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JULY 3 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.

ABSOLUTE POWER #1

“Absolute Power #1” might be the rare comic book where the execution vastly outweighs its central concept, as Mark Waid, Dan Mora, and the creative team deliver a masterful rendering of DC’s next monster event. The issue is visually stunning, with Mora’s dynamic artwork and striking panel layouts drawing readers into the epic scope of the story. The coloring and inking further enhance the vivid and immersive experience, making each page a feast for the eyes. However, this exceptional artistry doesn’t entirely excuse the flaws in the narrative. The characterization of the central villainess feels outdated, her motivations and actions lacking the depth and complexity that modern audiences have come to expect. Despite this, the overall storytelling avoids descending into total narrative desolation, maintaining a sense of intrigue and momentum. As the event unfolds, readers can look forward to various tie-ins and one-shots that promise to expand and enrich the storyline, providing ample opportunity to explore the potential of “Absolute Power” further. While the main title grapples with its imperfections, the exceptional craftsmanship on display ensures that it remains a captivating and engaging read.

BATMAN #150

For a milestone issue, “Batman #150” is surprisingly lackluster and feels oddly disconnected as an “Absolute Power Tie-In.” The issue primarily serves as a coda to the “Gotham War,” focusing on low-tier henchmen and the secret of Batman’s true identity. Unfortunately, the narrative is riddled with clichés, from the bumbling nature of the crooks to the cartoonish portrayal of the major villains. Even Batman’s handling of what should be a significant threat to his identity feels underwhelming and predictable. The main story’s art starts off mediocre and deteriorates as the issue progresses, failing to capture the intensity and gravitas expected from such a significant issue. The backup story, however, offers a glimmer of hope. It ties more directly into “Absolute Power,” and despite the ongoing exhaustion with the Failsafe plotline and the cheapness of the “gun” metaphor, it proves to be far more engaging and relevant.

BATMAN AND ROBIN AND HOWARD: SUMMER BREAKDOWN #1

“Batman and Robin and Howard: Summer Breakdown #1” provides a refreshing change of pace from typical DC superhero adventures. Seeing Damian Wayne and Howard as full-fledged friends adds a wholesome and sweet dynamic to the story. Their friendship is endearing and well-developed, offering a delightful contrast to the darker themes often prevalent in the DC universe. The narrative introduces a mystery for the young sleuths to investigate, adding an element of intrigue and adventure. The return of a special character in Damian’s life brings an emotional depth to the story, enriching the overall experience. This issue stands out for its heartwarming portrayal of friendship and its engaging, lighter storyline, making it a delightful addition to the summer lineup.

BIRDS OF PREY #11

“Birds of Prey #11” continues to showcase the exceptional quality of this epic run. Kelly Thompson’s script masterfully raises the stakes, while simultaneously providing significant character development that deepens the emotional resonance of the “Worlds Without End” arc. The narrative intricately weaves together personal struggles and high-stakes action, resulting in a story that is both thrilling and heartfelt. The art team of Robbi Rodriguez, Javier Pina, and Gavin Guidry works seamlessly together, their styles blending to create a visually stunning and cohesive issue. Rodriguez’s dynamic layouts, Pina’s detailed line work, and Guidry’s expressive character designs are all brought to life by Jordie Bellaire’s vibrant and atmospheric colors. Bellaire’s palette enhances the mood of each scene, from intense battles to quieter, more introspective moments. This run is a masterclass in balancing complex storytelling with beautiful artistry, making “Birds of Prey #11” a standout issue that leaves readers eagerly anticipating what comes next.

THE BOY WONDER #3

“The Boy Wonder #3” pairs Damian Wayne with his third and final mentor, Tim Drake, in an issue that manages to convert even the most skeptical readers into fans of Drake. Tim Drake serves as an excellent foil to the story surrounding Jason Todd in this series. The narrative transitions from the gritty slums of Gotham City to its elite towers, showcasing a stark contrast between Todd’s brashness and rage and Drake’s nuanced intellect and strategic thinking. Drake’s approach to their shared mission and his imparted wisdom during a complex heist scenario are not only engaging but also pivotal in advancing the series’ overarching conflict. Juni Ba’s artistry shines through his virtuosic page compositions, employing densely woven panels and captions to uncover the sordid truths behind Gotham’s wealthiest citizens. Ba’s ability to shift from claustrophobic sequences to grand, supernatural visions prepares readers for Damian’s greatest trial yet. As the story builds toward its climax, it becomes clear that this bildungsroman has succeeded in highlighting the best aspects of Batman’s supporting cast, presenting these characters and their growth with unparalleled style and depth.

JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #10

“Justice Society of America #10” delves deep into the rich lore of DC Comics’ Golden and Silver Age, delivering spectacular spreads and splashes featuring iconic characters such as the demon-lord Surtur and the Legion of Super-Heroes. The issue is packed with an abundance of characters, including many members of the current Justice Society, yet the narrative primarily focuses on the central conflicts involving Mordru and Helena. These conflicts set the stage for the upcoming series finale, swiftly addressing the array of plots and characters established throughout the current volume. The intricate elements of time travel and supervillain redemption are skillfully aligned to pave the way for the Legion’s grand arrival. While the story often operates on a superficial level where the labels of “hero” and “villain” overshadow deeper moral contemplation, the spectacle provided by Mikel Janín’s artwork is consistently captivating. Janín’s illustrations are a visual feast, capturing the grandeur and intensity of the storyline. However, the issue would have benefitted from Janín’s artwork throughout its entirety. Despite this, “Justice Society of America #10” remains an enjoyable read, thanks to its vibrant visuals and the anticipation it builds for the series’ conclusion.

MY ADVENTURES WITH SUPERMAN #2

“My Adventures With Superman #2” is not just an excellent tie-in comic but an outstanding Superman comic in its own right. The second issue features Clark Kent, Lois Lane, and Jimmy Olsen infiltrating a military installation, showcasing their determination and camaraderie. This mission forces Clark to confront his human limitations, emphasizing his resolve to do what is right, regardless of his superhuman abilities. The narrative delves deep into the essence of who Superman is beyond his powers, portraying him as a symbol of hope and justice. The writing is charming and adorable, capturing the heart of Superman while maintaining an exciting pace. The action sequences are well-executed, and the character interactions are heartfelt and genuine, making the story both thrilling and emotionally resonant. The artwork complements the narrative perfectly, with vibrant colors and dynamic panel layouts that enhance the overall reading experience. From cover to cover, “My Adventures With Superman #2” is a gem that brilliantly encapsulates the spirit of Superman.

POISON IVY #24

“Poison Ivy #24” serves primarily as a loose ends issue, bringing resolution to Ivy’s death and rebirth and concluding the long journey that began at the start of this run. While not much happens in terms of plot progression, the issue offers a lovely meditation on everything Pamela Isley has learned throughout her journey. It effectively sets the stage for her next adventure, providing a sense of closure and new beginnings. The narrative is introspective, focusing on Ivy’s growth and evolution as a character. It reflects on her experiences and the lessons she has learned, making it a thoughtful and reflective read. The artwork is beautiful, with lush, detailed illustrations that capture the natural beauty and complexity of Ivy’s world. One of the highlights of the issue is the character Janet From HR finally getting to unburden herself. Her interactions add depth and humor to the story, highlighting her importance as a supporting character. However, the issue does feel more like a postscript and, in some respects, doesn’t quite seem substantial enough for a full issue. Nonetheless, it provides a satisfying conclusion to Ivy’s journey.

SHAZAM! #13

“Shazam! #13” sees Billy Batson confronting his past while more monsters arrive below the streets of Philadelphia, creating a fun and often humorous romp that promises more excitement in future issues. The narrative balances action with personal stakes, as Billy and his family handle these incidents while addressing their own lives. The story delivers thrilling moments, such as subway chases and battles with attacking creatures, but it always keeps the focus on the characters’ relationships and personal growth. This approach ensures that the excitement never becomes too overwhelming, maintaining a light-hearted and engaging tone. However, the issue is slightly hindered by the lack of clarity surrounding Billy’s relationship with The Captain, particularly after the revelation that his mother’s existence and interest in reunion were hidden. This plot point feels underdeveloped and distracts from the otherwise compelling narrative. Artist Mike Norton’s creature designs are a standout feature, with Hoppy and Tawny being particularly expressive and endearing. The design for King Kull is impressive, rivaling Mike Allred’s best superhero work. Despite some inconsistencies in human expressions and forms, the overall visual presentation is strong, making “Shazam! #13” an enjoyable read that effectively blends humor, action, and heart.

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #1

This year’s collection of annuals centered around the Infinity Stones continues the trend of being overly ponderous, and “The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1” is no exception. The focus of this issue is on the introduction of Overtime, the bearer of the Time Stone. The plot moves swiftly but assumes a considerable amount of prior knowledge about Spider-Man, which is understandable, but it falls short in adequately introducing its new characters. Both the co-protagonist and antagonist lack sufficient development, failing to come across as fully fleshed-out characters. Overtime narrates his motivations and limitations directly to the readers, a technique that struggles to effectively dramatize these contrived elements. The use of time travel as a power set reads more like teleportation on the page, lacking the necessary definition to create genuine suspense. Consequently, the story’s conclusion feels predictable from the outset. The overall presentation of the issue, including a backup story featuring the resurrected Phil Coulson and a largely forgotten plot from Aaron’s “Avengers,” feels rushed. The familiar themes of a Spider-Man morality play are present but don’t add much depth. The artwork is serviceable, maintaining the standard expected of a Spider-Man comic, but it doesn’t elevate the story. In summary, “The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1” fails to bring any fresh or compelling elements to the table, making it a rather underwhelming addition to the annuals lineup.

ANNIHILATION 2099 #1

“Annihilation 2099 #1” introduces readers to a whole new batch of characters set in the futuristic 2099 universe. Nova 2099 is presented as a space western version of Old Man Logan, complete with the rugged, lone warrior trope. Meanwhile, Dracula 2099 is the same ancient bloodsucker, now wandering the vast expanse of deep space. The issue is sprinkled with some genuinely intriguing ideas and sequences, such as an outlaw gang of symbiotes and Dracula mowing down a group of space pirates. These moments provide a glimpse of the potential richness of the 2099 setting. However, the overall narrative direction remains somewhat unclear, leaving readers needing more context to fully grasp where the story is heading. For now, “Annihilation 2099 #1” serves as an engaging and fun start, piquing interest with its fresh take on familiar characters and settings. The storytelling and artwork combine to create a visually and thematically compelling introduction, setting the stage for what promises to be an exciting series.

BLACK PANTHER: BLOOD HUNT #3

“Black Panther: Blood Hunt #3” seamlessly ties the events of the Black Panther miniseries into the central “Blood Hunt” storyline. One of the standout moments is Blade using the Impossible City to teleport the Atlantean temple into Central Park, a visually striking and narratively significant event. The issue also delves into how T’Challa manages to evade his vampire problem, showcasing his strategic prowess and resourcefulness. Furthermore, the issue explores Wakanda’s historical connection to the original vampire, Varnae, adding depth to the lore and expanding the mythos surrounding both Black Panther and the vampire narrative within the Marvel universe. The integration of these elements is handled well, making the issue not only a crucial part of the “Blood Hunt” storyline but also an enriching chapter in the ongoing Black Panther saga. The artwork effectively captures the intensity and grandeur of the events, complementing the intricate plot developments. Overall, “Black Panther: Blood Hunt #3” is a compelling and visually captivating issue that enhances the overarching storyline while providing significant character and plot development.

BLOOD HUNTERS #3

The latest mini-series focusing on the Marvel Universe’s struggle with a vampiric invasion is proving to be one of the most intriguing to date. “Blood Hunters #3” starts with a gripping sequence as Latverian ambassadors fight for survival against the creatures of the night, with Doctor Doom as their only hope. This storyline stands out as the best in the issue, offering readers a fascinating glimpse into Doom’s domain and his decisive, unyielding leadership in the face of supernatural threats. The subsequent story shifts tone dramatically, focusing on the absurd yet entertaining character known as Hellcow. This tale provides a refreshing change of pace, blending humor with action in a way that highlights the versatility of the Marvel Universe. Hellcow’s escapades are a delightful contrast to the more serious narratives, making it a standout segment in its own right. Unfortunately, the final story, which is part of an ongoing arc, doesn’t quite measure up to the strength of its predecessors. The narrative, featuring Dagger, Elsa Bloodstone, and White Widow, feels more like a setup than a fully fleshed-out story. It lays the groundwork for future developments but lacks the immediate impact and engagement of the earlier tales. Despite this, it remains a worthy inclusion for those interested in the broader reach and implications of the “Blood Hunt” event, providing a glimpse into the expansive and interconnected nature of this supernatural crisis.

DEADPOOL #4

“Deadpool #4” offers a rewarding experience for long-time fans as Ellie Wilson continues to grow into her own powers. Watching Ellie’s character development and her journey toward mastering her abilities is a highlight of the issue, adding depth and emotional resonance to the story. This progression is particularly gratifying for readers who have followed her from the beginning. However, the “Death Grip” storyline itself isn’t as captivating, partly due to Marvel’s concurrent and more intriguing exploration of Deadpool’s healing factor in Joe Kelly’s “Deadpool vs. Wolverine: WWIII.” This parallel storyline detracts somewhat from the impact of “Death Grip,” making it feel less essential by comparison. Despite this, Ellie’s arc alone makes “Deadpool #4” a worthwhile read. The promise of an impending conclusion to the current arc, hinted at through one of Deadpool’s signature fourth wall breaks, adds an extra layer of anticipation and excitement for the next issue.

DOCTOR STRANGE #17

Despite the titular character having his body possessed for the past few months, “Doctor Strange” remains an engaging and dynamic series under writer Jed MacKay’s direction. MacKay skillfully balances the ongoing “Blood Hunt” event with the series’ own narrative, ensuring that each issue remains fresh and captivating. Artist Pasqual Ferry and colorist Heather Moore bring a vibrant and imaginative flair to the comic, exploring concepts that are uniquely suited to the medium. Their creative synergy results in visually stunning and often whimsical sequences that keep readers thoroughly entertained. The combination of MacKay’s inventive storytelling and Ferry and Moore’s artistic brilliance makes “Doctor Strange #17” a standout issue that continues to delight fans while advancing the larger “Blood Hunt” storyline. This issue is a testament to the enduring appeal of Doctor Strange and the versatility of his adventures, offering readers a mix of magic, intrigue, and humor that only comics can deliver. As the “Blood Hunt” event progresses, this series remains a must-read for fans of the Sorcerer Supreme and Marvel’s supernatural escapades.

LIFE OF WOLVERINE #1

“Life of Wolverine #1” adapts the vertically scrolling “Infinity Comic” by writer Jim Zub and artist Roman Bachs into print with passable results. Knowing that “Life of Wolverine” existed first as a webtoon-style comic, it’s hard not to look for the seams where the phone-sized pieces were sewn together. These transitions are noticeable—several pages consist of two scroll-like vertical panels placed side by side—but they don’t overly distract unless you’re specifically searching for them. The unique hook of “Life of Wolverine” is its attempt to present Logan’s entire story in chronological order for the first time. It spans from his pre-mutation life, as chronicled in “Origin,” through his various roles—wanderer, wild man, fighter, henchman, spy, soldier, special ops agent, ninja, samurai, superhero, and teacher—until the midpoint of the Krakoan saga. The frame story occurs during the events of “X Lives of Wolverine” and “X Deaths of Wolverine.” Bachs often redraws iconic panels, pages, or covers from Wolverine’s history in a miniature format, which can lessen their impact along with their physical scale. As a result, the comic reads more like a summary than a fully fleshed-out story, recounting events as seen through Jean Grey’s telepathic eyes with little effort to weave them into a cohesive narrative, unlike the approach taken in “X-Men: Grand Design.” On the contrary, stacking Logan’s many lives next to each other—highlighting the absurdity of his extensive and varied past—might leave longtime fans nostalgic for the days when Wolverine’s history was more enigmatic. Despite these shortcomings, “Life of Wolverine #1” remains an interesting exploration of the character, offering a comprehensive overview for newer fans while prompting seasoned readers to reflect on the evolution of this iconic Marvel hero.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #22

“Miles Morales: Spider-Man #22” teams up Miles Morales with Hightail and Bloodline, forming a formidable vampire-hunting trio. They efficiently tackle the returning threat of R’ym’r, showcasing their synergy and combat skills. The issue reaches a pivotal moment when Dracula poses a moral question that deeply affects Miles and Bloodline, adding layers to their characters and highlighting their ethical dilemmas. Although the “Blood Hunt” crossover concludes with this issue, it hints that the repercussions of these events will continue to influence Miles’ storyline in the foreseeable future. The action-packed narrative, combined with the exploration of moral complexities, ensures that this issue is both thrilling and thought-provoking.

SPIDER-MAN: REIGN 2 #1

You may not have thought that 2006’s controversial “Spider-Man: Reign” miniseries required a sequel nearly two decades later, but that’s exactly what Marvel Comics is delivering with “Spider-Man: Reign 2 #1.” Writer and artist Kaare Andrews returns to his story of an aging Peter Parker, and the results are as expected—a mix of intriguing ideas overshadowed by a flood of questionable narrative choices. “Reign 2 #1” introduces a few meritable concepts, but these fresh ideas are quickly drowned out by a tidal wave of convoluted and nonsensical plot developments. The continuation attempts to build on the dark, dystopian tone of the original, but struggles to recapture the same impact. While the art retains Andrews’ distinctive style, the story lacks the coherence and depth needed to justify this sequel’s existence. For fans of the original “Reign,” this issue might offer a sense of nostalgia and curiosity, but it ultimately falls short of delivering a compelling continuation. The sequel appears more as a perplexing addition to Spider-Man’s vast mythos, leaving readers to question the necessity of revisiting this particular storyline.

VENOM #35

Al Ewing’s tenure on “Venom” began with a grandiose, galaxy-brained science fiction epic, intricately weaving through time and altering our understanding of familiar characters. Initially, the series was a bold reimagining that promised to redefine Venom’s mythos. However, over time, it has become entangled in a relentless cycle of tie-ins with other comics. This constant crossover involvement has diluted the initial promise, making it feel as though the series has lost some of its original luster. The silver lining is that despite yet another major event looming on the horizon, artist CAFU’s work in “Venom #35” continues to captivate. CAFU brings a dynamic energy to the pages, delivering surprising and visually stunning sequences that maintain the reader’s interest. His artistic prowess helps elevate the story, even when the overarching narrative feels bogged down by its interconnectedness with other titles. While the plot may have strayed from its ambitious beginnings, the artwork ensures that “Venom #35” remains an entertaining read.

WEREWOLF BY NIGHT: BLOOD HUNT #1

“Werewolf by Night: Blood Hunt #1” leaves readers puzzled about its true aim as a one-shot. It reintroduces Jake Gomez, the latest character to take on the Werewolf by Night mantle, and briefly touches on the “Blood Hunt” event without directly integrating it into the plot. The issue concludes with a startling tonal shift that subverts much of the initial setup, delivering an outstanding splash that finally adds an intriguing layer to Jake’s character. However, the opening acts struggle to justify the wait for this payoff. Jake’s narration recaps his life in a perfunctory manner, failing to leverage his unique perspective within the Marvel Universe. This perspective, though distinctive, does not significantly impact the events of the issue, rendering his ethnicity as a superficial characteristic rather than a meaningful narrative element. The storytelling is overly explanatory, detailing events as they happen with little room for tension or curiosity to build. Each page turn feels like a mechanical progression of “and then this happened,” which hampers the development of suspense. The artwork also suffers from minor inconsistencies throughout the issue, with only the final horror panel effectively capturing the intended eerie atmosphere. Ultimately, “Werewolf by Night: Blood Hunt #1” feels like a one-shot destined for obscurity, despite its late attempt to inject some interest.

WOLVERINE: DEEP CUT #1

“Wolverine: Deep Cut” marks Chris Claremont’s latest return to the X-Men universe, setting the story in the late 80s during one of Wolverine’s annual birthday brawls with Sabretooth. Approximately 95% of the issue focuses on this intense, brutal fight, which artist Edgar Salazar brings to life with beautiful, gory detail. Salazar’s illustrations vividly depict the raw physicality and savagery of the clash, making it a visual treat for fans of Wolverine’s more visceral battles. Compared to the recently concluded “Madripoor Knights” miniseries, “Deep Cut” is a noticeable step up, offering a more engaging and visually appealing narrative. However, readers who have been following Benjamin Percy’s “Wolverine” series might feel burnt out on the Wolverine vs. Sabretooth dynamic after the exhaustive 10-issue “Sabretooth War” event. Despite this potential fatigue, Claremont’s ability to capture the voices of characters like Wolverine remains undiminished. His writing retains the sharpness and authenticity that long-time fans have come to expect, making “Wolverine: Deep Cut #1” a compelling read that successfully evokes the classic era of X-Men storytelling.

X-MEN: BLOOD HUNT – PSYLOCKE #1

“X-Men: Blood Hunt – Psylocke #1” focuses on Kwannon and Greycrow, who find themselves in Japan when the world plunges into darkness and vampires make their move. Though this issue is not essential to the broader “Blood Hunt” storyline, writer Steve Foxe leverages this detachment to craft a one-off tale that firmly defines this new iteration of Psylocke apart from Betsy Braddock. For Kwannon, returning to Japan evokes a complex mix of emotions, as it is both her homeland and the site of numerous traumatic experiences. This emotional backdrop sets the stage for the emergence of a vampiric Japanese demon, whose similarly traumatic backstory serves as a dark mirror to Psylocke’s own journey. The demon has succumbed to her inner darkness, contrasting with Psylocke’s choice to use her past as a source of strength rather than letting it consume her. The narrative unfolds in a straightforward manner, culminating in a spectacular fight scene typical of superhero conflicts. The battle is both a physical and symbolic confrontation, highlighting the differing paths taken by Psylocke and the demon. Artist Lynne Yoshii and colorist Ruth Redmond elevate the story with sharp linework, dynamic layouts, and vibrant colors, giving the issue a polished and engaging visual style. While “X-Men: Blood Hunt – Psylocke #1” will appeal most to those with a prior interest or curiosity in the Psylocke character, it stands out as a stellar outing for the fan-favorite mutant ninja. The issue offers a deeper exploration of Kwannon’s character, providing both action and emotional depth.

ALL THE THINGS WE DIDN'T DO LAST NIGHT #1

“All the Things We Didn’t Do Last Night” is a one-shot that collects Maria Llovet’s three-chapter short story originally featured in Image’s 30th anniversary anthology. This narrative is a short, sultry crime story about a jewel thief and a hitman whose lives intersect in a series of convenient and tantalizing encounters. The comic exudes a sense of raw sensuality and tension, dripping with sex and sweat, even though, as the title suggests, there’s limited actual action between the sheets. Llovet’s storytelling is both visually and emotionally charged, drawing readers into the heated and dangerous world of the characters. The chemistry between the thief and the hitman crackles on the page, creating a palpable sense of attraction and intrigue. Adding to the allure, Llovet’s explanation of how the comic could have continued provides an intriguing “what if” scenario that enriches the reader’s experience. The one-shot captures a perfect blend of crime and passion, making it a fun and engaging read for fans of edgy, character-driven stories.

BEAR PIRATE VIKING QUEEN #3

The finale of “Bear Pirate Viking Queen #3” delivers an unexpected yet satisfying conclusion. While the Viking and the Queen play crucial roles, it is the Bear that truly shines, embarking on a voyage to freedom that becomes the heart of the story. This narrative twist emphasizes the Bear’s journey of self-discovery and liberation, offering readers a deeper lesson about overcoming everyday struggles. The story weaves themes of resilience and perseverance, resonating with readers on a personal level. The Bear’s quest for freedom becomes a powerful metaphor for tackling life’s challenges and finding one’s own path. The comic balances action and introspection, ensuring that the conclusion is both thrilling and thought-provoking. “Bear Pirate Viking Queen #3” wraps up the series in a way that defies expectations, providing a memorable and meaningful end to the adventurous saga. The finale is a testament to the strength of the characters and the story’s ability to surprise and inspire its audience.

FREE AGENTS #1

“Free Agents #1” is a disappointing start for an alternate-reality superteam series, especially given the high expectations set by its talented creators. The issue struggles to find its footing, failing to bring together some of its more intriguing concepts into a cohesive narrative. This lack of coherence makes the story feel disjointed and underwhelming, resulting in a missed opportunity to establish a compelling new team in the superhero genre. The potential of “Free Agents” is evident in glimpses throughout the issue, with hints of unique world-building and character dynamics that could have been explored further. However, these moments are overshadowed by a lack of clear direction and focus. The characters’ introductions are rushed, and their motivations remain murky, leaving readers without a strong connection to the team. The artwork, while competent, does little to elevate the story. It fails to capture the excitement and energy needed to compensate for the narrative shortcomings. Overall, “Free Agents #1” stumbles in its debut, leaving readers hoping for a stronger and more coherent follow-up in future issues.

THE HOLY ROLLER #7

As “The Holy Roller” approaches its conclusion, it increasingly struggles to balance insightful satire with juvenile humor. Issue #7 feels particularly rushed, as it pushes protagonist Levi toward a heroic action that might liberate everyone from the toxic grip of social media, hive mind mentality, and the bizarre inclusion of AI Hitler. While the story aims to deliver a critical commentary on the dangers of social media echo chambers—an ever-relevant topic—it frequently undercuts its own message with cheap jokes and lowbrow humor. The issue includes cringeworthy moments such as jokes about disapproving parents, a tired “okay boomer” quip, and petty grumbling about cosplay competitions. These attempts at humor detract from the serious points being made about the pervasive influence of social media, turning important insights into punchlines. The rushed pacing and uneven tone diminish the impact of the narrative, making it difficult for readers to fully engage with the story’s critical themes. Despite its potential to deliver a meaningful critique, “The Holy Roller #7” ultimately feels muddled and unbalanced, leaving readers to sift through the humor to find the underlying message.

THE LAST MERMAID #5

“The Last Mermaid” takes a thrilling turn in its fifth issue, embracing a “Mad Max”-inspired high-speed chase across a desolate, post-apocalyptic landscape. This installment opens with a striking full-circle moment as the mermaid, still unnamed, starts by gorging herself, only to be seen as “sushi” by the issue’s end, emphasizing the brutal survival theme. Kim writes with great chemistry between the mermaid and her new companion, Torque, skillfully portraying their evolving relationship as they test each other’s trust and boundaries. This dynamic adds depth to the narrative, making their interactions both tense and engaging. The issue’s action sequences are masterfully crafted, capturing the intensity and danger of their encounter with mutant scouts. The high-speed chase is a standout moment, bringing a sense of urgency and excitement that propels the story forward. “The Last Mermaid #5” reads like enhanced storyboards for an animated feature, offering vivid imagery and dynamic storytelling without feeling like a studio pitch disguised as a comic book. This approach makes for another thrilling and well-executed installment, solidifying “The Last Mermaid” as one of 2024’s standout new series.

LOCAL MAN #11

I continue to be amazed at the economy of storytelling on display in “Local Man,” as this issue successfully crams three issues’ worth of storylines into a single, satisfying swoop. The main narrative follows Jack’s intense investigation, unraveling layers of mystery and intrigue that keep readers on the edge of their seats. Meanwhile, the backup story provides zany, action-packed sequences that complement the primary plot, creating a fascinating dialogue between the two. The interplay between the serious tone of Jack’s investigation and the playful nature of the backup story highlights the creative team’s versatility. Tim Seeley and Tony Fleecs, along with their talented collaborators, remain in great form, delivering a well-rounded and engaging comic that balances multiple plotlines with skill and precision. The issue’s pacing is impeccable, ensuring that every panel serves a purpose and contributes to the overall narrative. This masterful blend of storytelling elements makes “Local Man #11” a standout issue that leaves readers eager to see where the story goes next.

PUBLIC DOMAIN #6

“Public Domain #6” returns with a fresh batch of characters and conflicts, continuing its thoughtful reflection on creativity and control in the superhero comics industry. The issue feels like the first episode of a new television season, with scenes strategically staged to remind readers of key character dynamics and ongoing plot threads, while also introducing new elements to the mix. The mundane qualities of the central cast, many of whom are best described as exasperated, provide a rich source of humor. Chip Zdarsky excels at highlighting the humanity in the often tedious details behind the creation of superhero comics. The personalities of these individuals make the issue both humane and hilarious at various points, grounding the fantastical elements in relatable, everyday struggles. One of the highlights of this issue is the introduction of Carter Dusk, a self-important British writer reminiscent of Neil Gaiman and Mark Millar, and Cynthia, a supremely self-aware and no-nonsense editor. These characters bring fresh energy to the narrative, their eccentricities and perspectives offering humorous yet revealing insights into the industry. They provide a much-needed distraction from the dialogue that occasionally reads like a summary of familiar industry arguments. Their inclusion promises to enrich the storyline, suggesting that “Public Domain” still has its best stories ahead.

RADIANT BLACK #29

It’s been a while since we had the chance to check in with “Radiant Black,” but the penultimate issues of “The Catalyst War” are finally here, starting with “Radiant Black #29.” Kyle Higgins and Joe Clark manage to surprise readers at several critical points throughout the issue. Although the narrative is very much focused on Marshall, the ramifications of the brutal chaos that ensues in the book’s latter half directly feed into “Radiant Black #29.5,” seamlessly bridging individual trials into a cohesive narrative. The artwork by Eduardo Ferigato, Raul Angulo, and Rod Fernandes is stellar, with vibrant colors and dynamic illustrations that leave readers reeling from the unexpected moments. Becca Carey’s wonderful lettering enhances the intensity of these pivotal scenes, ensuring that each surprise hits with maximum impact. If you were team Marshall, this issue might challenge your perspective, leaving you with mixed feelings. The events of “Radiant Black #29” set the stage for an even more thrilling continuation in issue #29.5, making it essential to see what happens next. This installment not only propels the story forward but also deepens the emotional and narrative stakes, promising an explosive conclusion to “The Catalyst War.”

RADIANT BLACK #29.5

As someone who has been in Nathan’s corner from the very start, watching how the two Radiant Black wielders have fared in their trials has only solidified that allegiance, especially after the events of “Radiant Black #29.” This makes “Radiant Black #29.5” even more impressive, as Kyle Higgins and Joe Clark brilliantly highlight Nathan’s perspective while also providing context that enriches Marshall’s character, something I wasn’t necessarily expecting. The narrative deftly explores Nathan’s point of view, giving depth to his journey and the challenges he faces. Simultaneously, it offers a nuanced look at Marshall, showcasing his growth and the complexities of his character. This dual focus adds layers to the story, making the conflicts and resolutions more impactful. The art team from issue #29 set a high standard, but somehow Marcelo Costa, Rod Fernandes, and Becca Carey raise the bar even higher in issue #29.5. The expressiveness of the characters is on another level, capturing subtle emotions and intense action with equal finesse. Several splash pages are simply stunning, offering breathtaking visuals that enhance the storytelling. Both issue #29 and #29.5 are exceptional, but #29.5 takes the crown for its masterful blend of narrative and art.

SAVAGE DRAGON #271

“Savage Dragon #271” is a driving, relentless issue that effectively ties up and clarifies four separate storylines while seamlessly cutting between them. This includes three intense fights and one of the most significant character moments in months. The Mickey Mouse storyline, teased on the comic’s cover, receives a fairly definitive send-off, providing a satisfying conclusion to this subplot. Meanwhile, the Mister Glum subplot escalates, raising the stakes and adding to the overall tension. The issue maintains a relentless pace, ensuring that each storyline receives the attention it deserves without feeling rushed. The transitions between the different plots are smooth, allowing readers to follow the action and character developments with ease. This issue exemplifies the series’ ability to juggle multiple storylines while delivering compelling action and character growth.

SCARLETT #2

How do you follow a killer debut? In Scarlett’s case, you highlight every one of the character’s key strengths in a single issue. Kelly Thompson, Marco Ferrari, Lee Loughridge, and Rus Wooton kick things off with an electrifying fight sequence that showcases Scarlett’s resourcefulness and sheer skill. The fight is visually dynamic and features one of the most creative perspective switches in recent memory, adding a fresh and engaging twist to the action. The issue continues with unexpected but always compelling exchanges between Scarlett and Storm Shadow, revealing Scarlett’s relatability and charm through these interactions and flashbacks with Jinx. The history and relationship with Jinx is a consistent presence throughout, informing Scarlett’s actions and decisions without overwhelming the moment-to-moment action and milestone moments that push the story forward. The balance between action, character development, and narrative progression is masterfully handled, ensuring that each element enhances the others. The bar was already high after the debut, but “Scarlett #2” manages to clear it with ease, delivering a thrilling and emotionally resonant continuation of the story.

BEYOND THE PALE #2

“Beyond the Pale #2” continues to weave a captivating tale that blends the harrowing realities of the Vietnam War with the eerie presence of strange monsters lurking in the jungles. The atmosphere is thick with tension, not only from the ongoing conflict but also from the mysterious creatures that attack at random during jungle patrols. What’s particularly intriguing is the shared knowledge of these monsters among both the US soldiers and the native Vietnamese. Despite their awareness, both sides are reluctant to discuss these supernatural occurrences with Hetta, the protagonist, adding an extra layer of mystery. The creatures themselves are ambiguous, leaving readers to wonder whether they are vampiric or supernatural in nature. There are hints that they might be connected to some kind of religious or ritualistic practice that keeps them at bay, adding depth to the horror elements of the story. However, the most curious aspect is what the US patrolmen know about these monsters. Their reticence and the snippets of information they reveal make the comic not just a tale of survival but also a puzzle that Hetta—and the readers—must piece together. The narrative skillfully balances the gritty, realistic portrayal of war with the fantastical horror of the monsters, creating a unique and compelling comic. The combination of historical and supernatural elements keeps the story fresh and engaging, making “Beyond the Pale #2” a standout issue in the series.

CANTO: A PLACE LIKE HOME #2

It’s no surprise that “Canto” is building toward a major conclusion, but the second issue of “A Place Like Home” confirms the expansive canvas that the creative team has crafted for this story. The world of “Canto” is richly detailed, and even the giant splash pages, rendered by series artist Drew Zucker and colorist Vittorio Astone, manage to deliver immense detail and clear action. These visual elements are complemented by intimate character moments that drive home the emotional stakes of the story. Series writer David M. Booher has the ending in sight, and the narrative is clearly building toward a satisfying resolution. The blend of epic scenes and personal interactions ensures that readers remain invested in both the grand scale of the adventure and the individual journeys of the characters. Zucker and Astone’s artwork captures the majesty and the peril of Canto’s world, making each page a visual delight. The careful pacing and thoughtful storytelling indicate that the team is set to land this story smoothly, with all the elements in place for a compelling and emotional finale. “Canto: A Place Like Home #2” not only advances the plot but also deepens the connection between the readers and the characters, making the anticipated conclusion all the more exciting.

GRENDEL: DEVIL'S CRUCIBLE – DEFIANCE #1

“Grendel: Devil’s Crucible – Defiance #1” serves as a prologue, reintroducing readers to Grendel Prime as a lone knight seeking purpose on a desolate Earth. The setting is only familiar enough to be unsettling, blending elements of high fantasy and science fiction seamlessly. Writer Matt Wagner masterfully lays out this world with such clarity that no extended exposition is required. The narrative immerses readers into the never-ending battle between the powerful and the powerless, with the iconic Grendel mask returning to alter that dynamic. Wagner’s storytelling is a masterclass in effective comics writing, presenting a world that feels both expansive and intimate. The issue is surprisingly inviting for new readers, making it an accessible entry point into the Grendel saga while still offering depth for long-time fans. The fusion of genres creates a unique atmosphere, and the clear, concise world-building ensures that readers are never lost despite the complex setting. The art complements the story perfectly, capturing the stark, brutal beauty of this dystopian landscape. The character of Grendel Prime is both enigmatic and compelling, his quest for purpose adding a poignant undercurrent to the action. “Grendel: Devil’s Crucible – Defiance #1” sets the stage for a thrilling new chapter in the Grendel series, promising an epic adventure filled with intrigue, conflict, and the timeless struggle for power.

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