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Review: King in Black #3

King in Black #3

King in Black #3 continues the entertaining Marvel event delivering hints as to what’s to come. Knull has taken over the world bringing darkness to everywhere. There’s a glimpse of hope though. Eddie Brock’s son, Dylan, is channeling an unknown power, the light to defeat the darkness of Knull.

This is the first stand as a small group of heroes need to band together and fight back. Writer Donny Cates delivers another solid issue as what the fight back begins. Though it’s realistically a losing battle, Cates infuses the fight with hope. The heroes feel like heroes doing battle against impossible odds.

Cates delivers that with an interesting narrative. The narrator is a mysterious character who doesn’t make their presence known until the end. But, what’s said is what’s really intriguing. There’s hints as to what’s to come. Dylan’s power is coming from something, someone. Knull is darkness which means there’s someone that’s the opposite. Who is that? Get your speculation going as it’s sure to be someone big and really shake things up post event.

The issue is also very cinematic with action sequences that deliver some emotional resonance. The arrival of Thor to battle, Iron Man’s actions, these are moments that deserve to be on the big screen. They’re larger than life and that’s due to the art of Ryan Stegman.

Stegman continues to be one of the most exciting artists out there. His work with Cates has been fantastic and the duo are just in sync with what they deliver on the page. The images are jaw dropping at times. The moments really deliver that punch as things begin to go south. Everything looks fantastic no matter how over the top it all is. Stegman is helped by the ink of JP Mayer, color of Frank Martin, and lettering by Clayton Cowles. In a story that involves a world engulfed in darkness, the team keeps things colorful. It never feels “dark” but definitely gives you the sense of that world. The lettering is fantastic with Cowles giving such personality to Knull and his controlled through the choice of lettering and styles.

King in Black #3 continues an epic story. While it foreshadows things a bit too much the end of the comic made me forgive that with a new player on the field. Things really feel epic but at the same time the issue and story stays focused on a small cast. There’s been a string of misses as far as major events in recent years but King in Black continues to impress and exceed expectations.

Story: Donny Cates Art: Ryan Stegman
Ink: JP Mayer Color: Frank Martin Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 8.65 Art: 8.75 Overall: 8.65 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Rorschach #4

Rorschach #4

Rorschach as a whole has been an interesting series so far. While it’s draw is its tie-in to Watchmen, remove that, you have a pretty solid political thriller. With an attempted Presidential assassination having been stopped, a detective does what he can to uncover the why of it all and the individuals who were stopped, one being Rorschach. The other is the focus of Rorschach #4. Who was the person behind the domino mask? Rorschach #4 attempts to answer some of that.

Writer Tom King uses the issue to shed some light on Rorschach’s partner in crime. He uses the rather common framing of a police interrogation. Laura’s story is told from the perspective of a friend with whom she spent time in a circus.

Rorschach #4 sheds some light on the mysterious character though leaving a lot to open. It’s a very smart dive into characters and their motivations. But, more importantly, the issue is an examination of falling into a fantasy. How easy it is to be propped up and manipulated. How easy it is to be disconnected from reality. The issue is an examination in some ways of our modern times and how easy it is to commit horrific acts when in the enthrall of another.

There’s also a nice examination of conspiracies and how easy it is to fall into and believe, “fake news”. We get a new theory as to what happened to the heroes at the end of Watchmen and why. Mixed in with the television series, it’s all very interesting together.

King also throws in a lot to muddy up what we’ve been told before by what’s revealed. What’s really going on with Rorschach? Who was the person under the mask in the first issue? Is what we’ve been told true? Things are a bit up in the air right now.

Jorge Fornés‘ art continues to impress. Though the clothing and style still screams 70s, there’s so much here to take in. This is a psychological comic. There’s not tons of action. But Fornés keeps the visuals engaging and interesting. With Dave Stewart‘s colors and lettering by Clayton Cowles, Rorschach #4 is muted in some way. It’s not dour but a bit sad as we learn about an individual who was in love and led down a dark path by someone not attached to reality.

Rorschach #4 is an interesting comic. It’s a piece of a bigger puzzle that teases the bigger picture. It’s also a hell of a compact story taking place in an interrogation room. The team has put together what feels like a two-person play in comic form.

Story: Tom King Art: Jorge Fornés
Color: Dave Stewart Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Batman/Catwoman #2

Batman/Catwoman #2

Batman/Catwoman #2 is an interesting comic in that there’s a good story in there, just not the way it’s presented. The comic takes place in three eras and while that presents an opportunity, its execution in this issue is a muddled, confusing mess.

Written by Tom King, Batman/Catwoman #2 continues his epic run on Batman focusing on the duo’s relationship in the past, present, and future. There’s a lot to take in with the series as it also folds in the popular Phantasm from the beloved Batman animated film, The Mask of the Phantasm. Yes, Andrea Beaumont and her alter-ego is now cannon. The one-time love of Bruce Wayne is looking for her lost child and she’s out for revenge against The Joker who she believes is involved. There’s also a bit about a something Catwoman did with The Joker as far as some theft and in the future, Selina wants her revenge against Joker.

Any of those stories would make for a hell of a comic. But, together, they all come off as pieces and slices of a story that never comes together. It’s like reading a dream post-waking up. You remember bits and pieces but it’s not quite a coherent narrative.

Batman/Catwoman #2 is full of quality moments and that’s part of the frustration. The way the issue is presented is too chopped up so nothing ever feels like it every gets the focus it deserves. There’s also the issue with the art.

Batman/Catwoman #2

Clay Mann‘s art is amazing but there’s little to differentiate the time periods. The future with an older Catwoman and Joker is easy to pick out but the present and past blend together a bit too much. This isn’t like Strange Adventures, also written by King, where there are two artists who clearly delineate the two time periods. Instead, it at times feels like there are multiple time periods on a page with little to differentiate them. I found myself focused more on trying to figure out “when” something was happening as opposed to “what” was happening.

What’s frustrating is that Mann’s art is fantastic. Mann is joined by Tomeu Morey on color and lettering by Clayton Cowles. The art is truly great with some stunning pages that’ll leave you lingering. But, for every amazing image, there’s also some that just feel ho-hum.

The ending of Batman/Catwoman #2, which should have massive emotional resonance comes off as expected and lacks shock. What should be a major moment comes off more as sad and muted. And that might have been the intention.

As is, the mixing of time periods on pages and even in page succession, with clear delineation is what trips up the issue. There’s potential for really interesting uses of the three times. Running all three on one page through multiple pages to create a juxtaposition in the times would stand out. But, this just doesn’t click.

Batman/Catwoman #2 isn’t a bad comic but on its own, it doesn’t stand out. What should be major moments fall flat. The art is muddled in some ways though individual panels are beautiful. The comic could be so much more with some minor tweaks and changes. As is, the hype and high profile of the comic works against it. It should be so much better. This is one you might want to wait until its collected to dive into.

Story: Tom King Art: Clay Mann
Color: Tomeu Morey Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 6.0 Art: 7.0 Overall: 6.0 Recommendation: Pass

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Review: Eternals #1

Eternals #1

Out of the numerous bodies of characters that exist within the Marvel universe, there’s no one more unknown to me as the Eternals. The characters have more-or-less relegated to their own title and seldom pop out for other appearances. The Eternals are not the types that pop up in your monthly summer events. Somehow, the stars aligned in their favor and there’s an MCU movie on the horizon for them so it’s the perfect time to reintroduce these godlike characters to readers this week with Eternals #1.

Eternals #1 starts with a resurrection. Apparently, the Eternals were dead but are alive again, thanks to the machine that works within the confines of their lives. Ikaris, leader of the Eternals, ends up chasing around another Eternal that’s a bit more of a pain in the ass in Sprite. While their superpowered game of tag concludes with them seeing where humanity has gotten to in the Eternals’ absence, there’s one thing staring them down; the death of another Eternal has happened and they cannot wait for his return to get down to it.

I think my only problem with this book was my own confusion about the Eternals themselves. It’s a bit easier to jump into an Avengers or FF relaunch when the characters are fairly much the same from one book launch to another. Eternals #1 gives Marvel the chance to establish these characters in a new light while keeping true to what Jack Kirby envisioned and I think that’s pulled off quite well. They brought in Kieron Gillen to pilot this book and I think the end result speaks for itself. The starting cast is small and Gillen is able to allow those present to have their own voice while not throwing a lot of characters at the reader.

Esad Ribić delivers an absolute stunner on art. It’s a really beautiful book from cover to cover. It’s weird to say this but as much as I loved how this book looked, and I did, I cannot wait to see him delve into the inner workings of the Eternals and show us the Celestials, or, I’m hoping we get to that with Ribić still on the title. His style has so much detail to it that I really enjoy what I’m looking at. Really, I get a bit nervous when Marvel launches something new because you never know what direction they’ll go artistically.

I think going into this, I didn’t have that high of hopes but I enjoyed this a lot and plan on continuing the adventure of the Eternals. I think if Marvel can keep this creative team on the book, it’s going to help with keeping readers interested in the Eternals. I’m sure the upcoming movie will help, too, but in the pages of the comics is where the work needs to be done and Gillen and Ribić are the right team for it. This book has way too many variants but that should also mean it’s an easy book for potential readers to find a copy of.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Esad Ribić
Color: Matthew Wilson Letterer/Designer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 8.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.5

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Review: Future State: Wonder Woman #1

Future State: Wonder Woman #1

Future State: Wonder Woman #1 has a lot of eyes on it. It features the debut of Yara Flor a character who is already set to play a pretty big role going forward in the DC Universe. Not only is she getting an ongoing series but a television series is in the works too. Yeah, there’s some big plans for her. Now, does the comic do her justice and will it get readers excited? Most likely yes.

Jöelle Jones handles double duty with both writing and providing the art joined by Jordie Bellaire on color and Clayton Cowles on lettering. The story revolves around Yara Flor attempting to journey to the Underworld to rescue one of her Themysciran sisters from the grasp of Hades.

Future State: Wonder Woman #1 is an entertaining debut with beautiful artwork and an interesting narrative. Told from the perspective of a narrator, we follow Flor as she works through her plan. We eventually get to the journey to Hades which doesn’t go as planned all delivering an entertaining journey so far.

Jones does a fantastic job of mixing humor and action in the comic keeping the pace going. There’s just enough told to us about this new take on Wonder Woman but the story is straightforward and easy to follow. Surprisingly, it’s the humor that really stands out. While the action is solid, there’s a lot of joking and great banter back and forth that keeps the story fun and breezy in a good way. It’d be easy to turn this into a dour journey but Jones helps prevent that with the right amount of comedic moments and dialogue.

The art also helps. The design of Flor along with colors create a beautiful comic to look at. While I’m not too familiar with that part of the world, the colors and design feel like they evoke it from what I know but also honors the history of Wonder Woman. It’s a great design of a costume and character. The world itself is interesting to look at mixing the real world with the fantastical.

Future State: Wonder Woman #1 is just a solid comic. There’s good action. There’s great dialogue. It’s a debut that has me wanting to come back and check out more. It also has done Yara Flor justice and had the character put her best foot forward in a pretty anticipated debut. By the end, I not only wanted to read the second issue but also want to see where Flor’s journey through the DC Universe goes from here.

Story: Jöelle Jones Art: Jöelle Jones
Color: Jordie Bellaire Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.75 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Future State: The Next Batman #1

Future State: The Next Batman #1

With John Ridley writing the main story, there’s no way I wasn’t going to read Future State: The Next Batman #1. A new Batman in a fascist Gotham written by Ridley is a combination that’s right up my alley. And even with a high bar to cover, I was not only pleased, but excited to read the next issue and wishing we were getting more than two.

In this future Gotham, a militaristic police called The Magistrate has taken over pushing the Gotham P.D. to the side. “The Bat” and masks are outlawed and hunted down. A new Batman is in town not just stopping crime but attempting to save masks from a fate at the hand of the Magistrate.

Ridley delivers such a strong opening and familiar but different take on the character. There’s a classic Batman vibe to it all going back to the basics of a man in a costume with his grappling hook and smoke. It’s theatrical in many ways and feels like a cross of the early years of the character and Batman 1989. Ridley also spins things a bit with layers on the fascism and vigilantism. Some take Batman as an extension of a rightwing agenda as far as justice but to see him rail against an overreaching government is a nice and different spin. It makes me want to see Ridley release a maxi-series further exploring the concepts touched upon here.

The art by Nick Derington is top-notch. There are so many panels and pages that evoke classic Batman with a few paying an homage to classic imagery. Derington is joined by Tamra Bonvillain on color and Clayton Cowles on colors. The combination creates a look and feel of a “classic Batman” story and some of the modern classics that use the shadows to evoke fear and excitement for what’s to come.

Future State: The Next Batman #1 is one of the expanded “Future State” issues featuring two other stories.

Outsiders” is written by Brandon Thomas with art by Sumit Kumar, ink by Kumar and Raul Fernandez, color by Jordie Bellaire, and lettering by Steve Wands. We get to see a new crew of Outsiders as they attempt to take down The Magistrate. It’s a great extension of the world in the main story showing more of the resistance against the fascist police. There’s a lot packed into the story really setting things up and creating a world out of a dozen pages or so. It feels in a way two short stories itself but is such a strong entry that expands the world and compliments the main story. The art is fantastic as well delivering some great action.

Arkham Knights Chapter 1 Rise” is written by Paul Jenkins with art by Jack Herbert, color by Gabe Eltaeb, and lettering by Rob Leigh. Much like the other story, this one also adds a lot to this new world. The Arkham Knights is a squad of Batman villains who have come together to take on The Magistrate. There’s a Suicide Squad vibe about it but the concept and how it’s presented is really interesting. It’s the specifics of the concept that really stand out. The art too is great with updates to classic characters.

Future State: The Next Batman #1 is a winner of a comic. I wanted to read more immediately and now I want an entire series exploring this world. There’s some great concepts here and an interesting exploration of the line between justice and fascism. Where the line is drawn is a great concept to dive in to and this comic dances around it with some fantastic writing and characters. A lot is packed into the extended issue and it’s such a welcome addition to the DC and Batman mythology.

Story: John Ridley, Brandon Thomas, Paul Jenkins Art: Nick Derington, Sumit Kumar, Jack Herbert
Ink: Sumit Kumar, Raul Fernandez Color: Tamra Bonvillain, Jordie Bellaire, Gabe Eltaeb

Letterer: Clayton Cowles, Steve Wands, Rob Leigh
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Eternals #1

Eternals #1

The Eternals are an interesting group of characters. Created by Jack Kirby, there’s a certain pedigree about them. But, despite the talent that birthed them, it’s never been a group or characters I’ve cared much about. There’s been some good moments, like Neil Gaiman and John Romita, Jr.’s take, but overall, it’s a group of characters I can’t say I’ve been excited about. And due to that, I’ve been rather excited to read Eternals #1 by Kieron Gillen and Esad Ribić.

For those catching up, the Eternals are beings created to serve the whims of the Celestials. They’re at odds with other beings called Deviants. It’s all interesting but never quite clicked for me.

Well, Gillen may be changing that. Eternals #1 is a hell of a start. It brings the characters squarely back into the Marvel Universe and doing it in a way that it makes sense. The beauty of Eternals #1 is that it catches new readers up. It explains the characters so well it feels like they’ve just always been around and characters and concepts I knew about. But, on top of that, it drops readers into a familiar type of story that it’s easy to enjoy while doing so.

Eternals #1 is a hell of a balance and beginning. Beyond the introduction to the characters, the issue also moves things along with an intriguing murder mystery that also plays into teaching readers about this world. It’s an interesting mix in that it feels like a video game whose opening is both cinematic and geared towards teaching players the fundamentals of it all.

Esad Ribić’s art is fantastic. That’s not too surprising at all. Ribić is joined by Matthew Wilson on color and letterer/designer Clayton Cowles. The designs of the characters are solid but it’s the world that’s really amazing. The locations, the presentation of the world, it’s all beyond impressive. Much like the current X-Men, comics, Eternals #1 uses diagrams and info drop pages to help make the information from being too overloading. The locations presented are amazing and really make the series stand out from the rest of what Marvel’s putting out currently. It’s a unique series in so many ways.

Eternals #1 clearly takes a lot of inspiration from the relaunched X-Men. The inclusion of info dump pages and the tone itself feels very inline of that entire line of comics. That’s not a bad thing because it works and works REALLY well. Eternals #1 is a highly anticipated comic for 2021 launching the year and if this is any indication of what we can expect for the year, it’s going to be a very good one. The comic sets a high bar for what follows in its path and easily meets the expectations for this debut. It’s a must get and a great way to start the new year.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Esad Ribić
Color: Matthew Wilson Letterer/Designer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Batman Annual #5

Batman Annual #5

I’ve been a bit mixed on James Tynion IV‘s run on Batman. The various arcs so far have had great ideas but each has felt like an incomplete stand-alone story instead they’ve built upon each other to set up a new status-quo. One of the more interesting aspects and additions is Clownhunter, a young man named Bao whose parents were killed by the Joker. During the “Joker War” storyline, Clownhunter struck brutal terror in the clown gangs dealing “justice” by executing those who themselves terrorize. Batman Annual #5 delivers more of the history about the character as well as his dealing with the after-effects of his actions.

Tynion is joined by James Stokoe who handles the art for an interesting exploration of a character that is Batman without his “no killing” policy. Clownhunter visits longtime Batman friend Leslie Thompkins, a suggestion by Batman himself. Clownhunter talks his motivation and evolution from Bao to Clownhunter. We get the story of a young man whose faith in “the system” is let down. The Joker murdered his parents and Batman never delivers the justice promised. It’s an interesting discussion and evolution and one I can’t really blame.

Bao’s story is one of a broken system, one where morals are cherished more than stopping the hurt and destruction. It’s an interesting debate and we get all sides of the discussion. Clownhunter feels violence should be met with violence. Batman believes that violence should be met with violence but draws the line at killing. Thompkins feels that violence should not be met with violence and absolutely no killing. Each has their view and we can debate whose is more effective. The issue delivers no answers to the question, nor should it. Instead we’re left to ponder it ourselves. By killing, is Clownhunter no better than those he hunts? What about Batman’s inability to end the killing, does his line make him responsible for the death others commit?

Stokoe’s art enhances the experience. His style delivers a slight horror tinge to the story. There’s a fit to the art to what Bao experiences and how he’s feeling. Batman, Leslie, Crime Alley, the Joker, there’s a look to them all that fits the experiences depicted. It’s a weird exaggeration that one might experience in a dream. It made me the reader question the reality of it a bit as well, much like you would a nightmare. It’s very fitting for the annual and story as a whole.

Batman Annual #5 delivers both concepts and story. It feels more like an example of what Tynion’s run has been missing up to this point. There have been concepts thrown around but not much of an exploration of them and definitely only a slight exploration through the events of each arc. Batman Annual #5 asks philosophical questions while delivering no answers. It makes me want to read more to see if I can ever come up with my own.

Story: James Tynion IV, James Stokoe Art: James Stokoe Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 8.4 Art: 8.4 Overall: 8.4 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: King in Black #2

King in Black #2

The first issue of King in Black delivered a big screen blockbuster on the comic page and King in Black #2 continues the action and ups the desperation. Knull has taken over the world subjugating its heroes and controlling them through symbiotes. A small group of heroes remains to take a stand and their hope rests in Eddie Brock who last issue was tossed from atop a building. As we saw in the recent issue of Venom, Eddie does indeed fall and this issue we see the crushing conclusion.

Writer Donny Cates delivers an issue that’s full of desperation and really sets up the uphill battle that’s ahead. Things look bleak and dark without it actually being bleak and dark. Cates does an excellent job of giving us hope. It’s the battle where Optimus shows up before falling against Megatron… queue music as he clings for life.

Cates delivers the desperation and the heart as he teases hope and solutions. The heroes are desperate and instead of dragging things out, we’re delivered a possible solution within the issue. There’s a lot packed in and that adds to the emotional punch of it all. Hope is served and quickly taken away. King in Black #2 is a hell of an emotional ride.

Things are helped by Ryan Stegman‘s art which is its usual amazing. Stegman is joined by JP Mayer on ink, Frank Martin on colors, and Clayton Cowles on lettering. Everyone nails it adding to the atmosphere. The brilliance of the art is delivering a dark horror comic without it being too dark and foreboding. The corrupted heroes are scary without being distracting. The color and ink create the darkness of Knull without making the art difficult to see. It’s a great balance and pulled off well. There’s also so much detail in the damage done, especially in Spider-Man’s tattered costume. And the lettering too adds to it all nailing Knull’s voice or emphasizing the emotion.

King in Black #2 is a hell of a second issue. It takes us on an emotional rollercoaster while also delivering big screen popcorn levels of visuals. It’s a great combination and what events should be. Two issues in and this is one of Marvel’s best events in many years.

Story: Donny Cates Art: Ryan Stegman
Ink: JP Mayer Color: Frank Martin Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Batman #105

Batman #105

James Tynion IV‘s run on Batman, so far, has been a lot of ups and downs. Arcs overall have been good but none are instant classics. It’s all entertaining but not a lot is memorable. Everything is just a setup to something else with very little feeling like real conclusions. Batman #105 continues that pattern as the “Ghost Stories” arc wraps up.

Batman, Harley Quinn, and Clownhunter are still captured by Ghost-Maker with Clownhunter being tempted to enact revenge against Harley with only Batman there to stop him. It’s a test by Ghost-Maker in hopes of making a point to Bruce/Batman that his ways are a failure. It all leads into another battle between Batman and Ghost-Maker as Bruce attempts to make a point his way is better to his long-time friend and rival.

Tynion uses the arc to introduce this new rival/friend but also continues to set up the new status-quo for Batman. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as layers are added to his vision for the character. But, while some themes are touched upon, each new layer seems to forget there was a layer underneath ignoring what has been set up before. In this case, Gotham is still dealing with the after effects of “The Joker War” but that is barely touched upon. Instead we get a bit of a continuation that Bruce/Batman has been a failure.

The forgetting of layers also seems to happen within Batman #105. The first half of the comic focuses on the dynamic between Clownhunter and Harley. As soon as that’s over, Clownhunter stomps off and Harley just disappears. While Bruce fights it out, she’s nowhere to be seen though could have stuck around to help. You’d also think Clownhunter, so focused on revenge, might want to stick around to get some against the person who kidnapped him.

The art of the comic is handled by Carlo Pagulayan, Danny Miki, Alvaro Martinez, Christian Duce. Unlike the previous issue, this one feels much more consistent in art. The different creators aren’t as noticeable and not the detriment like the previous issue. Joined by David Baron on color and Clayton Cowles on lettering, the issue has an almost “classic” design about it. Batman looks much more like Neal Adams’ version, the blue cowl and grey suit. There’s some inconsistency in Batman’s body but overall, everything flows well and there’s a good view of the action. Nothing is confusing or too much of a “quick cut”.

Batman #105 sets up an interesting dynamic by the end of the issue but like the arcs before doesn’t quite satisfy. It again feels like a piece of a bigger puzzle. And due to that, it’s not all that satisfying. These aren’t the classic days where Batman’s adventures were confined to some issues that you could enjoy on their own. Instead, this is just part of a bigger story whose arcs don’t feel like they quite stand on their own.

Story: James Tynion IV Art: Carlo Pagulayan, Danny Miki, Alvaro Martinez, Christian Duce
Color: David Baron Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 7.25 Art: 7.75 Overall: 7.35 Recommendation: Read

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