

TRANSFORMERS #3

This issue of “Transformers” remarkably elevates the series in terms of both action and thematic depth. Following an explosive start in the first issue, issue #3 presents the most striking action sequence to date, juxtaposing the excitement of combat with a profound examination of the costs of violence and war. The story introduces the concept of a local posse, a familiar narrative element, but presents it with a serious tone, exploring themes of fear and ignorance. The issue places Optimus Prime at the center of a battle that combines elements of professional wrestling and Greek tragedy, creating a spectacle that is both thrilling and terrifying. Artist Daniel Warren Johnson’s work is particularly noteworthy, delivering some of his most impactful visuals. The issue skillfully balances spectacular fights with the deeper implications of violence, setting up the next issue as a highly anticipated continuation of this complex and engaging storyline.

USAGI YOJIMBO: ICE AND SNOW #3

Ice and Snow #3: The third issue of “Usagi Yojimbo: Ice and Snow” is a testament to Stan Sakai’s artistic mastery. The opening page, featuring two juxtaposed panels, encapsulates Sakai’s style perfectly. One panel captures the serene beauty of a sunrise, while the other provides a bird’s-eye view of Jei and his coerced bandits marching through the snow, accompanied only by the sound of a flute. This scene sets the stage for a duel between the monstrous figures of Jei and Yuki-onna, portrayed with exceptional skill. Sakai’s ability to convey a looming sense of violence amidst natural beauty is striking. The full-page depiction of Yuki-onna advancing towards the reader is particularly terrifying, while the chaotic battle involving Jei’s bandits is rendered with remarkable clarity and elegance. The issue showcases Sakai’s wide range of artistic abilities, reinforcing his status as one of the most revered creators in the comic book industry.

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