Your intrepid reviewers have been working from home in the post-apocalypse, and the future of weekly comics is highly uncertain as we write this, but we wanted to make sure you got this week’s comic reviews. DC didn’t have any #1 books out this week, just a lot of ongoing favorites, so in this post, we’re going to break down the week’s Black Label releases—Far Sector, The Books of Magic, John Constantine: Hellblazer, Basketful of Heads, and The Last God.
Stay safe at home, and read some good comics!
Far Sector #5 – N.K. Jesimin, Writer; Jamal Campbell, Artist
Ray – 9/10
Ray: Thus far, this title has immersed us in Jo Mullein’s trial-by-fire as a Green Lantern without letting us know too much about her. This issue pulls back from that a bit, with her world enjoying a minor moment of peace, to finally fill her in about where she comes from. It’s an intriguing setup, with a lot of unpleasant real-world issues creeping in to complicate her life. This is a story that combines poverty, racism, 9/11, the war on terror, police brutality, and the thin blue line into a tale that pushes Jo to her breaking point in her search for justice—only to have a Guardian drop into her life at the exact moment she needs it. The moments of Jo’s life on her new beat are no less intriguing, particularly her interactions with her AI assistant. Jesimin has done work with AIs before, so it’s no surprise this is treated with a bit more deftness than we usually see with this story. By the end, the main plot has taken another huge twist that helps this Black Label tale keep pace with the exceptional main GL book right now.
The Books of Magic #18 – Kat Howard, Writer; Tom Fowler, Artist; Craig Taillefer, Finishes; Brian Reber, Colorist
Ray – 8.5/10
Ray: Kat Howard’s run on this title closes up shop—for now—as Tim Hunter is stuck in a twisted dreamland facing off against an evil alter-ego. Tow Fowler’s depiction of the evil Tim is one of the highlights of this issue, as he slowly starts to warp in and out of reality, becoming less human with every page. The action is nicely split between the dream world and the real world, as Tim’s father and Celia work together to try to snap Tim out of his stupor while Tim and Rose battle to break free of the dream reality. It’s a high-stakes story that manages to still be intimate by grounding it in Tim’s fears of what he’ll become if he gets too deep into magic. There are still a lot of unanswered questions about Tim’s destiny, as well as the role of the evil Tim from Constantine’s original reality. A guest arc from David Barnett is up next (whenever it arrives), but Tim’s world is just starting to expand beyond his small English town.
John Constantine, Hellblazer #5 – Simon Spurrier, Writer; Matias Bergara, Artist; Jordie Bellaire, Colorist
Ray – 8.5/10
Ray: After a very dark and haunting first arc, Constantine’s adventures in modern London took a bizarre twist last issue as he teamed up with a fellow mage—a modern hipster who looked up to Constantine while modernizing the craft—as they sought the roots of a mysterious and oddly racist curse sweeping across London. This is a plot that could have easily gone very badly, but Spurrier writes it with deft humor and plays off the contrasts between the new-school and old-school magicians. This has been a darker, more amoral Constantine than we’ve seen in a while, but as his unwanted protege finds himself in deadly danger at the hands of Constantine’s old enemies, he’s forced to make a critical choice. The last act sees the reveal of a major new villain for John, and it seems like things are going to get much darker soon. They may not have gotten along here, but Constantine may soon be longing for help from Tommy Willowtree.
The Last God #6 – Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Writer; Riccardo Federici, Artist; Arif Prianto, Allan Passalaqua, Sunny Gho, Colorists
Ray – 9/10
Ray: While this story is neck-deep in cosmic horrors and mutating zombies, it ultimately seems more concerned with two simple issues—the legacy of past sins and the cost of war. As two generations of heroes battle their way through the curse of the Flowering Dead, we’re left with a complex tale where the two narratives are distinguishing themselves more with every issue, and not every hero is going to make it out alive. This issue sees one of the most devastating sacrifices yet, but as we know in this world, those that fall prey to the villains don’t stay down—they often become the very thing they were fighting against. Riccardo Federici’s art is gorgeous as always, especially in the horrific transformation scene. The scope of the story is almost overwhelming at times, but as we reach the halfway point, it’s a compelling fusion of high fantasy and horror. There is a lot to bring home in the second half, but I think the creative team is up to the task.
Basketful of Heads #6 – Joe Hill, Writer; Leomacs, Dan McDaid, Artists; Dave Stewart, John Kalisz, Colorists
Ray – 8/10
Ray: I was pretty critical of this book’s pace, but this penultimate issue starts bringing it home. Sure enough, the third head goes flying not far in, leaving June with a full house—a dirtbag skel, a deluded religious fanatic, and a scummy mastermind. Engineering a forced phone call between father and son, she gets on the trail of the true mastermind, finally finding Liam—and more danger—in a tense issue that ends in a dark place that makes it hard to see how she’s getting out. Six issues in, I still see virtually no internal logic to the concept, but the strength of this series comes when it’s focusing more on the very human evils plaguing June and Liam. One issue to go, whenever we get it, so hopefully a strong conclusion is coming. I usually don’t comment much on Sea Dogs, but this issue’s focus on a single sailor’s sudden death is one of the best fragments of the series.