Each week, CBR has your guide to navigating Wednesday’s new and recent comic releases, specials, collected editions and reissues, and we’re committed to helping you choose those that are worth your hard-earned cash. It’s a little slice of CBR we like to call Major Issues.
If you feel so inclined, you can buy our recommendations directly on comiXology with the links provided. We’ll even supply links to the books we’re not so hot on, just in case you don’t want to take our word for it. Don’t forget to let us know what you think of the books this week in the comments! And as always, SPOILERS AHEAD!
X-MEN #21 (MARVEL)
Writer Jonathan Hickman’s time with the X-Men is far from over, but X-Men #21 marks his last issue of the main X-title for the foreseeable future. While it doesn’t come anywhere close to the book’s high points, Hickman, Nick Dragotta, Russell Dauterman, Lucas Werneck, Sara Pichelli, Frank Martin, Matthew Wilson, Sunny Gho and Nolan Woodard all deliver a mostly fun tie-in to the Hellfire Gala crossover event.
Since Marvel revealed the new official X-Men line-up months ago, the team’s unveiling isn’t suspenseful, but Dauterman’s elegant linework makes it an impressive coronation. Although there are some charming moments throughout the issue, a surprise cameo near the end adds a jarring dose of reality that sits ill at ease with both this issue and Hickman’s run as a whole. Still, the X-Men’s Hellfire Gala attire has never looked better than it does here, and the issue still makes a decent capstone to this chapter of Hickman’s X-Men epic.
BATMAN: URBAN LEGENDS #4 (DC)
While there’s certainly no shortage of Batman comics in the world, Batman: Urban Legends has carved out a consistently entertaining niche for itself by offering short stories about the wider Bat-Family and Gotham City’s other superhero residents. In Issue #4, Chip Zdarsky, Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira and Marcus To’s main Red Hood feature takes Batman and Jason Todd’s relationship to an intriguingly vulnerable direction amidst some well-drawn fights with Mister Freeze.
Batwoman star Camrus Johnson teams up with Loyiso Mkize and Trevor Scott team up for a solid story about Batwing taking on the Riddler, and Meghan Fitzmartin and Belen Ortega offer an appropriately angsty take on Tim Drake’s quarter-life crisis. Matthew Rosenberg and Ryan Benjamin’s pitch-perfect Grifter remains a highlight of the title as it brings another fan-favorite character to the DC Universe.
MANIAC OF NEW YORK #5 (AFTERSHOCK)
Ostensibly, The Walking Dead tells the story of what happens in a zombie-infested world after the final credits roll. AfterShock Comics’ Maniac of New York, by Elliott Kalan, Andrea Mutti and Taylor Esposito, applies a similar formula to a Friday the 13th-style slasher movie. The final issue of this inaugural miniseries dives into the fallout of its masked killer’s latest attack and how society responds to the continued presence of an uncatchable and seemingly unkillable killer.
Since slasher movies rarely interrogate the wider effects of their killing sprees, Maniac of New York finds ample ground to mine with a smart take on how that kind of event would play in the modern media landscape. While there’s certainly no shortage of blood, the book’s cool, almost watercolor-like art gives it an ethereal style that makes it more affectingly haunting than gross-out gruesome. With a follow-up miniseries already announced, now is the time to catch up on this bloody delight.
W.E.B. OF SPIDER-MAN #1 (MARVEL)
While W.E.B. of Spider-Man #1 might borrow a title from a classic Marvel series, this Kevin Shinick, Alberto Alburquerque, Rachelle Rosenberg and Travis Lanham title is a tie-in with Disneyland’s new Avengers Campus attraction. As such, it makes for a fun, if slight, all-ages Spider-Man team-up story.
This issue sees a young Peter Parker, Moon Girl, Squirrel Girl, Wakanda’s Onome and Iron Man 3’s Harley Keener come together as a Future Foundation-esque group of young geniuses. While the story’s simple lessons about teamwork and energetic, cartoony art should play well with younger readers, a few fun jokes are just enough to keep the proceedings entertaining for older readers too. Still, this story will play best as a preamble or a post-script to a visit to Avengers Campus.
THE JOKER #4 (DC)
Traditionally, supervillain-centric comics haven’t lasted a long time. However, James Tynion IV, Guillem March, Arif Prianto, and Tom Napolitano’s The Joker sidesteps those issues by focusing on former Commissioner Jim Gordan and his daughter, Barbara Gordon’s Oracle. As the book’s first storyline comes to a close, this comic offers plenty of action, impressive, detailed artwork and a lengthy conversation between the Joker and the elder Gordon.
While some Joker stories can get overly grim or otherwise lost exploring the twisted corners of the Joker’s mind, Gordon’s presence grounds the book with a deeply human center who looks on the Joker’s chaotic designs as a reader surrogate. Paired with the youthful pop-punk villainy of Punchline in a back-up by Tynion, Sam Johns, Mirka Andolfo, Romulo Fajardo and Ariana Maher, The Joker shows just how good being bad can be.
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