Comic Book Reviews for This Week: 12/1/2021

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Welcome to this week in comic book reviews! The staff have come together to read and review nearly everything that released today. It isn’t totally comprehensive, but it includes just about everything from DC and Marvel with the important books from the likes of Image, Boom, IDW, Scout, Aftershock, 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 Batman: Fear State Omega #1, The Avengers #50, and King of Spies #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.

DC #1 ACTION COMICS #1037

Action Comics has been working overtime for months leading up to this week’s Action Comics #1037 (and arguably trying to somehow distance itself from Bendis’ miserable run on the title) and now the payoff is here with the showdown between Superman and Mongul on Warworld. There is a lot to unpack with this issue – the political plot with the United Planets council and the highly suspect Durlan we met last issue, the actual battle on Warworld, and a lot of people getting their butts kicked. It’s heavy stuff and a pretty grim book, put it’s interesting, somehow simultaneously feeling like a Superman comic and something larger, more epic. The issue also includes a Martian Manhunter story that’s an actual delight that asks a lot of questions about the underused hero. Overall, this is an exciting and through-provoking issue on all fronts and while the “Warworld Saga” may not be every Superman fan’s cup of tea, the quality here hits the mark. — Nicole Drum

Rating: 4 out of 5

BATMAN 2021 ANNUAL #1

Batman 2021 Annual #1 is, generally, wildly better than the majority of Tynion’s Batman work but it suffers from a lot of the same pitfalls, especially in that it feels more like an imitation of something else rather than an authentic creation. That’s especially disappointing considering that this issue is our finale for Ghostmaker. One of the many “original” characters Tynion brought to his Batman run, Ghostmaker is sort of in the middle–not as wonderful as Miracle Molly, but not as bland and derivative as Punchline or useless as Clownhunter–so it’s nice to get a history and a backstory for this psychotic but in a not terrible way. And, as stories go, it’s not bad. Like Bruce Wayne, a young Ghosthunter witnessed a crime against his family (albeit a different one) that set him on his violent path. It’s actually kind of a nice idea, taking the familiar and giving it some twists. What doesn’t really hold up here, however, is that at varying points the story feels like someone watched a lot of anime, fell asleep, and smashed it all together with a less than optimal outcome. This general vibe is reinforced by Ortiz’s art which is absolutely refreshing and interesting in most cases, but just isn’t at its best here. The result is something that’s okay and only that. — Nicole Drum

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

BATMAN: THE DETECTIVE #6

At its end Batman: The Detective threatens to interrogate some of the troubling premises beneath Batman’s law-and-order modus operandi; it never quite goes there but gets close enough to give readers something to chew on. References to a current criminal’s father dying in prison and another former victim of Batman’s landing behind bars because they saved a life question the carceral state. However, there are no easy answers to that problem (or how Batman contributes to it) and so they’re elided for a familiar, feel-good conclusion. Batman and his allies stop the villains, whose motivations and actions still don’t line up under any degree of scrutiny, and Batman is provided with a number of “cool” moments that are unlikely to be recalled after the final page turn. The action that connects these individual beats is well-conceived and the best thing to come from The Detective in its entirety. Characters who look as beaten and brutal as their work would suggest are perfectly depicted by Kubert’s pencils and desperation hangs thick in close combat sequences. It’s a good looking sheen on a story that never quite made itself into something substantial. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3 out of 5

BATMAN: FEAR STATE OMEGA #1 [READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE]

With James Tynion IV’s run on Batman at an end and the “Fear State” event ostensibly over, there are some loose ends to tie up. That’s what Batman: Fear State Omega #1 is for with the comic seeing Batman bring Scarecrow to justice while also offering up a montage of sorts to conclude the stories of other major players in the “Fear State” arc. It’s a convenient and rather tidy way to close off Tynion’s run, but while it will satisfy some Batman readers in that it gives a distinct sense of closure, one can’t help but walk away from the issue feeling as though it was all very superficial – a very slick way to shuffle characters around, clearing the board for the next creative team while also never really dealing with any of the issues presented over the course of the run. — Nicole Drum

Rating: 3 out of 5

DETECTIVE COMICS 2021 ANNUAL #1

Mariko Tamaki, Matthew Rosenberg, and David Lapham attempt to have a serious discussion about how Gotham treats its mentally ill in the latest Detective Comics Annual. Falling on opposite sides of the debate are Batman and Nightwing, who argue over whether Arkham Asylum and its soon-to-be successor should focus on rehabilitation or incarceration while chasing down a shadow from Bruce Wayne’s past. The comic wisely points out the innate cruelty of a place like Arkham but doesn’t offer a better solution other than potentially promising an actual focus on mental health rather than a fancy prison in a gothic building. I appreciate that Tamaki is willing to tackle sticky issues in her superhero comics, although I think the fundamental nature of superhero comics (or at least DC’s current status quo) prevents any real lasting change, which feels pretty depressing. — Christian Hoffer

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

GOTHAM CITY VILLAINS ANNIVERSARY GIANT #1

Let’s get one universal truth out of the way–this anthology is worth reading purely for its first story, which features Danny DeVito making his DC Comics writing debut in a surprising and clever Penguin and Catwoman story. But in the pages that follow, readers can be treated (by and large) to a compelling menagerie of stories. While every story has some form of redeeming quality, there are absolutely some standouts–the stylish and endearing Poison Ivy story “Ophiocordyceps Lamia,” the oddly charming Killer Moth story “The Happiest Man on Earth”, and a dive into Talia al Ghul’s past with “The Second Eye.” While some stories veer dangerously close to being too wordy or too self-involved, that kind of energy does suit many of the villains within these pages–and overall, I can’t help but love the Gotham City Villains Anniversary Giant for existing. — Jenna Anderson

Rating: 4 out of 5

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DC #2 HARDWARE: SEASON ONE #3

If it hasn’t been apparent by now, Hardware: Season One picks up from the character’s stories of yesteryear and doesn’t miss a beat. With over-the-top villains that simply wear suits, this story is like it was plucked out of the character’s first volume. Sure it helps to have Cowan and Sienkiewicz involved, but this latest story feels undeniably 90s, for better or for worse. — Adam Barnhardt

Rating: 3 out of 5

THE HUMAN TARGET #2

Tom King and Greg Smallwood’s noir-themed Human Target continues, as Christopher Chance receives a visit from the first member of the JLI – Ice. Ice is portrayed not as much of an active suspect, but more as the motive for why someone else would want to murder Lex Luthor, which led to Chance’s terminal poisoning. I enjoyed the comic right up to the very last page, which features a slightly obnoxious twist that fits the character but feels very much in line with other King “twists” where the male lead seems to have that last ace up their sleeve. While the comic moves at a slow pace, it feels more significant and deliberate than King’s previous mystery comic Rorschach. Smallwood’s art is also fantastic – the bright coloring (which invokes the bright superheroes of the 1980s and early 1990s) really contrasts with the murder mystery plot of the comic. — Christian Hoffer

Rating: 4 out of 5

THE JOKER 2021 ANNUAL #1

There’s a time period in the history of Gotham City that is the most interesting for me personally, and that’s when the old school mafia begins giving way to the “freaks” such as Scarecrow, Killer Croc, and of course, the Joker. Tynion, Rosenberg, and Francavilla are able to capture this time period with great aplomb here, exploring Jim Gordon’s efforts of eradicating the crime families, only to unleash something far worse. While the Joker does make a few appearances here, rather than simply being in the background with his shadow looming large, but the solo issue works well at developing the Crime Prince of Crime we come to know and how Gordon inadvertently had a hand in that. If you’re a fan of stories like The Long Halloween, this makes for a fantastic companion piece. — Evan Valentine

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK 2021 ANNUAL #1

The latest annual for DC Comics’ premiere supernatural superhero team throws out a lot of interesting concepts but is bogged down by the sheer enormity of the exposition required in order to sell them. Mitten’s artwork is satisfyingly grungy and creative when it comes to portraying the darker side of the DCU, but Ram V & Watters don’t give the creatures and action time to breathe. If you’ve been following Dark since its latest volume’s inception, there might be some things here for you to enjoy but this Annual is definitely one that was not made for new arrivals to the series so be forewarned. — Evan Valentine

Rating: 2 out of 5

JUSTICE LEAGUE INCARNATE #1

After the somewhat incomprehensible nature of Infinite Frontier from earlier this year, Justice League Incarnate #1 mercifully simplifies DC’s massive multiverse plans by narrowing its focus. The multiverse-spanning Justice League recruits its Flash, jumps to Earth-8 (an incredibly unsubtle parody of Marvel) and battles with their version of Thanos and the full-powered Darkseid in an attempt to access the crack in the multiverse and save a lost Barry Allen. If you’re with me so far then dive right in. — Connor Casey

Rating: 4 out of 5

NIGHTWING 2021 ANNUAL #1

As with most other annuals, this one sidesteps the current story at hand to dive deep into the brotherly love between Dick Grayson and Jason Todd. Taylor’s oversized script excels exceptionally well at telling that story and making a deeply personal tale for fans of some of the Batfamily’s most popular characters. It’s not a Christmas or holiday story by any stretch of the imagination, but it still carries that warmth that comes with comparable stories, despite it being a dark and gritty piece. — Adam Barnhardt

Rating: 4 out of 5

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DC #3 comic-reviews-batman-fear-state-omega-1.jpg(Photo: DC Comics)ROBIN 2021 ANNUAL #1

Robin 2021 Annual functions as an addendum to the current narrative in Robin, checking in with Damian Wayne when he returned from Gotham City in Robin #6. The issue itself is all centered around his review of files from his father’s database, providing additional background for Damian’s motives along with a number of other contestants on the island. These “secret origin” style peeks behind the curtain are interesting enough on their own, but only function in the context of Robin where they introduce or develop mysteries tied to that serialized story. It’s easy to imagine many of these pages inserted as backup features across the past year, but here they are delivered as a collection. Flatline’s origin calls the most attention to itself and, while it’s nothing special, it provides her with additional depth and clarification. The same can be said for many antagonists who receive only a single page blending a data block and a few panels of story. Robin 2021 Annual primarily serves to be intriguing as it provides readers with details that couldn’t quite make the cut in Robin’s limited page count. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

TEEN TITANS ACADEMY #8

Class is officially back in session at the Teen Titans Academy–and the series is absolutely not missing a beat. This installment is chock full of major shifts for the series, including the return of at least one former Titan, new revelations regarding some of the students, and the canon debut of two surprising DC characters. Those narrative nuggets would be noteworthy enough, but the way that Tim Sheridan weaves the web manages to be endlessly entertaining and well executed with stakes and slice-of-life charm. With Mike Norton on art, bringing his characteristic charm and excellent facial expressions, the issue might be one of the best installments of Teen Titans Academy yet–which is high praise, given how the series has been thus far. — Jenna Anderson

Rating: 5 out of 5

WONDER GIRL #5

Wonder Girl #5 brings back the focus to Yara Flor and benefits instantly from that decision. The first half picks up right here the last issue left off and provides that trademark dialogue and humor that has become such a beloved part of Yara’s character. Plus, the more Yara and Jerry I get the better, and while Joelle Jones doesn’t handle both writing and art duties this time, Adriana Melo’s artwork does a stellar job of creating some of those vivid battle sequences we’ve come to expect from the series. While Cassie and Potira do take a few pages away from Yara, the banter between them is entertaining and leads to some compelling reveals about their tribe, the world of the Amazons, and Yara’s origin, so I didn’t end up minding. We even get a thrilling hook for next issue right at the end, delivering a great issue from beginning to end. — Matthew Aguilar

Rating: 4 out of 5

WONDER WOMAN 2021 ANNUAL #1

Wonder Woman 2021 Annual is a really interesting comic. As we move away from Diana’s time in the afterlife and set up for “Trial of the Amazons,” Conrad and Cloonan do a fantastic job of positioning the heroine as being both utterly herself, but also changed by her experience. One of the things that works very well with the issue is that it also shows Diana’s struggle to incorporate back into her regular life through her friendship with Etta Candy – the pair just can’t seem to get a chance to sit down and chat. There’s also a good bit of action in the book when Diana faces off with a mysterious new foe who presents her with some shocking information about her people and her home and sets the heroine on edge. What distracts a bit from this is Andy MacDonald’s art. Overall, it’s not bad at all, but the crafting of the new villain Altuum is not great. He looks like a very under-developed sketch and Nick Filardi’s colors don’t do anything to fill in those gaps. Fortunately, he’s intriguing enough that you can get past the rough appearance and invest in the threat he poses to Wonder Woman. It’s a really good comic, just with a few rough edges. — Nicole Drum

Rating: 4 out of 5

WONDER WOMAN HISTORIA: THE AMAZONS #1

Wow. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. At long last, DeConnick and Jimenez have released the first part of their highly anticipated mini-series–and it only takes the flip of a front cover to realize it’s been well worth the wait. The script for this oversized debut recalls the earliest days of Themyscira, about how the island–and subsequently, Wonder Woman–came to be. DeConnick weaves an incredible tale using pieces from classic mythology while spinning it to fit into the overall DC narrative, and it’s an incredible sight to behold. On top of that, you have an artist like Jimenez who turns out career-best work on every single page. The lineart is downright incredible, and his layouts create a masterful work of art. The story is important, and the artwork is gorgeous. It’s easy to throw around the superlatives, but there’s no denying this–Wonder Woman Historia #1 is one of the best comics you can pick up this week. In fact, I’d go so much to guess this issue’s going to find itself atop many year-end comics lists. Rightfully so, because it’s sequential art done perfectly–a new standard the medium should aim to achieve. — Adam Barnhardt

Rating: 5 out of 5

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Marvel #1 THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #80

The Amazing Spider-Man #80 may be more of a Kraven detour than a Kraven tale, but it captures the Hunter’s antagonistic charms in brilliant style. This brilliant Arthur Adams cover promises exactly what is delivered with Ben Reilly hallucinating an increasingly dangerous encounter with a classic nemesis. Drops of himself fly through the air as individuals are shaped and reshaped by Kraven’s drugs. The related effects never grow dull as artist Michael Dowling and letterer Joe Caramagna each deliver a diverse visual vocabulary to simulate Ben’s state of mind. By the issue’s end the focus returns to Beyond and simmering subplots, all of which bring Bronze Age charm with them, but this issue sells itself on a creative reconstruction of the classic Spider-Man vs. Kraven the Hunter mechanics with abundant flair. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4 out of 5

THE AVENGERS #50 [READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE]

Jason Aaron’s Avengers is certainly massive in scope, with multiverses, celestials, time travel, world conquerors, prehistoric Avengers, devils and Gods, and international adventures all in the mix so far. Somehow things are only getting warmed up, at least if Avengers #50 is to be believed, and the mega-sized issue brings several stories to a close before setting up new threads for what’s still to come. At times it feels like one of those teaser montages of what’s to come but in narrative form, and that’s why some parts work and others don’t. It’s a bit of a rollercoaster ride, and a long one at that, so buckle in because there is a lot to cover. — Matthew Aguilar

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

CAPTAIN MARVEL #34

“The Last of The Marvels” hasn’t really slowed down much since it kicked off 3 issues ago, and the foot is still firmly on the pedal in Captain Marvel #34. Kelly Thompson had one heck of a cliffhanger last issue, and while we knew she would get out of this particular scenario, the execution of this particular sequence and the solution that’s discovered is what makes it all work so well. It’s an ingenious development that ends up being one of those “how has that not been done before” moments, and artistically these moments leap off the page and make Carol feel like a true force of nature courtesy of artist Sergio Davila and colorist Jesus Aburtov. It was also nice to see some justice for Phyla-Vell, and while Carol does make a questionable decision that might have you scratching your head a bit, it does also seem plausible because of what’s been established in this arc thus far and whom she is currently facing. “The Last of the Marvels” has been a thrilling ride so far and seems to be hitting on all cylinders at the perfect time. — Matthew Aguilar

Rating: 4 out of 5

DAREDEVIL #36

The climax of Zdarsky’s Daredevil sets the stage for the upcoming event series Devil’s Reign, but that doesn’t rob the issue of its individual poignancy acting as a capstone for a memorable collection of character arcs. The simultaneous release of Matt Murdock from prison and the wedding of Wilson Fisk pairs both men with women who have notably impacted them across years of fictional life and decades of comics. Together these couples reflect the degree to which every one of them has been reshaped in the course of this title. Some reconciliations, like Elektra’s graceful acceptance of Murdock’s faith, seem too pat–a requirement of limited space as the series ends–but each also reads as earned. Daredevil #36 primarily serves as character study and provides a monument to this outstanding run punctuated by one moment of violence that is made far more powerful in its relative quiet. Only the dim, undistinguished faces in some panels, lacking Checchetto’s charms, pull attention away from a series of increasingly potent moments. All of the power struggles and morality plays that made Daredevil a riveting read remain here and present a world changed by their consideration. — Chase Magnett

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

DARKHAWK #4

The original incarnation of Darkhawk was frequently tied to Spider-Man back in the day, even though he wasn’t a traditional Spider-character. It’s fitting then that this new Darkhawk would also be tied to a Spider-Man, so writer Kyle Higgins brought Miles Morales into Darkhawk’s world as opposed to Peter Parker, and it turns out to be a brilliant choice. Miles and Connor relate to each other in a very different way than Christopher and Peter did and having someone his age to relate to in this superhero world allows more of Connor’s personality and inner conflicts to manifest, and it makes him more relatable as a result. The Darkhawk side of the equation also gets a chance to shine due to the presence of a certain Star-Spangled Avenger, and artist Juanan Ramirez and colorist Erick Arciniega deliver a fight sequence that shows off the mix of style and power that the Darkhawk suit contains. I wasn’t exactly sold on their Captain America, but the duo shines when they are working with sleeker suits and fighting styles such as Spider-Man and Darkhawk. I loved this issue through and through, and Darkhawk continues to hit all the right notes in this so far stellar revival. — Matthew Aguilar

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