Earth 2 #15 Review

There’s one easy way to sum up Earth 2 #15: Lots of set up, not a lot of plot. There’s a lot of action in this issue, probably the most we’ve seen in Earth 2 since the first issue of the series. That in itself is not a bad thing, especially when you’ve got someone like Nicola Scott drawing the book. And I don’t necessarily have a problem with this issue being set up for what’s to come, it’s just that it could have been done better than it was. Rather than writing some great character moments (Like Jeff Lemire opted to do in Justice League Dark #22), this set up is done through having characters get the crap beaten out of them.

It picks up where the last issue left off, with the wonders squaring off with the terrors (as Jay Garrick refers to them). It’s not long before the wonders are completely beaten down, and left lying in the dirt as the terrors fly off to assault the World Army. Elsewhere, we see more wonders getting beaten down; Fury takes down Mr. Miracle and comes close to taking out Big Barda, and Hawkgirl gets taken down in a Casino while continuing her investigation.

It’s essentially one big showcase of what the “terrors” can do, and leaves the heroes broken and beaten before a massive confrontation. This issue actually ended up reminding me of your standard monster/robot movie. We get to see the protagonists and the antagonists go at each other, but there’s not really much plot to it, at least there isn’t any at this point.

Yeah, there’s the war going on, between the World Army and Steppenwolfe, but even that plot point seems kind of loose at this point. I mean, I get why they’re at war with one another, it’s just that this feels less like a war and more like your typical superhero book, which is not at all what I was expecting. There are so many great things that James Robinson could be doing in this issue, and yet he opts for the easy way to do things in this issue: action. Lots and lots of action.

One of the things that I’ve loved the most about Earth 2 are the characters, and they’re all sidelined here. I’d love to see how all the different wonders interact with each other (you know, when they’re not yelling at each other or beating each other up, which seems to be about the only thing they’re good for), but none of that happened. The characters don’t really interact with each other, so we don’t get to see how that would work, and none of them are developed as a result of these events either, at least not yet. Again, this book is a lot of action and set up, not a lot of plot.

Score: 7.0, Enjoyable

In what is probably the weakest issue of a series that seems to be on a downwards spiral, James Robinson sidelines characters and plot in order to have the wonders and terrors hit each other for a while. It’s great entertainment, and it looks great, thanks to Nicola Scott, but there’s so little to this issue that it’s hard to care about why these people are punching each other.

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The Movement #4 Review

What I go in this issue was very different from what I was expecting in this issue. Is there a problem with that? Well, no, I like it when stories are unpredictable. It adds to the fun. But, having said that, what happens in the pages of this issue, while certainly important to the story, probably should have found their home in a different issue. Basically, issue #3 left off with me thinking that this issue would be an action packed strike on Police Headquarters. That’s certainly in here, but it shares page space with origin stories for each of the main characters (excluding Virtue, maybe in a later issue?); Katharsis, Tremor, Burden, and Mouse.

And it’s not that the origins are bad or unneeded. In fact, Gail Simone does a great job with each if them, and they provide great insight into who these characters are and what motivates them. More than anything, I think that the purpose of the origins was to show how different these characters really are from one another, and all of that is pretty cool, and it’s executed well. My problem is that this is really the wrong place for these origins.

They’re well integrated within the pages of this comic, but I feel like more time should have been spent with the riot. We get a few shots of the riot outside the police HQ, and some moments on the inside, both with the cops and the Movement. But really, I would have appreciated seeing the rioters, and getting to know some of them as opposed to the main cast.

That may seem odd, but I felt like the riot was underused, and therefore underwhelming. It’s clear that the main focus of this issue is the origin stories (which are also the best part, oddly enough), it’s just that they feel so out of place. Each of them are interesting, cataloging the early lives of the characters. Burden’s is slightly unneeded (we know a lot of what happens in his origin through his dialogue in previous issues), but it’s still pretty cool. Of them all though, my favorite is Katharsis’. Finding out that she was, at one point, a cop is extremely ironic, considering the situation she’s been put in. Mouse’s is well written, and interesting enough, but I honestly liked the mystery his character had. Tremor’s is good as well, though a lot of it is unveiling her as a spy for Amanda Waller of all people.

Again though, these great stories are in the wrong place. The Movement is a powerful social commentary, and the origin stories certainly contribute to that (showing money doesn’t equal good people, unveiling the unfairness of the justice system, and looking into both the corporate sponsored manipulation and what religion can do to people), but the main focus of this issue should have been taking down the corrupt cops and their boss.

Score: 8.0, Great

Despite the origin stories feeling out of place, they’re well written and enjoyable, as are the scenes in the present day. The riot is underdone though, and that certainly detracts from the issue as a whole. Stunning art from Freddie Williams definitely helps the issue greatly, and Gail Simone keeps the societal overtones strong in the latest issue of The Movement.

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Green Lantern #23 Review

After Geoff Johns’ nine year epic, I really didn’t think that the books’s new author, Robert Venditti, would be able to do anything new with the Hal Jordan. Now that we’re three issues in, I know that I was wrong about that. In issue #21, they made him the leader of the Green Lantern corps, and, finally, two issues later, we get to see how he deals with it. And really, he’s way too emotional to be leading anything. Or maybe it’s because of that that he makes such a good leader. I don’t know what exactly it is, but he’s the opposite of the old, dead Guardians.

He actually kind of loses it when he finds out about a dead recruit that he never met. It’s cool to see him as leader, both when he’s meeting the new recruits (in a scene that’s actually kind of funny), and when he’s mourning the dead lanterns. Sadly, this doesn’t last. Unsurprisingly, he goes after Nol-Anj (the new Star Sapphire that escaped last issue) and, unsurprisingly, he goes after her alone. The fight scene is pretty cool, and Billy Tan does a great job drawing it, but it all feels kind of pointless. Nol-Anj doesn’t really feel like a threat, and, at least to me, her only purpose was to show Hal what’s going on with Carol.

Seeing that is fine (especially since I don’t read New Guardians), but I would have liked more from the character. We may get more, yes, but it’s looking like she’s just going to be dwarfed by the first big threat facing Hal and the GL’s since Johns left; Relic. This issue is bogged down by needless exposition that is most likely being used to cede future events in the book, and it all comes off as feeling more like a place holder than anything else.

I mean, it’s not like the book is bad or anything, in fact, up until Hal Jordan left Oa, I had no complaints with it at all. Venditti’s a great writer, but that doesn’t seem to translate to villains. As a well established villain, it was easy to use Larfleeze, but now that he’s using one he created, he’s left the reader to fill in the gaps. We know Nol-Anj’s motivation, yes, but her character feels under developed and used incorrectly.

Other than that rather large complaint, I actually enjoyed this issue. It’s certainly not a high for the book, but it’s not bad either. In fact, I am kind of conflicted with this issue. I love the scenes on Oa, Venditti writes a great Hal Jordan, the art is stellar, and Nol-Anj seemed like a great villain. It’s just that her underdevelopment really bugs me.

Score: 7.9, Enjoyable

Despite an underdeveloped antagonist, Robert Venditti manages to craft a near great issue of Green Lantern. He had huge shoes to fill with Geoff Johns’ departure, and he’s slowly growing into them. He does a great job with the Green Lanterns, and writes a great Hal Jordan. All of this is backed by Billy Tan’s excellent, vibrant artwork. This books is good, it’s just not as great as it used to be.

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Swamp Thing #23 Review

There is one panel that, were the book had (it isn’t) would have justified the three dollars I paid for it. That panel? Seeing Swamp Thing rise out of the Scottish countryside, with tress growing from him and rivers running through him. It’s just one more reason why Charles Soule is probably the best thing to happen to Swamp Thing since Alan Moore. The things that he does with the character are unlike anything I’ve ever seen done with Swamp Thing before. I guess that’s sort of what creators have been doing with the character, but man, Charles Soule… there are no words that describe how great he is.

Swamp Thing is a dark character – he has his origins in horror, and that’s hard to ignore. But, as horrific as this issue is (we see Swamp Things as little more than skeleton, and man, that’s creepy as hell), the whole concept is so silly. I mean, it’s about a tree that grows whiskey, and Constantine becomes the king of a small Scottish town after drinking said whiskey.

Sounds absurd, right? Well yeah, that’s why we love Charles Soule. While this is probably the darkest issue he’s written yet, you kind of have to chuckle, if only because John Constantine is wearing a crown throughout the entire issue. But that, at the same time, is complemented by a man hopped up on the whiskey tree’s whiskey contemplating killing and eating his dog… Not two things I would generally put into the same issue.

There’s a dark humor to the book, and I love it. It works very well, especially for characters originally from the horror genre. That shows too – when Swamp Thing saves a child, that child is legitimately scared of him. Not surprising really, Swamp Thing is immensely powerful. And we really see that in this issue when he contemplates wiping the village off of the map. The last two pages pick up where issue #21 left off, and, though it feels like it’s (sort of) shoved in as an afterthought, it’s nice to see.

Really, my only major complaint with this issue is that it shifts artists. There’s not a huge difference in Kano and David Lapham’s style, but it’s just noticeable enough to detract from the issue as a whole. The art looks great, but the dual artists is a hindrance. There are also a lot of subtle details that make this book great – the lettering, inking, and colors are all great and contribute to the book being the stellar series that it is.

Score: 8.8, Great

This is the weakest issue of Charles Soule’s run yet, but it’s still one of my favorite books hitting the stands. This issue has a great dark humor to it, and, after a slew of issues with a great deal of levity, a darker, more horror tinged tone is a great change of pace for the series. I prefer the more light hearted issues, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still enjoy this one. And really, the biggest issue is the shifting artists, not the writing itself.

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Vertigo’s Back!

There was a time (one that I, sadly, was not a part of) when Vertigo was on the top of the comic book industry. We had them to thank for such books as Ex Machina, Y: The Last Man, 100 Bullets, and Fables (which is still around), to name but a few. Vertigo was releasing stellar comics, many of which are regarded as modern classics. New titles were popping up, and new creators, such as Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire, were finding an outlet for their projects. New books, like American Vampire and Sweet Tooth, from the aforementioned creators, were coming out of Vertigo, and people were loving them.

At the end of 2011, when I first started getting into comics, many of the series I was told were “must reads” we’re coming out of Vertigo. But then, the crashed, down to the state that they were in for the majority of 2012 and 2013. They’ve been stuck in a rut, with the only books truly worth reading being Fables and (on occasion) it’s spin off, Fairest. American Vampire was on hiatus. Sweet Tooth had wrapped up. Brian K Vaughan had jumped ship to write Saga for Image. The rest of the creators that had made their home at Vertigo had moved on to write books for DC in The New 52.

For a while, it was basically just “the publisher that does Fables”. Don’t get me wrong – Fables is a good comic, but not enough to sustain the company. But now, Vertigo has bounced back. This summer alone has see six #1’s from the publisher. It started with Scott Snyder’s The Wake, then Kurt Busiek’s revamped Astro City, followed by Brian Azzarello’s 100 Bullets: Brother Lono mini, Simon Oliver’s Collider, the new Tom Strong mini series, and now, Jeff Lemire’s Trillium. Plus, we had American Vampire: The Long Road to Hell, and the main series is set to return soon.

All of which, barring Tom Strong, I have read and loved. Sure, some of them are mini series, but at least Vertigo is getting stellar books out again. All of them have received positive reviews, both from critics and from the comic book community, and rightly so. Every single book they’ve put out this summer has been great, and there really is something for everyone at Vertigo now. You want a horror book? The Wake or American Vampire are for you. Sci-fi fan? Check out Trillium. Superheroes? Astro City and (I guess) Tim Strong are available for you.

There’s a lot of variety, and a lot of great books, with some great creative teams on them. And honestly, I can only see Vertigo going up from this point, both in terms of the amount of books they publish, and in the quality of those books. If they play their cards right, they could be serious competition for Image, in terms of more indie (and I use that term VERY loosely) books. And that’s saying something, because Image has been wiping the floor with them for a good two or three years. Great creators = great books, and Vertigo has both sides of that down.

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Trillium #1 Review

Over the past few months, Vertigo has released a string of #1’s (The Wake, Astro City, Brother Lono, Collider, American Vampire: The Long Road to Hell), and all have been of outstanding quality. As the author of the sixth book in this set of new series (both ongoing and limited), Trillium author Jeff Lemire had a lot to live up to. And, as with many of his other books, it’s so resoundingly different, so fresh, that it’s hard not to love it, if for that reason alone.

As a first issue, this book does everything it should; it establishes the characters, the setting, and the plot, but leaves the reader hanging on a strong cliff hanger. In that respect, it’s your typical first issue. But this isn’t exactly your typical comic. Lemire’s art style alone gives it a look and feel that stands out from the rest of the books on the stand. It’s an odd look, and an odd feel, but, then again, this is an odd book. Trillium also does something that, as an idea, seems like it wouldn’t work at all, but, in execution, actually serves to better the experience. That idea, almost as odd as Lemire’s art style, is having half the story from the front cover to about halfway through the issue, and then flipping the book to the back cover in order to read the other half of the story.

It sounds gimmicky (and I guess it kind of is), but Lemire uses it to his advantage. From what I understand from this issue, Trillium is a time travel story (sorry, slight spoilers), so we get one half that takes place in the distant future, and one half that takes place in the past, and they come together at the end of the issue(s).

Above all else though, the reason that this book is so different is because it’s hard sci-fi. I get that that isn’t for everyone, but I love it. The heady concepts, at times, are almost reminiscent of Grant Morrison (seriously, this book has a sentient virus that’s smarter than humans), and I’m entirely Ok with that. It’s a testament to Lemire’s flexibility between genres, and, despite the aforementioned virus, it’s not exactly an apocalyptic story. It’s got all the best elements of sci-fi, all mixed into one; time travel, first contact, space viruses, odd aliens, new planets, and Lemire takes all of those concepts and merges them into a great book.

That being said, it feels like there may be too much to this book. In the past, Lemire has always done a great job of bringing his stories down to the characters, and it looks like that’s what he’s doing with Trillium. To an extent, however, I also feel he has way to much going on to be able to focus in in the characters without the everything else becoming muddied, and vice versa, but, for now, Trillium is a great comic done by one of the industry’s best creators.

Score: 9.0, Amazing

Blending numerous hard sci-fi concepts, Jeff Lemire creates an excellent start to his new series. It’s so out there, so different, that it’s hard not to enjoy it, if only because of how fresh it feels. So far, it’s introduced some great characters, who hopefully will become fully fleshed out over the next couple issues. And, even if it does collapse under it’s own weight, which I doubt it will, at least this issue was outstanding.

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Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox Review

Before I actually begin the review, I have to say this: DC is getting these things out at an astonishing rate. Seriously, it’s been what, two or three months since Superman Unbound and we already have this? I have to applaud DC for that, if nothing else. Because, on one hand, I loved most of this movie. But, on the other, it has a lot of flaws that prevent it from being as great as it could have been, and, for the most part, these are flaws that the Flashpoint event had as well.

I’ll say this: Flashpoint works as an elseworlds story. And, if you look at it as that, it’s an extraordinarily stellar story. So what I could do is choose to ignore the existence of the beginning and the very end of this movie and treat it as little more than an elseworlds story. The problem with doing that is that it would probably lower my score of the movie, because the opening sequence and the ending are two of the movie’s best moments.

Anyone who’s read the Flashpoint mini series will know that the very last moment between Bruce and Barry is the most well done moment of the entire series. And, in the movie, that remains the case. It’s a hard hitting moment and it works very, very well. Now, moving backwards to the movie’s introduction. I will say this: it’s pretty amazing. It’s essentially just a showcase of the Justice League’s powers, as they prevent the explosion of bombs strapped to The Rogues belts, put there by Professor Zoom (or the Reverse Flash). It’s a fun opening scene to a movie that kills any residual light heartedness and fun as it goes on, instead replacing it with a dark, violent world.

And is that bad? Well, not necessarily. Again, as an elseworlds story, it works, and it works well. Now, this being based off of a comic book, I get that certain leaps of logic (such as the “time boom”) just have to be accepted. That being said, it’s still a problem that the audience has to put up with the Flash’s mother somehow being the center of the universe. Had it been the Flash going back in time, and, say, preventing the Holocaust, I could (maybe) accept how different the world would be.

But, no, he saves his mom, and this causes Bruce Wayne to die, Thomas Wayne to become Batman, Superman’s ship to crash into Metropolis, Cyborg being the government’s tool, Wonder Woman at war with Aquaman, Superman being captured by the government, Lois Lane becoming a resistance fighter, Barry Allen never becoming the Flash, etc, etc. And that’s my biggest issue with the movie.

All of this, in an elseworlds story, would work, and I would be Ok with it, because that’s just how the world is. It’s the added explanation for why this happens that kind of annoys me. In the end, it all works, and it creates a solid story and a solid world, but I do have an issue with how the world of Flashpoint came to be.

But hey, this movie really deserves more praise than critiques. The amount of sheer world building that went into this 75 minute movies is INSANE. By the end, we have a world (and a a cast of characters) that is entirely fleshed out, in no small part due to how much is actually here. Sure, it does, on occasion, cause the movie to feel fragmented, but you know what? This event had so many damn tie ins that they have to include at least some of them. The tie ins ended up as short, 3-4 minute vignettes that served no purpose other than showing us where characters are and building the world of Flashpoint, and, in that context, they work extremely well.

The fact that the movie is able to take a bunch of characters and make me care about them in 45 minutes before butchering every single one of them is a testament to just how well this movie is done. The fact that I actually feel something as Grifter, Cyborg, Billy Batson, and even Aquaman, are all slaughtered proves how well these characters have been fleshed out in so little time. We’re the movie a little longer, the character development could have been done better, yes. The fact is though, that in the movie’s short run time, I actually cared about all the characters.

That may be partially because of already having connections to some of them, but that cleanly doesn’t apply to all of them. Who the hell ever cared about Grifter? Certainly not me, and yet, I was legitimately sad when he was killed. The same goes for Cyborg, who I also don’t really care about. Those last twenty minutes really hit quite hard, and that continues all the way until the very end if the movie. This was at least true for me, and I liked that about the movie.

Nearly all of the characters in this movie are dynamic, interesting characters, and I would have liked nothing more than to spend more time with them. And, in the end, more than the terrible animation (which I’ll get to) and the unbelievable logic, the movie’s biggest flaw is it’s run time. At 75 minutes, it sort of ends up feeling like there should be more, but the creators just got lazy. And it’s not just that I want more, it feels like there should be more to the movie than what there actually is. Upon first watching it, that didn’t occur to me, but, after repeated viewings, The Flashpoint Paradox feels lazy.

And the same is true of the animation. Just because Bruce Timm and all the other people who have carried DC’s animation forever have all jumped ship doesn’t justify the fact that, for the most part, the animation is terrible. It jumps between styles way too much, and the result is character models that look horrible when they aren’t moving. And this seems to be a trend with DC animation, and it sucks.

Score: 7.9

On the whole, I actually rather enjoyed The Flashpoint Paradox. It had a great world, great characters, and a plot that was at least passable. I know I’ve already said this, but I have to say it again: it inherits all the problems that the event had, namely it not being an elseworlds story, and therefore having to justify how the world got to be the way that it is. It’s a movie that’s on the cusp of greatness, but never quite manages to sort out a few issues that would be able to push it into the category of great movies. It’s certainly not DC’s worst, but it’s far from DC’s best.

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Batman Annual #2 Review

I’ve seen a lot of opposing opinions on this issue. I have a friend who absolutely loved it, yet I’ve seen other reviews of people who disliked it, or even hated it. Considering that this is Batman, DC’s best ongoing book, I find it odd that, for the annual, they would make the decision of having someone who isn’t Scoot Snyder write it. I mean, it’s not horrible, really. It’s good, but not much more than that. It’s really not something that I’m going to be throwing high praise at because, frankly, it’s nowhere near as good as some of the other books that came out this week.

I will say this though: At times, it’s pretty fun. Aside from the fact that Batman says everything out loud as he’s attempting to escape Arkham in order to test the security, those scenes are pretty cool, and this is the most fun Batman’s been since Dick Grayson’s time under the cowl. Other than those few scenes, there’s not much to really love about this book. Instead of breaking new ground, as Snyder and Capullo have been doing in Batman for the the past two years, this annual retreads other Arkham Asylum stories, including Grant Morrison’s masterpiece. I generally love Asylum stories – from Morrison’s Arkham Asylum to Rocksteady’s Arkham Asylum and all the others – but that’s because each if them are different, and do something different with the mad house and the characters that inhabit it. The Anchoress, however, is a bland, one dimensional villain. At first, she seems interesting, but she’s really not. Also, the Zero Year pages were shoe horned in, and completely unneeded for the progression of the story.

I do have one more complaint, and that would be the predictability of the issue. While parts of it are tense and fast paced, suspenseful book, but for the most part, it’s extraordinarily predictable. Even though the writing leaves a little to be desired, I rather enjoyed the art. At times, it was a little bit bland, but I found that, for the most part, the cartoon-y style added a sense of fun to the book that the author could only attempt to duplicate. But, from it’s predictability to it’s I originality, the second Batman Annual is little more than a (slightly) enjoyable side note from Snyder’s epic Zero Year.

Score: 6.9

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Rocketeer/Spirit: Pulp Friction #1 Review

When this mini series was first announced, my first response was: “Wait, what? I’m it sure I get it…”. But, it was coming hot on the heels of Cargo of Doom and Hollywood Horror – two stellar Rocketeer mini series – and it was being written by Mark Waid and drawn by Paul Smith. How could I say no to it? And it’s everything I wanted it to be. It’s pulpy, fun, colorful, and an all around great read. As a first issue, this book was pretty stellar. It sets everything up extremely well, and my only problem with it is that it’s slightly formulaic.

So essentially, The Spirit and his allies show up in California to investigate a murder – and the dead body was discovered by Betty, Cliff Secord’s girlfriend. So, of course, The Spirit and The Rocketeer have a mis-understanding, fight, and then realize that they have the same, or at least similar, goals. Formulaic, sure, but it’s still a lot of fun, especially the battle in the air. The Spirit straight up jumps onto The Rocketeer, who carries him up into the air, and then they just go back and forth while trying to hit each other. It’s pretty absurd that they go back and forth like they do at such high altitudes, but it’s pulpy and awesome anyways.

The way in which they become friends isn’t exactly what you’s expect, and that’s fine, because it’s pretty great. The story is a lot of fun, but I have one complaint with the issue: the art. Not to say that it’s bad, because it’s not. It’s actually pretty great. But, really, it doesn’t mesh with the style I’ve become accustomed to in Rocketeer stories. I’m used to seeing a more cartoon-y, sort of Chris Samnee-esque style to Rocketeer stories. And if he weren’t working in Daredevil, man would it be great to see him do a Rocketeer mini. And even though they don’t mesh, the book is still really amazing, and probably the best book of the week.

Score: 9.4

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Lazarus #2 Review

I’m beginning to see Lazarus as a futuristic Game of Thrones, right down to the twincest aspect of the it all. And you know what? I’m fine with that. Lazarus certainly isn’t doing anything 100% original, but it’s still one of the best books hitting the stands right now. Sure, you can tell that it’s more about the long form story, especially since the first issue was focused entirely on setting up the world. This issue zooms in for a little while to the Carlyle family, sans the mother and one of the sisters.

Essentially, this issue builds on the relationships that were implied in the first issue, and establishes where each if the characters stands in the eyes of the other characters. And really, none of the siblings seem to like each other all that much, I mean, three of them almost kill each other while Forever is speaking privately with the father. And, on that note, I’d like to say this: he’s nothing like he was built up to be in the first issue. Actually, the way he’s portrayed, he comes off more like Ned Stark than Tywin Lannister, and I’m fine with that.

Other than establishing the family dynamic, this issue shows us a glimpse of what’s become of Hollywood, and hints at an “earthquake” that was the cause of the destruction. What that is, more than anything, is just more world building on Greg Rucka’s part. And, unlike other authors, he’s managed to strike a balance between world and characters, and the two come together to create a plot that feel like it should be too big, but he manages to keep it centralized on only two factions (so far) and a small group of characters. There isn’t much to speak of in terms of action in this issue, but that’s fine, since the dialogue and character development is so great.

And, man, that art is stellar. Michael Lark absolutely kills it in that department, and, in a book that is so world focused, that’s key to making the book any good.

Score: 9.2

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