Batman & The Signal #3 (DC Comics)
I think the best compliment you can give a limited series in comics is that you hope that it returns in the near future. Since the limited series format has regained favor, I’ve found myself saying that a couple times, and that includes Duke Thomas’s spotlight series that’s wrapping with this third issue.
As the Bat-family fights through an army of new metahumans in the Narrows, the Signal and Batman split the focus between two targets, knowing the cause of the chaos- Gnomon- is at one of them. Duke finds himself facing the madman, who claims to be his father, and defeats him with the help of Detective Aisi.
Tony Patrick essentially wrote this series like a TV pilot. We get a great lead, but unlike many series like this we also get a supporting cast that is real and vibrant. Detective Aisi was a realy highlight, but his other friends, both Bat and normal, all read as a great addition to the overall story. Patrick also makes this a fun and fast paced action story besides. It’s the best highlight Duke has gotten so far and I want more.
Cully Hamner’s art drives the action in the best way. He draws fun and breezy action, and sets apart the Bat-family quickly in more than just design. The designs of both the metas and Gnomon are all great as well. He also draws some amazing splash pages, ranging from the arrival of the Batmobile, to a timely rescue, to a hero shot of our lead on the final page.
This is a fun mini that you should check out in singles or trade (which it eventually comes out)!
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
The Verdict: Buy
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Annual 2018 (BOOM! Studios)
Sometimes anthology style one-shots like this vary wildly in quality and enjoyability. It’s hard for each story to really stick the landing. Does this annual fall flat or is it a success?
We get five stories surrounding the Shattered Grid event currently running through the main MMPR series. Each tells tales of a different Power Ranger team encountering Lord Drakkon with varying outcomes from each. Fortunately that unifying element helps the annual get through relatively successfully. Each of the stories are solid and well done. The art styles are similar enough to not create tonal whiplash, but distinct enough to set each story apart.
The best two stories are probably the two featuring the Zeo and SPD teams. In the Zeo story, by Kyle Higgins and Marcus To, Drakkon faces another alternate version of himself, but we also get solid emotional beats as Tommy and Jason reconnect before Jason again relinquishes his role as a Power Ranger. It hits some several good emotional beats, and seeing Drakkon murder another version of himself is a great twist.
The SPD story, by Caleb Goellner and Patrick Mulholland, tells a smart self-contained story about the SPD team not underestimating their allies. By banding together and not letting their overconfidence get the better of them, they actually narrowly come through with a victory, despite the beating they take.
This is a solid chapter of the Shattered Grid story, and while not crucial to the story, it does give the event a bit more depth.
Rating: 7 out of 10
The Verdict: Buy if you’re getting the rest of Shattered Grid, but skip if this is your intro the storyline.
Aliens: Dust to Dust #1 (Dark Horse Comics)
One of the best things Dark Horse has always done with their Aliens license is allow popular creators come in and tell a finite story in the universe. It’s a format that’s worked, and this case is no exception, giving Gabriel Hardman four issues on story and art (with color art by Rain Beredo and letters by Michael Heisler).
Maxon is awoken by the sounds of gunfire. When he tries to wake his mother, he finds her with a strange creature hugging her face (which fans of the franchise will understand). He’s able to awake her after the alien falls away, and the two race to the spaceport to try to evacuate. Along the way they have to evade xenomorphs at almost every turn. They make it off the ground just before Maxon’s mother begins to feel ill…
Hardman tells a brisk chase story here, fitting with both the horror vein of Alien, and the action of Aliens. It feels unlike a lot of other stories I’ve read in the franchise. Where others either go straight military action or claustrophobic horror, this story feels frantic and panicked. It’s closer in tone to a zombie story, and it works really well.
The art matches the tone perfectly. It feels like the first thirty minutes of a horror movie. You don’t have time to meet everyone and exchange names because you’re just trying to survive. You know that will happen in act two, if the characters make it out. Everything is chaos and terror, but it’s perfectly rendered.
This is a great horror read, and totally worth your time and money.
Rating: 8 out of 10
The Verdict: Subscribe if a horror fan!
Daredevil #601 (Marvel Comics)
Charles Soule’s Daredevil run has done one thing in particular very well- escalation. In addition to telling a damn good story, Soule has gradually escalated the stakes and situations Matt Murdock finds himself in in the course of the last few years. And now Matt finds himself in a wholly new role that I can’t wait to see what happens- Mayor Murdock.
Wilson Fisk has been shot full of arrows by the Hand. The duties of Mayor fall on the Deputy Mayor now, but Matt is in a tough spot- he’s been arrested as Daredevil for vigilante activities. As he tries to break free of his shackles, he finds himself face to face with the Hand. Fortunately, they are able to accidently set him free, just in time for Matt to take on his new responsibilities. Unfortunately that means managing a city under invasion by the Hand. Naturally Matt jumps in with both feet, but without his red costume.
This issue is mostly set up for the arc to come, but Soule does a great job both in moving chess pieces around the board and in showing how his characters react to the situation. Matt strides into the situation with his characteristic confidence, using the law to his advantage and taking care of what needs to be done to fulfill his job. It’s smart and feels wholly in character. This doesn’t feel like an action story, it feels like a political thriller, and that’s the perfect tone for it to have.
New artist Mike Henderson steps into the gig as if he’s been here all along. The fight between DD and the ninjas is handed extremely well, with smart choreography, especially considering the confined setting. Once Matt changes clothes and enters the mayor’s office, it’s entirely sold through body language and facial expressions. Matt here is smart, a little cocky, but extremely self-assured. It’s rendered as well as the fights and action, and that’s exactly what it needs.
If you haven’t been reading this series, you’re missing one of Marvel’s current best, and you need to jump on.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10
The Verdict: Subscribe
Sheena: Queen of the Jungle #8 (Dynamite Entertainment)
Jungle adventure can be a tough pulp genre to tackle in today’s age. Marguerite Bennett and Christina Trujillo continue their take on the story here with the latest chapter of Sheena’s adventures.
Sheena is in custody of Cadwell Laboratories, and she’s enraged by her captivity. The villains detail their evil plan, and Sheena attempts to escape.
It actually sounds like a very simple plot, which it is. The value is in the telling of it though. Bennett and Trujillo gradually build the tension, with a cat and mouse game in a single room. The tension is well done, but unfortunately it ends up mostly just spinning wheels after a few pages of back and forth.
Maria Sanapo’s art is mostly solid, but can be inconsistent at times. She sells a lot on facial expressions, however, minor details become inconsistent throughout. For example, Mister Cadwell’s hairstyle changes from panel to panel, and characters look completely depending on how close the perspective is to them.
If you’re a jungle action fan you might enjoy this, but for a casual reader there’s probably not much here.
Rating: 6 out of 10
The Verdict: Pass