DC This Week Roundup — Black Label Special

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The Books of Magic #20 cover, via DC Comics.

The Books of Magic #20 – David Barnett, Writer; Tom Fowler, Layouts; Craig Taillefer, Finishes; Marissa Louise, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Ray: David Barnett’s short run on this title will turn out to be its swan song, as the series is ending at #23. But if this first two-issue arc is any indication, we’re in for a good short run. When we last left off, Tim and a new magic-obsessed friend he made on a rare day off had planned to pay a visit to the Glastonbury festival—but wound up in a magical music festival that never ends, ruled over by a mad musician obsessed with recovering his past glory and finding the friend he left behind. In this issue, as the fantasy world begins to fall apart, Tim concocts a dangerous plan to get home and the mastermind is forced to confront his own mistakes. Tim almost feels like a bit player in this story, but it’s a fascinating story of loss, regret, and the toll the music industry takes on its stars. It lacks the epic feel of the main narrative, but that might be for the best—it’s all the better for how intimate and human it is.

John Constantine: Hellblazer #7 – Simon Spurrier, Writer; Aaron Campbell, Artist; Jordie Bellaire, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Ray: John Constantine plays in a different world than most DC heroes and antiheroes, a much darker one that isn’t always easy to read about. That’s rarely clearer than in this issue, where he finds himself investigating a horrific mystery in the London fishing scene. The trade is dying due to increased fishing from Europe, xenophobia is increasing among the fishing unions, and one young fisher seems to be the only one who reels in the prize catch. As Constantine investigates further, he finds a story of forbidden love and magical interference in the trade—but also one of brutal violence against women and the depths to which men will sink when tempted with riches. The last page is a horrifying gut punch, but the end promises equally bloody revenge next issue. In the tradition of many great Hellblazer stories, Constantine never looks away from the dark—especially when he’s getting ready to cut it out at the root.

The Low Low Woods #6 – Carmen Maria Machado, Joe Hill, Writers; Dani, Dan McDaid, Artists; Tamra Bonvillain, John Kalisz, Colorists

Ray – 9/10

Ray: The town of Shudder-to-Think has been home to the scariest visuals of the Hill House line, with a slow, creeping mystery of lost memories and body horror. This final issue dials all that up to eleven, as our two leads battle to save a girl very close to one of them before she loses herself to the town’s horrors. There is surprisingly little action in this final issue, but the girls are confronting an evil that is all too familiar. The final resolution is less one of killing the evil and more with coming to terms with an evil that’s very close to home, and it ends on a nicely ambiguous note of hope and resistance. It’s also very refreshing to see a story featuring two gay leads who aren’t in romantic love, and where one supports the other’s relationship. This is probably the most unconventional book in the Hill House line, and I suspect it’ll read even better now that it’s complete.

Plunge #4 – Joe Hill, Writer; Stuart Immonen, Dan McDaid, Artists; Dave Stewart, John Kalisz, Colorists

Ray – 8.5/10

Ray: Of all the Hill House books, this is probably the most traditional horror book, as a hapless crew of salvagers steps into a horror movie that’s somewhere between a zombie thriller and an alien gore-fest. The reveal of what’s lurking beneath the crew of the Derleth this issue is suitably grotesque, but their motivations are more complex than it originally seemed. Less an invasion than a cornered animal, they force the salvage crew to help them using disturbing tactics. The visuals by Stuart Immonen are fantastic, but the politics of the story aren’t subtle. Hill lays it on thick that the corporate liaison is a loathsome coward who is selling them out to the aliens, but many of the things he says—that cooperation may be their best way out—make a lot of sense. This is a fast-paced story with more scares per issue than any of the other books in the line, and its starring attraction is watching a master artist deliver classic horror.

To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.

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1 thought on “DC This Week Roundup — Black Label Special

  1. I had to say this issue was for the ones who didn’t really liked Noah as a replacement for chas (I am one of them) but spurrier proves that Noah is an amazing and good hearted character in just one issue. This issue was poetic and had very good details about its character, even the ones we see only for a page. This issue is scary, poetic and at times funny. Its everything hellblazer wants to be and should be. Another a plus story!

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