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Mini Reviews and Recommendations For The Week Ending 2/20/2021

Sometimes, the staff at Graphic Policy read more comics than we’re able to get reviewed. When that happens you’ll see a weekly feature compiling short reviews from the staff of the comics, or graphic novels, we just didn’t get a chance to write a full review for. Given the lack of new comics, expect this weekly update to begin featuring comics that we think you’ll enjoy while you can’t get anything new to read – only new to you.

These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews and Recommendations.


Logan

Future State: The Next Batman #4 (DC)– John Ridley, Nick Derington, and Laura Braga’s four part “Next Batman” serial concludes as one of the killers that Tim is trying to bring to justice turns on him. This cliffhanger is quickly resolved, and we’re onto a chase scene with a suburban instead of a Batmobile. Derington and Braga continue to be nimble with the action scenes picking interesting moments to focus on like the brake slam before the Peackeeper’s motorcycles come and using grids for hand to hand combat. Theme-wise, Ridley shows Fox’s struggles as Batman, especially with the no-killing rule, and that he has no friends among the GCPD before wrapping everything up with a strained, yet slightly tender family moment. Seeing a Batman who has a living family that thinks he’s a loser is an interesting dynamic, and I look forward to seeing more of it in the upcoming Tim Fox digital series“Batgirls” concludes with a glorious prison break story that also sets up the status quo in Future State Gotham going forward. Writer Vita Ayala uses time stamp captions based on the time of the prison riot started by Stephanie Brown to create tension and also show what’s going on in Cassandra Cain’s hacking/rescue mission. Aneke varies her layouts using double page spreads for the big prison brawl featuring Stephanie and various supervillains and using precise, diagram-style ones for Cass’ break in. And then she and Ayala spring the big emotional moment: a big reunion with Barbara Gordon aka Oracle that changes the tone of the whole story for good and shows that heroism can still exist even in a fascist state as they also show that the paradigm of hero/villain has changed in this new setting. “Batgirls” has excellent action, but Vita Ayala and Aneke especially nail the little reunion moments at the end between Steph and Cass and Oracle and a slightly too pragmatic Nightwing. They are a true dynamic duo and really understand the Bat-family’s relationship even in a dark, crappy futurePaula Sevenbergen, Emanuela Luppacino, and Wade von Grawbadger’s tonally all over the place “Gotham Sirens” wraps up with a mix of darkness and girl’s night out antics. This is a comic where a tech billionaire but the the consciousness of a dying teenage girl into his sex-bot and also one where the eggplant emoji is used to describe Bruce Wayne. Luppacino’s art captures the sparkling personalities of Selina, Poison Ivy, and Dee as well as the mayhem of the Peacemakers, but the story doesn’t know if it wants to be a fun romp or a serious story about consent, cyber ethics, and what it means to be human. It’s definitely the weak link of the bunch even though it has some fun ideas like Poison Ivy opening a speakeasy and talking about how she turns to cause instead of people because she’s afraid to get vulnerable. Sevenbergen definitely has a good handle on her character, but she makes the underdeveloped, plot device, borderline trauma porn original character Dee the focus of the story, which makes it less effective. Overall: 8.1 Verdict: Buy

Snow Angels #1 (Comixology Originals)– Jeff Lemire and Jock combine their storytelling sensibilities to tell the story of a dad and his two daughters, Milliken and Mae Mae, who live in a post-apocalyptic frozen wasteland called the Trench. This is a world where clouds cover the sky, children learn how to ice skate before walking, and folks cower in fear before the mysterious Snowman. Jock uses a lot of negative space to show the sheer bleakness of the landscape using pencil and ink to make wind, ice, and snow cover everything. During more tense scenes, like the hunting of a wolf, he adds reds and blacks to create tension and shifts to a more radiant palette when the dad gives Milliken a birthday present: a relic of the “before times”. He and Lemire have the task of establishing a world and a family dynamic, and they do that by having everything center around a coming of age hunt/road trip. It’s refreshing to see sibling squabbles still happening in the midst of the apocalypse, and Lemire’s skill combining interpersonal relationships in genre setting is a perfect fit for this comic. Throw in an air of mystery and a refreshing subversion of traditional gender roles in a society that is definitely in patriarchal, hunter gatherer mode, and Snow Angels #1 is a solid start to a series that fits in with my current icy, living-in-a-pandemic reality. Overall: 8.7 Verdict: Buy

Barbalien: Red Planet #4 (Dark Horse)– Tate Brombal, Jeff Lemire, and Gabriel Walta look into the background of Luke/Barbalien’s lover, Miguel using grids and minimal captions to trace the life of this Puerto Rican activist, who has AIDS and lost his boyfriend to the virus. It gives context to his passion and creates distance between them when Luke tries to “come out” as Barbalien, which he eventually just does in a full page spread that comes after 17 pages of build-up. Also, Brombal goes after the Catholic Church in this issue and shows the homophobia and hatefulness of many Christian organizations (Especially at that time), and how they contributed to the stigma towards AIDS and HIV and hindered finding a cure or treatment for these diseases. With the conflict building between the predominantly Black and Latinx queer community of Spiral City and their police department, the serial killer plotline featuring Boaz isn’t as compelling even though it’s interesting that he probably gets away with his crimes because he’s disguised as a police officer. Barbalien: Red Planet #4 features a big moment in Barbalien’s life and also shows him struggling with his various identities: Martian, superhero, cop, and gay man. There is emotion and a darkness to Walta and Joride Bellaire’s visuals that is only broken up by the growing scope of the conflict as this mini goes into its final issue. Overall: 8.8 Verdict: Buy

Hollow Heart #1 (Vault)– Paul Allor and Paul Tucker turn in a pretty good slow burn queer romance between a cyborg El and his mechanic Mateo. Allor’s philosophical, at times tangential narration fleshes out the profound empathy that Mateo shows to people, and why he wants to set El free from the base that he’s at and would rather die than spend another day there. Tucker’s art is hit or miss for me with the opening pages being a little unclear to follow, and Allor’s dialogue setting up the context that El is running away. However, I love his color choices, especially the pink for El’s face, and the mood lighting at the bar where Mateo tries to build a rapport with a coworker and at an apartment where he tries to empathize with a hook up, but really only cares for El. Hollow Heart is definitely centered around their relationship, and Tucker builds it with glances between them while Allor adds precise dialogue to build their romance like El immediately starting to speak when Mateo says he respects him. Overall: 8.0 Verdict: Buy

Once and Future #16 (BOOM!)– Kieron Gillen, Dan Mora, and Tamra Bonvillain return to the Brexit-y, Grail myth trappings of the early issues of Once and Future in this action-packed middle chapter. With Bridgette and Duncan holed up and stuck between the proverbial fire and frying pan (Lancelot and a dragon), the walls between myth and the real world are dangerously thin. There is just as much political conniving and maneuvering as gun and sword play in Once and Future #16, and Mora and Bonvillain are game for either kind of scene going for big reaction shots and even bigger bursts of colors any time Lancelot or Merlin do their thing. By the time the final page rolls around, our main cast seems to be totally screwed, and Dan Mora has fun on a “redesign” of a previous antagonist that we thought was a protagonist. Once and Future continues to be one of Gillen’s more setpiece and plot driven comics, but issue 16 shows that this book still has a bit of a bite with its comment on British nationalism, government bureaucracies, and the ability to twist stories to one’s end. (See what white supremacists have done with Thor’s hammer and Odin’s symbols.) Overall: 8.0 Verdict: Buy

Second Coming: Only Begotten Son #2 (Ahoy!)– Mark Russell and artists Richard Pace, Leonard Kirk, and Andy Troy satirize the commercialization of Christianity by evangelicals, prosperity preachers, televangelists etc in Second Coming: Only Begotten Son #2. On a hunt for more disciples, Jesus rolls up up to Bible Safari that instantly brought flashbacks of places like the Creation Museum, Ark Experience, and even church fairs/events as these ancient writings lose context and meaning to make a buck. Pace channels his inner Sienkiewicz and uses a scratchy style for the waves of people at Bible Safari and nails the depersonalization of 21st century life and being a statistic in a mega church. However, Second Coming #2 isn’t all satire and irony, but Russell throws in a touching B-plot that becomes an A-plot as Jesus just *connects* with a man attempting suicide on a bridge aka the polar opposite of the televangelist company he called earlier. I like this book when it’s being sharp, but I love it when it’s being sweet and humanist. (In the nice chaplain at my university sense, not the Bill Maher one.) Overall: 9.2 Verdict: Buy

Cable #8 (Marvel)– With the exception of some gorgeous art and colors from Phil Noto and witty banter from Cable and Domino via Gerry Duggan’s dialogue, Cable #8 is really a confusing mess of clones, time travelers, timelines, and Stryfes. Annoyingly enough, it starts like Armageddon with Domino narrating and comparing her powers to asteroids hitting each other. There’s some charm to the Tokyo setting as Domino and Cable enjoy gyoza at a Space-Knight themed eatery, and Noto’s fight choreography is sharp and fun on an aesthetic level. However, there’s no deeper level or reason to care about these characters beyond the “pew pew” of it all as Cable fights copies of himself and has a crisis about his place on the timeline. Maybe, if I read more X-comics from the 1990s, I would get it. Domino’s charisma, and Phil Noto’s portrayal of her powers keep this one from being a total stinker, but it’s still a pass from me. Overall: 5.6 Verdict: Pass

Marauders #18 (Marvel)– Gerry Duggan, Matteo Lolli, and Stefano Casselli show Krakoan foreign policy in action in Marauders #18 as the team buys up property and opens a free clinic in Madripoor to fight back the gentrification of the Homines Verendi. Iceman, Bishop, and Pyro take center stage with some key guest appearances from Professor X, Magneto, and (!!) Proteus, who shows that this clinic is named after his mother Moira MacTaggart. (This is a bit of a tie-in to Powers of X, and I’m curious to see how it’s explored down the road.) However, the real action in Marauders #18 comes from a new take on the Reavers, who are humans that have been maimed by characters like Iceman and Gorgon and are fitted with upgrades to take their revenge. The Reavers combined with the Marauders not being so stealthy puts pressure on the team and shows some consequences to Krakoa’s well-intentioned saber rattling. After the Shaw storyline, Duggan and steady artists Lolli and Casselli are really on a role combining political allegory and superhero team-up action in Marauders. However, Bishop joking about “Hands up. Don’t shoot.” was in very poor taste even if it is one panel in the midst of many. Overall: 8.6 Verdict: Bu

Brett

Batman/Catwoman #3 (DC Comics) – An improved issue for me. The narrative is a bit clearer as to the timelines and there’s a hell of a lot of tension throughout the issue. The art is solid though there seems to be a bit of a focus on Catwoman’s ass throughout. A much better issue than the first two and I’m finally interested in seeing where the series goes. Overall Rating: 7.95 Recommendation: Read

Future State: Catwoman #2 (DC Comics) – DC has been running on full cylinders with Batman’s corner of Future State. In this series we see how a captured Bruce/Batman was freed and talks of the Resistance against the Magistrate. It’s a sliver of the bigger picture and works so well building the world. These two issues deliver solid action with Catwoman on a mission to steal from a train and it works so well. The art is top notch showing off the action and creating a fantastic flow that’s befitting a train heist. DC has nailed this pocket universe and every series and issue involved has been a piece of the puzzle creating a hell of a picture. Overall Rating: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

Future State: Nightwing #2 (DC Comics) – A nice action comic that’s a bit more than one long fight sequence. There’s some interesting bits about technology and the use of media to wage wars and battles. Again, as a piece of the larger story about a Future Gotham, it’s a great piece of the puzzle. There’s some fantastic moments that really hit a solid beat with the art just nailing the action. Overall Rating: 7.75 Recommendation: Read

Future State: Shazam! #2 (DC Comics) – I really like the concept of the comic’s two issues. But, it takes a bit too long before things come together. The ending also is a bit shrug unless you really know the character, which I don’t. The art is solid though I’d like to have seen a little bit more torture in Shazam over what’s going on. A not bad issue that’s so close to being great. Overall Rating: 7.5 Recommendation: Read

Future State: Superman: Worlds of War #2 (DC Comics) – The main Superman story has a nice poetic aspect to it with some fantastic art. There’s a Spartacus/World War Hulk vibe about it but the comic makes a fantastic case for Superman’s position and what he’s up to and why. The trio of other stories are a bit mixed. Featuring Mister Miracle, Midnighter, and a new Black Racer, each story has some good and bad about it. They all feel setups for things to come though never giving a complete feel to them. They feel like preludes to something else instead of self-contained stories which feels odd for a self-contained event like this. Still, each is entertaining. The issue as a whole is pretty solid and does a decent job of crafting a “world” revolving around Superman. Overall Rating: 7.5 Recommendation: Read

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin #2 (IDW Publishing) – The issue is fantastic like the debut. There’s a lot of history laid out here as we get a better sense of the world and what happened to the Turtles. There’s a hell of a lot of tragedy to it that matches the action. This is a must for TMNT fans and those that love stories like The Dark Knight. Overall Rating: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy


Well, there you have it, folks. The reviews we didn’t quite get a chance to write. See you next week!

Please note that with some of the above comics, Graphic Policy was provided FREE copies for review. Where we purchased the comics, you’ll see an asterisk (*). If you don’t see that, you can infer the comic was a review copy. In cases where we were provided a review copy and we also purchased the comic you’ll see two asterisks (**).

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