Comic Book Reviews for This Week: 5/20/2020

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Welcome to this week in comic book reviews! Typically, the staff comes together to read and review nearly everything released on a Wednesday. However, due to the impact of coronavirus on the comics market, that hasn't been the case for most of March and April. This week we are excited to continue our coverage as comic book stores begin receiving new releases once more—including new issues from DC, Marvel, Image, Boom, and more.

The review blurbs you'll find contained herein are typically supplemented in part by longform individual reviews for significant issues. This week that includes The Ludocrats #1 and Disaster Inc #1.

Also, in case you were curious, our ratings are simple: we give a whole number out of five; that's it! If you'd like to check out our previous reviews, they are all available here.

And with that, on to the reviews -- which are listed entirely in alphabetical order this week.

BIRTHRIGHT #43

Slowly but surely, Birthright inches towards the ending we all know that's coming. It might not feel good and it most certainly won't be pretty, but regardless, the story unfolding in front of us is one worth the ride. The front half of this issue slowed its pacing to a crawl, but luckily it was needed. We tied up loose ends and form the exposition we've needed for months. Despite being set in the midst of a battle between worlds, Birthright #43 is slow on the action but thankfully, that's completely warranted this go-around. -- Adam Barnhardt

Rating: 4 out of 5

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER #14

Buffy the Vampire Slayer returns from the Hellmouth with a new tone, focus, and style. Boom's rebooted series has been heavy on the action from the start. This issue takes time to pause and assess Buffy's status quo and its the best issue of the series to date. Jordie Bellaire's script is a series of short scenes spotlighting the different relationships at play in Buffy's life. It's exciting because all the relationships we know from the television show are either gone or upended. Instead, we get to a spotlight on relationships that nonexistent or undercooked in the original series. We see Buffy with fellow slayer Kendra and disgraced young watcher Robin Wood. We get to see Giles and Jenny Calendar in private. Jenny may benefit most from the realignment of the Buffyverse. She was more or less a plot device in Buffy's first two seasons. Here, she's asking bold questions about the power dynamics of the Watcher-Slayer relationship that the show never dared. Bellaire writes these characters with the depth, nuance, and wit that fans have come to expect from them. This more personal issue gets a more intimate visual style than past issues. Julian Lopez provides fine linework, recognizable characters, and clear, strong expressions. Raul Angulo and Francesco Segala provide a color palette that varies from scene to scene but unified by a soft warmth. The issue makes two minor missteps towards the end—an awkward inset mars a beautiful splash page, and the final tease is too vague to be tantalizing—but this issue everything Buffy fans crave. -- Jamie Lovett

Rating: 5 out of 5

DCEASED: HOPE AT WORLD'S END #1

The best way to describe the new DC Digital First series DCeased: Hope at World’s End is that it’s just more of DCeased. Tom Taylor is stilt the helm, and all of the character beats he’s able to masterfully weave into the apocalypse are still here. It’s not must-read by any means and will probably just wind up in a big trade book someday. But just like with Unkillables, if you liked the original series and want something to hold you over until Dead Planet gets here this will definitely do the job. -- Connor Casey

Rating: 4 out of 5

DCEASED: UNKILLABLES #3

Lord I have missed The Unkillables. Tom Taylor wraps up his three-part DCeased spin-off with a shockingly violent chase as Jim Gordon, Red Hood and Deathstroke try to lead their misfit team of anti-heroes and orphans from their overrun orphanage to a sanctuary in Gotham. We get a few more heartfelt and comedic moments, some surprisingly good banter from unlikely pairings (Gordon and Slade should team up more) and a few bloody action scenes involving a rampaging zombified Wonder Woman. Overall these three issues are just as good as the original series and are definitely worth a look if you enjoyed DCeased.-- Connor Casey

Rating: 5 out of 5

DEADLY CLASS #44

Wes Craig's dynamic and frantic art style sells an issue-long, massive, creatively-choreographed battle to the death. And, yes, there's a couple of pretty significant deaths and plenty more horrors to come, if this issue is any indication. But the wait for the next one is going to be interminable, because THAT ending...! -- Russ Burlingame

Rating: 4 out of 5

DISASTER INC #1

[READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE]

Based on the first issue, Disaster Inc. could be called both a complex and too-simple comic book—but that might not be an inherently bad thing. People trying to commercialize and capitalize on atrocities is nothing new (it's something that is already happening during the COVID-19 pandemic), which makes the idea of Disaster Inc. dissecting the idea fascinating enough to potentially make the entire series worth reading. Both narratively and aesthetically, Disaster Inc. doesn't completely shatter expectations in its debut, but still establishes what could be an entertaining and engaging adventure. -- Jenna Anderson

Rating: 3 out of 5

THE DOLLHOUSE FAMILY #6

With the series concluding in this issue, a number of implied or ambiguous details are entirely clarified, which retroactively makes previous issues of this series all that more compelling. Una's venture into the dollhouse quickly results in Alice attempting to retrieve her, but she brings with her the knowledge of her ancestors about not only what's unfolding in the house, but also the insight on how to stop it. Over the course of the previous five issues, the dense narrative had highs and lows, though it was always bewildering and frightening, with the series' seeming end being the best chapter into the series yet. This final issue is The Dollhouse Family at its best, blending horror, fantasy, and comedy to tell a compelling and nightmarish fable that leaves readers wanting more. -- Patrick Cavanaugh

Rating: 5 out of 5

DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: INFERNAL TIDES #3

Dungeons & Dragons: Infernal Tides #3 sticks Minsc and his friends in the middle of Elturel as the city gets dragged into the depths of Avernus. D&D players likely know that Elturel's fall was the major catalyst for "Descent Into Avernus," the adventure that D&D debuted last fall. I enjoyed how Jim Zub and Max Dunbar found a different way to keep the events of the comics close to the events of the adventure without retreading into "Descent Into Avernus." Honestly, the Fall of Elturel seems like a major event, so it's great that we finally get to see it from the perspective of people that experienced it. The only disappointing part of Infernal Tides is that it's due to end with next issue. -- Christian Hoffer

Rating: 4 out of 5

GHOSTED IN L.A. #10

Reflecting on my lukewarm response to much of Ghosted in L.A., it’s now apparent that pacing was a big part of the issue. It’s apparent because #10 is the first installment in quite some time that feels like it has a destination and is ready to get there. The characters and relationships slowly established across the past year provide necessary emotional heft, but the process of making decisions and having different courses collide that provide some much-needed excitement to the series. The issue leaves readers with a handful of cliffhangers and new mysteries, all of which are earned in the telling and offer the best issue of the series since it began. The only noticeable shortcoming arrives in the form of sparse backgrounds that sometimes struggle to support events on the page (like how Daphne’s outfit is spoiled) and often dissolve into canvases of color without detail for an entire page. -- Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

HAWKEYE: FREEFALL #5

Hawkeye: Freefall goes deep into the criminal underworld in the fifth issue with the seedy locale offering the perfect playground to show how Hawkeye wins his fight. Going up against something much bigger than one person that requires subterfuge and secrecy given his alter-ego, Hawkeye’s able to work his way through The Hood’s organization in a way only that Avenger would be capable of. It’s refreshing to see Clint get his hands dirtier and dirtier while suspenseful to see how far he’ll go. From the underground fighting rings to the issue’s conclusion, the mounting seriousness of the book is conveyed well through some more dramatic and occasionally grisly depictions of the characters and their interactions with friends and foes. -- Tanner Dedmon

Rating: 4 out of 5

IRONHEART 2020 #1

Centering this story on self-driving cars gone mad was a mistake. The key action sequence and starting point for the plot intends to provide plenty of action before the second half of the issue emphasizes exposition above all else, but depicting fast cars in comics has never been an easy feat and this issue comes short of its goal. Last minute rescues rarely provide any tension or relief as most panels deliver vehicles that appear to be arranged in meaningless patterns on the road. The moments between Riri and her friends are more endearing, even as they are forced to explain the events of two events both postponed by a pandemic. It’s an awkwardly positioned issue with awkward delivery and, while not all of that is the fault of these creators, it all results in a read that never manages to find the gas pedal. -- Chase Magnett

Rating: 2 out of 5

KILL WHITEY DONOVAN #5

This revenge fueled western from writer Sydney Duncan and artist Natalie Barahona comes to a satisfying conclusion in this fifth and final issue while leaving the door open for even more grime and grit. Duncan and Barahona’s series got off to a slow start but by this issue they’ve revealed a fully developed world with a unique visual style and a malleability that allows for tales previously unseen in the genre and a knack for making them work. Barahona’s colors remain a high point for me, giving the story its signature look in what can best be described as Blade Runner 2049 by way of True Grit.-- Spencer Perry

Rating: 4 out of 5

THE LUDOCRATS #1

[READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE]

These are small qualms, however, and the issue does far more right than it does wrong. The Ludocrats is always bold and has a ball with its premise, and when everything works in sync it makes for a delightful adventure. Sometimes it gets bogged down in its own eccentricity, though the visuals still ensure even those parts of the comic are well worth witnessing. Otto and Hades are magic together, and I cannot wait to see what else they can do. -- Matthew Aguilar

Rating: 4 out of 5

MARVEL'S SPIDER-MAN: THE BLACK CAT STRIKES #4

Spider-Man: The Black Cat Strikes #4 runs into the same hurdles this series has always dealt with. The portions of the story that weren’t seen in the PS4 game are fantastic, adding to an already enriched version of Spidey and company. Unfortunately when the book retraces the steps of the DLC storyline it falls rather flat, and it feels like there’s more of it in this issue even with the time jump. If nothing else, at least we finally get to see the break-up between Peter and Felicia. -- Connor Casey

Rating: 3 out of 5

PLUNGE #3

The fate of the Derleth has seemingly been revealed, as we meet 21 eyeless survivors afflicted with blue skin and speaking in bizarre patterns, claiming they have unlocked the ending of pi. Understandably, the crew of the MacReady is intrigued by this discovery, while also quite terrified at the thought that they have survived for 40 years without detection. This chapter introduces a number of fascinating story elements and references a number of mathematical equations that don't immediately conjure the familiar horror tropes of demons or creatures being responsible for the narrative, despite these facets possibly being revealed further into the story. Sadly, this installment suffers due to the onslaught of information we're given, making us feel similar to the characters in how overwhelmed they are by the information being presented to them. Hopefully this is just a lull in the series and subsequent issues can offer a more cohesive narrative, as there's a lot of potential avenues to explore that would set it apart from similar stories. -- Patrick Cavanaugh

Rating: 3 out of 5

RED HOOD: OUTLAW #45

This issue—which follows the team’s crusade against The Untitled—is largely aesthetically and narratively cluttered. There are some enjoyable moments - particularly in a sequence between Artemis and Essence, but much of this issue feels plauged by the pitfalls that usually come for a middle-of-arc issue. Those who have been dying to see what’s next for the Outlaws will probably find something to enjoy in this issue, but it’s certainly not an immediate must-read. -- Jenna Anderson


Rating: 3 out of 5

SAVAGE DRAGON #248

Action kicks up a notch on a few fronts, setting up for the big story that's been teased for months. Savage Dragon #250 is on the horizon and if this issue is any indication, it's going to be three solid issues of heightened stakes and lots of old and new faces popping up to threaten Malcolm and destabilize Toronto. -- Russ Burlingame

Rating: 4 out of 5

STAR #4

The penultimate issue of this miniseries gives Ripley and Carol their newest rematch—before things take an unexpected return. Other than one line of dialogue that feels out of character for Carol, this issue is a delight in a lot of ways. The action is fun and beautifully-rendered, and the extra details of Ripley’s past are emotional and well-executed. It’s unclear what the future holds for Star once this miniseries comes to a close, but it’s proving to be a largely-enjoyable ride for Marvel fans. -- Jenna Anderson

Rating: 4 out of 5

STAR WARS ADVENTURES: CLONE WARS #1

Following in the tradition of miniseries like Tales from Vader's Castle, Star Wars Adventures: The Clone Wars - Battle Tales offers readers wraparound story each issue focusing on Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, and Plo Koon which allows the narrative to jump backwards in time to explore a self-contained storyline. The wraparound story sets the stage for upcoming adventures, while the flashback story sees Anakin leading a group of clone troopers on a mission that puts them collision course with a monstrous beast, forcing them all to rely on each other in hopes of defeating their foe. This issue delivers the family-friendly action you'd expect from Star Wars Adventures, focusing on delivering an exciting story more than an emphasis on a moral lesson, yet those themes are still clearly demonstrated in hopes of inspiring young readers. Fans of the Clone Wars era will surely be delighted at the lighthearted adventures of beloved heroes, while also making a good introduction to younger fans who want to jump into the world of Star Wars comics. -- Patrick Cavanaugh

Rating: 4 out of 5

SUPERMAN'S PAL JIMMY OLSEN #10

A key element of Jimmy Olsen’s appeal is how he seems to occupy a different plane than every character around him. Sprawling conspiracies, alien invasions, and assassination plots are transformed into shenanigans by his mere presence, often to the chagrin of everyone involved. Reading Jimmy’s friends and family curse his involvement in their lives and how he dispatches one of the greatest threats in this issue centers Jimmy’s bizarre nature—and every moment of it is a delight. It’s this approach that transforms Jimmy from a good excuse for talented creators, like Fraction and Lieber, to riff into an exploration of genre and story. Even after nine issues, each new introduction is exciting, especially when the copy becomes exasperated. As characters collide and the end approaches, it’s impossible to anticipate what comes next, but the final few pages of Jimmy Olsen #10 promise it will remain a laugh riot. -- Chase Magnett

Rating: 5 out of 5

WONDER WOMAN #755

As things go, Wonder Woman #755 is an okay issue. Building on Steve Orlando's previous issues, this latest installment serves as a solid introduction to "The Four Horsewomen" arc, drawing in Donna Troy and expanding on the motivations of Warmaster. Unfortunately, even for the story being solid it just feels like there's something missing. The lead up to this issue has dragged, something that takes a great deal of the punch out of things. There's also the idea of how the issue frames Wonder Woman's act of mercy as one of dishonesty. Pair it with Jesus Merino's at that is a bit uneven—it's good in certain action sequences, but just messy in others—and you get a book that's just okay, but has potential to do something more as the story continues next issue. -- Nicole Drum

Rating: 3 out of 5

YOUTH #2

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Youth #2 is a big departure from the incredible first issue of the series, but it's not a bad departure. Picking up from the catastrophic events of the first issue, while Youth #2 doesn't spend much time getting into details, it moves the story forward quickly. We discover a bit more about the sudden powers our central characters have suddenly developed and we're introduced to the idea that the event that granted them those powers is going to be a major hurdle—thanks to a "Bootleg Nick Fury". There's not a lot to work with in the issue, but if you consider Youth a larger story, this brief little chapter works well to push things to the next development. In a nutshell? Youth #2 is a little light and a little lacking, but it serves the overall thrust of the larger, meatier story well. -- Nicole Drum

Rating: 3 out of 5

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