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Review: Batman #116

Batman #116

Fear State” continues in part 5 that has everything coming together as Batman and Miracle Molly confront the Scarecrow. Batman #116 is fully of action and drama with some fantastic moments.

James Tynion IV does an excellent job of bringing so much together in Batman #116. There’s really dramatic and “cinematic” moments that highlight an issue that at times feels epic at scale. Balanced well are Batman and Miracle Mommy taking on Scarecrow, some more on Magistrate-01, Ivy, and so much more. It’s an issue that’s bursting from the seems with so much packed in. So, lets take each moment at a time.

Saint’s forces have invaded Ivy’s lair. Standing against them is Ghost-Maker who brings a swashbuckling classic style to the fight. For a character that was a shrug to start, he’s grown into one I really like delivering an over the top style in everything. But, this is all going on in Ivy’s lair. She’s not too happy with it all and the series has hinted that we should expect something big for her in the future. That begins here in a moment that feels like it should be on a movie screen. Epic is an understatement and could be an entire issue and event by itself.

Batman and Miracle Molly’s adventure has them confronting Scarecrow. Tynion delivers a lot of emotion with that as Scarecrow does his thing. But, it also turns into a rather shocking moment as well. It leads to a new confrontation between Magistrate-01 and Batman and a double-page spread of action that’s fantastic. One panel in particular is amazing as a blade gets a bit close to Batman. This has summer popcorn film all about it.

And that’s just a small bit of an issue that feels like a popcorn flick on the printed page.

The art by Jorge Jimenez is fantastic. With color by Tomeu Morey and lettering by Clayton Cowles, the issue’s visuals are everything you’d want from a comic book. It pops in every sense with amazing colors and a great flow to it all. What’s great is that the team gives us some visuals that feel like “traditional” Batman while putting on their own spin. Magistrate-01 confronting Batman is fantastic with two moments really standing out visually. Scarecrow’s mask being taken off feels terrorizing for a brief moment, the madness unleashed. The series has a style that’s all its own blending the past with the neon manga-inspired style of “Future State”.

We also get a backup story by Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad with art by Jorge Corona, color by Sarah Stern, and lettering by Becca Carey. Stephanie and Cass are in the tower with Barbara long gone. They’re confronted by Simon Saint’s team who do the unthinkable. It’s a sliver of a story but the impact feels like it’s one that’ll reverberate for years to come. It also sets up an intriguing dynamic for everything to come. It also again shows the extreme that Saint and his forces will go.

Batman #116 is another solid chapter of “Fear State”. There’s an epic scale to it all yet also feels like so much is packed into the issue. None of it feels shorted at all. It’s an impressive balancing act and a highlight of one of the best Batman storylines in years.

Story: James Tynion IV, Becky Cloonan, Michael W. Conrad Art: Jorge Jimenez, Jorge Corona
Color: Tomeu Morey, Sarah Stern Letterer: Clayton Cowles, Becca Carey
Story: 8.75 Art: 8.75 Overall: 8.75 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Batman #114

Batman #114

DC’s Batman line of comics has been on a hell of a roll. Post “Future State”, the comics have had a shared focus and vision of where they’re all going while each having their own personality. Batman has been at the center of them all taking us through a build up to “Fear State” the current storyline that connects so many dots and brings so many pieces of the puzzle together. Batman #114 is an issue neck deep into the story as the two Peacekeepers battle it out and we get a clue as to how far Simon Saint will go to cover up his crimes.

James Tynion IV has hit his stride with “Fear State” delivering one of the best Batman storylines in years. Scarecrow is whipping up the people of Gotham while manipulating others to get the result he wants. It’s a giant experiment with the city as his test subjects. It’s a flip from where the story began as Simon Saint was using Scarecrow to get his Magistrate program up and running, striking fear into Gotham so its leaders would turn to Saint for protection. Now, Saint’s Peacekeepers threaten to bring it all down as Peacekeeper-01 is dose by the Scarecrow and killing Gotham citizens in his hallucination while Peacekeeper-X is tasked with stopping the rampage. Stuck in-between is Batman who can only do so much to stop everything going on.

Tynion has done an excellent job of building to this moment as the two Peacekeepers battle it out and we get to see that Saint really will do whatever it takes to gain control. But, what’s more impressive is we really get a sense that Batman is a bit outmatched. The tech Saint has brought not only has an edge but there’s so much of it that there’s little Batman can do. He can slow things down but not stop it. For once Batman is overwhelmed and it feels like it could happen and makes sense.

Batman #114 packs a lot of action with some amazing art by Jorge Jimenez. The fights are brutal. The explosions are huge. There’s so much raw emotion thrown about it’s hard to not feel it looking at the character literally frothing at the mouth. Tomeu Morey‘s colors continue to be amazing delivering a slight step towards the neon-infused Gotham of the future. Clayton Cowles‘ lettering adds so much personality to everyone, especially Scarecrow and Peacekeeper-X. Small details like that adds a lot to the reading experience.

Brandon Thomas, Jason Howard, and Clayton Cowles also deliver a back-up story featuring Clownhunter as he deals with Scarecrow himself. It’s all ok with an ending that leads us to other series. This back-up has been a bit so-so though the visuals are pretty solid. Overall, it just feels like something we’ve seen a lot before (a character tripping because they were dosed by Scarecrow) dragged out over three issues.

Batman #114 is summer blockbuster worthy. There’s a hell of a fight and a lot of surprises in the issue as the Peacekeepers battle it out in Gotham and Batman’s caught in-between it all. This is some of the best additions to the Batman myth in a long time giving opponents who feel worthy to take on Batman and his entire time and also feel grounded in many ways. Where this is going to go remains unknown but it’s a journey I’m all in for. It’s one hell of a ride so far and hoping it to continue to be.

Story: James Tynion IV, Brandon Thomas Art: Jorge Jimenez, Jason Howard
Color: Tomeu Morey Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 8.35 Art: 8.7 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Batman #113

“Fear State” is in full swing plunging the various Batman comics into the latest storyline event. But, this event feels a bit different. There’s a self-awareness to it all that feels like its been missing for a long time. Even fatigue has set into the Batman books with one disaster after another and “Fear State” actually addresses that in many ways. In fact, it’s a setup to the plan by Scarecrow. For that alone, it makes what’s going on a bit more interesting. Batman #113 takes some steps back in the story exploring what Scarecrow’s plan is and that includes an explanation of the meta.

James Tynion IV has hit his stride with Batman as the series not just delivers an event that’s self-aware but also one that further ties into the bigger picture story that is “Future State”. Simon Saint’s plan for his police force is underway but Scarecrow has played Saint using the materials gained to run an experiment all his own. Batman #113 has Batman unsure if he’s been compromised so asks Ghost-Maker to dip into his consciousness to see what has been tampered with. It’s all very comic-book in a good way. A little silly but it works. We also learn some history, Ghost-Maker has a past with Crane, aka Scarecrow.

That revelation feels a bit forced if anything. This character who just so happens to have come back into Batman’s life just so happens to have history with the major bad and know their goal/plan. It’s a little silly and a quick way to get to that revelation. Is it a derailed moment? Not really, but it definitely takes me out what has been a very solid story up to this point. For readers, the issue is, the discussion is a reminder of things we’ve learned before and elsewhere. We know Crane’s plan if you’ve read the comics leading up to this. So, this feels like the moment where the character explains everything to the audience so new individuals can catch up. Is it needed? Maybe. Does it take those following out of the story. A little.

The art by Jorge Jimenez is fantastic. With color by Tomeu Morey and lettering by Clayton Cowles, the comic looks fantastic. There’s just enough “horror” in Batman’s mind to keep up the “fear” aspect of everything. What’s been impressive is the story for the past few issues has played off of the classic visual of Scarecrow without rehashing them. They feel like an homage in some ways that way. The comic looks fantastic in every way.

We also get a back-up story featuring Clownhunter from writer Brandon Thomas, artist Jason Howard, and letterer Clayton Cowles. Generally an ok story, the entry doesn’t quite deliver enough. What’s weird is, if the chapters so far were one comic, things would be a bit better. Than serialized nature of this story feels like it’s hurting it a bit. There’s a flow that’s really solid to it all as Bao sinks into his nightmare but that only really works as the flow continues.

Batman has been an excellent series and Batman #113 does a good job giving us a slight break for new readers and laying out the challenge and what might be ahead. It’s a slight pause to the flow but it’s still not bad and does answer at least one issue, how did Scarecrow mess with Batman’s head. As a slice of the overall story, it’s solid. On it’s own, it’s a bit wobbly though.

Story: James Tynion IV, Brandon Thomas Art: Jorge Jimenez, Jason Howard
Color: Tomeu Morey Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.4 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Batman #112

Batman #112

With the recent “Alpha” issue of Batman: Fear State acting as a nice primer for those new to the event as well as moving the story along, Batman #112 overlaps it a bit but also sets up the challenge ahead. After months of build-up, Scarecrow and Simon Saint’s plans for Gotham are starting to come together. The issue is, the duo, who were working together, no longer are on the same page. Saint has given Scarecrow what he wants and Gotham is going to suffer.

Writer James Tynion IV delivers an amped up Scarecrow who has moved beyond toxins to inflict his fear. New technology drives this amped up villain who really is proving a challenge for Batman. Add in the fact that Scarecrow has also dispatched Saint’s Peacekeeper-01 and you have a city on the brink of chaos and few able to do anything about it.

Batman #112 is the set-up to the challenge. Tynion uses the issue to focus on how much Scarecrow has beaten down everyone already. Batman realizes there’s something more than toxin going on. Saint realizes that things are off the rails and he needs to get his plan back under control. This is the issue that really sets the bar as to difficult of a fight this will be.

It also overlaps that alpha issue a bit. While that gave a wide view of what’s going on, this issue narrows it down a bit focusing on Batman and Saint. What’s solid is Tynion has built Saint up beyond just some tech-bro with money able to equip his army with the latest toys. There’s a media savvy about him where he uses manipulated perception to get what he wants and move the narrative in his direction. It’s something Batman hasn’t really faced before.

Jorge Jimenez handles the art with Tomeu Morey on color and Clayton Cowles on lettering. The art is fantastic and gives a new take on Scarecrow’s attacks. A lot of artists in the past have delivered trippy visuals that show Batman spiraling out of control as the toxin takes over. While there’s a little of that here, the main focus is in Batman’s eyes and face as he really expresses the fear that’s overcome him. We get the sense that he’s realizing that things aren’t the same as they’ve been in the past. There’s a real sense of tension and chaos building throughout the visuals, they nail the story Tynion is crafting.

Brandon Thomas, Jason Howard, and Cowles deliver a back-up featuring Clownhunter as he takes on Scarecrow. The confrontation feels a little left-field but the story crafted is solid. I’s best to not spoil it but how it plays out is great and feels a bit like a “traditional” Batman story featuring the Dark Knight taking on Scarecrow.

Batman #112 is a really solid start to “Fear State”. It amps up Scarecrow so he feels like a real threat to everyone. Tynion does is best to give us a new take on what we’ve seen before over and over. The visuals too give a slightly different take to what we’ve seen before. And, most importantly, it doesn’t feel like a distraction from the direction the Batman titles are moving when it comes to “Future State” and a possible future Gotham. This is a great example of an event tying into the greater meta story. More of this please.

Story: James Tynion IV, Brandon Thomas Art: Jorge Jimenez, Jason Howard
Color: Tomeu Morey Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 8.25 Art: 8.25 Overall: 8.25 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Batman #110

Batman #110

The highlight of DC’s “Future State” was its Batman line of comics. It featured a neon Gotham under the watchful fascist eye of a new security force that has cracked down on “masks”. In the current Batman line of comics, we’re seeing the seeds of that possible future laid out and what turned Gotham from a grimy city to a futuristic fascist state. Batman #110 has Batman confronting Peacekeeper-01 and the city inching further towards its dark future after an attack on City Hall.

James Tynion IV has really come into a groove when it comes to this series. The current focus has a great mix of action, tension, and political maneuvering. It also has some small bumpy moments I have trouble getting over. The issue really comes down to Simon Saint’s plan coming into focus. The attack on City Hall and threat of Scarecrow have the Mayor forced to get into business with Saint. We, the reader, know that Saint is behind all of this creating unrest so he can gain influence and power. What the actual end goal for Saint isn’t quite clear beyond having his Magistrate program launched. Even in Future State Saint’s ultimate goal wasn’t clear beyond just being a rich asshole.

Where the issue is bumpy is Batman himself. In his battle, Peacekeeper-01 admits to everything. Batman has the evidence in a confession that Saint and Peacekeeper-01 are behind all of the current issues. So, being Batman, wouldn’t he have a way to record this and release it? It feels like when a villain confesses he probably should use that. It’s a hole I kept coming back to.

But, Tynion does a fantastic job of making Peacekeeper-01 Batman’s equal if not better in some ways in Batman #110. It feels like an actual tough fight. There are moments I’m really unsure if Batman will win and if he does, how? We’ve got a new villain who can go toe to toe with one of the best DC has to offer. And, it doesn’t feel unrealistic as to why or how. Tynion keeps it simple in some ways and it works all the better for it.

The art by Jorge Jimenez is amazing. With color by Tomeu Morey and lettering by Clayton Cowles, the action and tension is perfect. The issue blends those shocking reveals and desperate moments for a comic that ups the stakes and really moves the story forward. What’s great is that Batman’s wearing down is a slow progression. There’s no quick blow, it’s an actual fight and brawl and we get to see what Batman’s up against as that progresses. As the issue goes on, we see that slowly wear on Batman as he realizes what he’s up against and what he needs to do resulting in a breathtaking escape beautifully rendered.

The issue also continues the “Ghost-Maker” backup story also written by Tynion. It’s another fantastic entry that has me liking this new character more and more with each chapter. It features art by Richard Lopez with color by Romulo Fajardo, Jr. and lettering by Clayton Cowles. Each chapter has been fantastic with villains recounting their encounter with the hero. And we get to learn more about his abilities and why he’s such a great foe. But, there’s a question building as to where this character was in “Future State” and if he could take on Peacekeeper-01?

Batman #110 ups the action and really gets the ball rolling even more. It’s a hell of an issue where the cards are laid out on the table and we can see the “fall of Gotham”. We get a villain that feels like Batman’s equal but left with questions as to how stupid people are, because it’s clear as to who’s behind everything. Still, it’s a fantastic chapter as this latest arc of Batman is one of the best in a while.

Story: James Tynion IV Art: Jorge Jimenez, Richard Lopez
Color: Tomeu Morey, Romulo Fajardo, Jr. Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 8.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Batman #108

Batman #108

I’ve been a bit hard on DC‘s Batman since James Tynion IV took over writing duties. The first few arcs all felt like a setup for what’s to come. They were a level increasing to the boss battle. Recently, the series has felt like the main event. With Future State over, Batman has been building towards that future Gotham. It’s one of neon hiding the fascist leadership within. Batman #108 continues that march adding layers to the world and story so far.

Tynion has a focus and that’s the glimpse of a possible future Gotham. We know that a ban on masks is coming and that a tech-driven police force will crack down delivering a jackbooted peace. Tynion has been building towards that with a carefully assembled foundation involving a crooked CEO, Scarecrow, and a Mayor who seems to mean well. But, one of the more intriguing aspects to it all is the Unsanity Collective. It’s a group that are pushing the people of Gotham to get past their fear. Bruce/Batman has decided to infiltrate the group in a style that’s a blatantly crappy undercover cop. The results are intriguing.

In Batman #108, Tynion makes a hell of a case that the Unsanity Collective might actually have a point. We’re introduced to Miracle Molly, a tech-wiz you just know will play a bigger role in Batman’s future. Molly takes us on a tour of the group and its world laying out their philosophy. We also get a better idea as to who they fit into the greater narrative. Through it, undercover Batman clearly thinks through their point and what they’re trying to accomplish. You also get a sense he’s on the fence as to whether they’re truly a threat or if they can be allies in some way. It’s an interesting exploration of the radicalism they bring to the table.

The art by Jorge Jimenez is amazing. The first page alone cements the issue with a splash that you’ll linger on. Tomeu Morey continues to deliver the neon colors, building towards the style coming in a possible feature. Clayton Cowles‘ lettering packs a lot in without being overwhelming, delivering the right punch. There’s an impressive amount of style and details thrown into the issue with pages that beg you to explore. Each new character we’re introduced to tells us a story about them and the world layering on the details to soak in.

The issue also continues its story featuring Ghost-Maker. Tynion is joined by Ricardo Lopez Ortiz on art with Morey on color and Cowles lettering. The story feels familiar with a style similar to that of the classic Batman: The Animated Series episode that had villains all telling a story about their interaction with Batman. In this chapter, Kid Kawaii tells of her experience and interesting exploration of Ghost-Maker’s intelligence and preparedness. Through his enemy’s tales, we learn more about the character and what he brings to the table.

Batman #108 is a fantastic issue. It builds out the cast of Gotham with new characters and new aspects. It builds towards the city we saw in Future State. All of that is done with eye-popping art and in a way you come away with a different perspective on a possible enemy. This is the Batman I’ve been hoping for and excited to see where the series goes.

Story: James Tynion IV Art: Jorge Jimenez, Ricardo Lopez Ortiz
Color: Tomeu Morey Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 8.5 Art: 8.75 Overall: 8.7 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Nocterra #3

Nocterra #3

Know the signs: black gums, gnarled bones, and haunting yellow eyes. When you spot a human shade out there in the endless night…run. Nocterra #3 continues the darkness enveloping series adding dread at every turn.

Writer Scott Snyder has done an excellent job of balancing the past and present in the world of Nocterra. Nocterra #3 opens with a glimpse of the past as the world struggled with what was happening. It also provides us the reader a solid way of learning more about how one turns into Shades and what it means as Val and her brother must confront their infected parents.

Nocterra #3 has no problem shifting gears continuing the high octane pursuit as Val, her brother, and her cargo must stay ahead of Blacktop Bill. But, even that hints at more. We find out there’s more to Bill’s pursuit hinting more at the world before.

Snyder has done a fantastic job of balancing this world building and action. The series has balanced between the two playing with its themes of dark and light. Nocterra #3 drops a bit of religious connotation into that with discussions of prayers and the dichotomy of what happens once one turns into a Shade.

The art continues to impress. Tony S. Daniel‘s art brings so much to the world. He’s able to mix a tinge of horror with the science fiction elements. A great example is the tragic opening with Val’s parents is an example of that. Tomeu Morey‘s colors help add a ton as the colors deliver a neon hue that brings a little light to the world. The art really brings home the tension that Snyder creates throughout the series.

Nocterra #3 is another great issue that delivers a deeper view into the world and building up the tension. There’s a lot packed into the issue from visual hints to outright terror. It keeps up the action while shining a little light onto the world and its characters.

Story: Scott Snyder Art: Tony S. Daniel
Color: Tomeu Morey Letterer: AndWorld Design
Story: 9.0 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.75 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Nocterra #2

Nocterra #2

Nocterra #1 was a solid start to the series. It introduced us to a world plunged in darkness and a compelling lead in Val, aka Sundog. It also gave us a solid supporting cast and a unique villain. Nocterra #2 continues the tense action as we learn the truth about Val’s passengers and hints as to what’s going on in the world.

Val’s on the run, pursued by Blacktop Bill for unknown reasons. Writer Scott Snyder uses the opportunity to dive further into the world, showing us more of Val’s past as well as the present. The issue does a solid job of fleshing out the world of Nocterra. We get a better sense of what the early days were like as well as what the world is currently like. But, Snyder also keeps things familiar.

The concept of a driver hauling passengers for money to get dragged into something bigger isn’t anything new. It’s a story that’s been done before. What Snyder does is gives us details and specifics that are unique and interesting. The idea of individuals who slowly change and unknown reasons for the darkness are two concepts that suck the reader in. The specifics as to how this society functions and generates light too are details that create depth to a familiar story. It’s the quality of the details that really suck the reader in.

The visuals help too.

Tony S. Daniel along with colorist Tomeu Morey give us images that pop from the page. For a world of darkness there’s so much color and light. Things jump from page in a bright, almost neon, look. In Blacktop Bill, we also have a unique villain that’s something I’ve never seen. And that feels like a lot of the comic. This is a world I haven’t seen before. It’s concepts and visuals pop on the page. There’s such a simplicity to it all in ideas but it’s done so well and to a level that really stands out.

Nocterra #2 is a great second issue that delivers more depth to the world and some exciting reveals. It’s an issue that continues to expand upon the first building an exciting story in an intriguing world. This is some top-notch work and an action comic that begs you to get lost in the darkness.

Story: Scott Snyder Art: Tony S. Daniel
Color: Tomeu Morey Letterer: Andworld Design
Story: 8.25 Art: 8.25 Overall: 8.25 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Batman #107

Batman #107

I’ve been down on the latest run of Batman. The first few arcs just felt like slivers of a story whose entire purpose was to just set something else up down the road. Neither really felt like a contained experience. Then came “Future State” with its vision of a neon fascist future Gotham. Batman has taken that depressing future and ran with it, giving us the seeds of what might come. Batman #107 really picks things up as Scarecrow’s new wave of terror begins and Batman must figure out what’s going on with the Unsanity Collective.

Written by James Tynion IV, Batman #107 balances a bunch of different plot points moving things along with Scarecrow’s plan as well as seeding what’s to come. Scarecrow, Jonathan Crane, we know plays a major role in the future to come. From villain to working with the Magistrate, it’s a switch we’re waiting to see fully explored. We get some of that here with Scarecrow and the founder of the Magistrate in cahoots. It’s an interesting concept that dances around the idea of corporate America manipulating the people for their own enrichment.

But, there’s also the Unsanity Collective, an organization imploring the people of Gotham to not fall into the fear. It too is an interesting plot. It feels a bit like those in denial of COVID-19 and proclaim that those who wear masks or stay home “live in fear”. There’s a nugget to what’s being claimed but the majority is also void of the reality as to where things stand. There is a danger and by ignoring it, the body count will surely rise.

We also know a major plotline involving Poison Ivy is coming. Harley Quinn gets a bit of time in the comic as hints are dropped and danced around as to what might come. There’s talk about the ground and a jungle, clearly hints towards whatever is coming with Ivy. The fact that Harley is the center of that makes it all a bit clearer and obvious.

The art by Jorge Jimenez is fantastic. Jimenez and colorist Tomeu Morey deliver steps towards the neon future that’s coming. The style is an incremental step towards the look of future Gotham as opposed to the Gotham of the past. The big difference is in the colors. Gone are dark and brooding colors and instead we get hints of bright colors and neon with bright pinks, blues, reds, and yellow. Clayton Cowles‘ lettering is also top-notch. There are pages that are very dialogue-heavy but it flows and most importantly, doesn’t overwhelm the art at all.

And there’s more. Ghost-Maker gets the spotlight in his own back-up story that’s also written by Tynion but with art by Ricardo Lopez. We get to learn more about the character such as his sexuality (it’s not hetero) and more about the myth around him. It’s an interesting story where we get to learn more about the character and see hints of his ability and style. Lopez is joined by Morey on colors and Cowles handles the lettering. The art style reminds me of Tradd Moore a bit. It works and works well. When the action really gets going it should be really great visuals. As a first chapter, the opening feels a bit like the 15 minutes before the credits roll of an action film.

Batman #107 is a solid comic that really feels like it moves the series forward. It balances the current story while setting up what’s to come. It doesn’t feel like it’s just focused on the future. More impressively, it takes the concepts that we know are coming and teases them out. It dances around what’s to come hinting at the future and doing so in a way that makes it all the more exciting.

Story: James Tynion IV Art: Jorge Jimenez, Ricardo Lopez
Color: Tomeu Morey Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 8.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

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Preview: Nocterra #2

Nocterra #2

(W) Scott Snyder (A/CA) Tony S. Daniel, Tomeu Morey
In Shops: Apr 07, 2021
SRP: $3.99

“FULL THROTTLE DARK,” Part Two-Val brings her passengers to their first truckstop – the Neon Grove! But with her brother getting worse by the minute, and dark forces in hot pursuit, our ferryman finds herself faced with a grave decision.

Nocterra #2
Almost American
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