Comic Book Review: Ms. Marvel #9

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The hits just keep on coming in Ms. Marvel #9 as Kamala fights to save her school despite her failing healing factor. With her classmate still in the crosshairs of the Inventor’s giant robot, she sends Lockjaw for help, only to find herself teleported away to New Attilan by Medusa herself. Kamala’s world is about to be shaken once again in this issue from series writer G. Willow Wilson and artist Adrian Alphona, only to find there’s more to her and her new villain than meets the eye.

In Medusa’s care, Kamala learns the truth of her superhero origins. She’s not the mutant she thought she was, but instead an Inhuman whose powers were activated by Black Bolt’s Terrigen Bomb. This revelation makes Kamala feel more alone than she already did as a Pak-American mutant, throwing her alien ancestry and the uncertain future of the Inhuman people atop her growing pile of weird. Clever quips and references pepper this sequence, keeping this dramatic reveal light and in-character for the nerdy outsider Kamala. Also very true to character, she remains determined to stop the Inventor, despite the urgings of her friend Bruno and the assurances of Medusa and Vinatos, and teleports back to Jersey City with Lockjaw.

After a reconciliation with her parents, Ms. Marvel’s back on the street, staking out the Inventor’s operation. As another test subject is moved from the house to the power plant, Kamala and Lockjaw spring into action. Alphona delivers truly impressive fight, rendering this scene and the opening mecha brawl with well-paced action and incredible line work. The colorful and frenzied assault on the Inventor’s army of machines proves futile, however, as other test subjects emerge from the house to tell her that they’re all volunteers. The very people she came to save are there by choice, blowing a hole in her rescue mission as the issue draws to an unexpected close.

What I appreciate most about this title is Wilson’s commitment to Kamala’s growth, and this issue is no exception. Every storyline throws new obstacles her way, new challenges to overcome a she finds her footing as a hero. She makes many mistakes along the way, but is always given the chance to learn from them, while a less conscientious writer would try to mitigate her failures or brush them aside. This why Kamala feels like the most organic and relatable young hero that I’ve encountered in a very long time, and Wilson keeps this tale of growing pains fresh issue after issue through the sheer strength of her storytelling chops. Combined with Alphona’s incredible line work and Herring’s soft, dreamy color palettes, Ms. Marvel #9 is another great issue from an amazing creative team.

Comic Book Review: New Avenger #25

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Taking place after the events of Avengers #35 and New Avengers #24 respectively, New Avengers #25 shifts its focus away from Namor, Doom and the Cabal to explore the bleak reality of the remaining Illuminati. Driven into hiding by S.H.I.E.L.D. and a newly militarized Sue Richards, what remains of the Illuminati are now on the run from the Avengers. The unseen months counting down to the revelations of Hickman’s concurrent Time Runs Out storyline have taken a stark toll, these haggard shadows of once great men now searching for their comrades amid ruin and chaos.

Bolstered by the revelations of last issue, New Avengers #25 continues its dramatic new upswing, teasing out the threads of a world gone wrong as its heroes scrabble to save it. With the Illuminati seeking refuge in an underground city, Hickman finally catches up the activities of the splintered team. Black Bolt, Iron Man, and Doctor Strange are gone, and Black Panther is defending Wakanda against the Cabal. A weary Reed Richards steps up to lead Beast, Hulk, and Captain Britain in the face of capture, destruction, or both. The sense of dread is palpable as Hickman takes care to shed some light on the events that brought us here without giving anything away. To his credit, the slow burn pace works and works well, keeping the reader engaged throughout this quiet, dialogue-driven the script.

Recent team addition Amadeus Cho make for some interesting moments throughout the issue. His propensity for bombastic, well-crafted monologues inject some brief moments of levity into the story as the team listens in on his S.H.I.E.L.D. interrogation, carried out by Susan. This most evocative sequences in recent issues, as Reed silently watches this unassailable version of his estranged wife throw Amadeus into the two-way mirror with a chilly refrain. Susan has become such an intriguing character during the months since her husband’s disappearance, and this sequence brings the escalating conflict in the Richards family home like a gut punch.

Stepping in after Valerio Schiti’s fantastic efforts last issue, artist Kev Walker does his best to meet the tone set by Hickman’s grim script. In previous issues Walker’s artwork has looked rushed or flat, but this time around his figure work is far more successful. His development of panel space shows greater attention to detail, and overall his facial anatomy is more consistent and expressive throughout. The interrogation sequence was some of his best work on the book to date, and I truly do love the way he draws Amadeus. Despite these marked improvements, Walker’s work still doesn’t quite jive with the tone of the book, creating some mild dissonance between art and script. Colorists Martin and Curiel mitigate do this to some extent. By adhering to the same deep blues and contrasting reds, only to be disrupted by the purple palettes associated with Black Panther’s storyline, this reinforcement of the book’s color-coded aesthetic helps to bring visual harmony to the issue.

However, visual bumps and bruises aside, the sheer strength of the storyline makes New Avengers #25 an engaging and impactful read.

Comic Book Review: Storm #4

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The much-anticipated Death of Wolverine event has drawn to its inevitable conclusion, and the Marvel Universe is now reeling in the aftermath. As the various trees of the extensive X-family deal with the loss, so too is Ororo Munroe in Storm #4, mourning the loss of her partner. To their credit series writer Pak and artist Ibanez certainly deliver the story with appropriate emotional weight, marking this crucial turning point in Ororo’s personal journey through the conscientious craftsmanship readers have come to expect of this series. Even for the strengths of Storm #4, the issue does have a few soft spots.

Without Logan, Ororo is lost, and understandably so. As someone who hasn’t kept up with Death of Wolverine, let alone much of Ororo and Logan’s relationship in recent X-Men canon, Pak puts Ororo on rollercoaster that resonates with readers even like myself. While she has grown much in recent issues, her grieving process is a messy and complicated one; with the full destructive force of her powers threatening those around her, she must find a way to deal with her loss without hurting anyone else. This forces her to fly into the planet’s atmosphere and release her grief in an aurora borealis, a gesture of remembrance that carefully avoids maudlin sentimentality but for the strength of Pak’s scripting.

Artist Ibanez and colorist Redmond really make the most of this sequence, as well as the following flashback page as Ororo returns to Logan’s office for a moment to herself. The strength of Ibanez’s figure work in this series is striking, and this issue is no exception. His Ororo is as powerful as she is dignified, from the sweep of her mohawk to the lines of her body in flight, and Redmond’s color palettes are a beautiful complement to that.

Ororo isn’t allowed to grieve for long, as a call from Yukio puts her in Las Vegas to give Yukio the news. There Ororo finds herself in the midst of an international underground fight ring run by Yukio and a costume-clad group of ne’er-do-wells, where professional killers and mercenaries battle to stave off international gang violence. Logan turns out to have had a hand in the operation at some point before his death, although Ororo had no idea of this. Enraged by such violence, she intervenes in a dramatic show of power, upsetting the peace among the feuding clans and causing trouble for Yukio.

It’s this part of the issue that reads as a bit of a misstep. The bombshell of Logan and Yukio helping to set up the fight ring to broker peace among the clans is an intriguing one, but it feels too soon for such a revelation. That’s the problem with folding a series so new into big events, as Ororo’s slowly developing story transitions abruptly to take on such an overshadowing arc as Wolverine’s death. I appreciate the effort to tie her story into larger canon, but unfortunately it reads as a little rushed. Beyond that, Ororo’s rash response doesn’t quite jive with her passive acceptance of the situation as Yukio led her into the meeting of the clans. Especially given the bloody alternative Yukio is trying to avoid, Ororo’s hasty actions seem a bit premature, even in her fragile state.

This is certainly a plot worth developing, but it just feels a bit rushed as it stands, tacked onto an otherwise moving story. I trust Pak to further explore these actions as a response to Logan’s death, adding another dimension to Ororo’s personal arc, and hopefully shedding some light on a somewhat muddy plot twist. Even for it, Storm #4 is a solid read, and another example of this creative team’s overall strengths.

Comic Book Review: Sex Criminals #8

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Life is strange. Relationships can be even stranger. Enter Robert Rainbow, Suzie’s new gynecologist. While Robert’s story of awkward sexual awakenings isn’t nearly as colorful as that of our protagonists, he certainly has a story to tell. This story just happens to coincide with Jon’s, having been friends as kids until Robert turned his back on him during one of those awkward teenaged lows. And that’s where things get complicated in Sex Criminals #8.

Having put the brakes on her relationship with Jon, Suzie’s still unpacking the strangeness of her life. As she tries to justify their breakup for the reader, she goes to her gynecologist for new birth control. This is where she meets Robert. Good-looking, funny and put-together, Robert presents a far more stable alternative to Jon, who is currently between therapists and screaming obscenities in mall food courts. Suzie’s not shopping, as she assures the reader, but she can still look.

This sequence, while off-putting in the abstract, shows how far a conscientious script can go in the hands of a capable artist. The ensuing tableau of birth control methods, explained by an increasingly sexy fantasy-Robert, is certainly one of the most memorable (and informative) moments of the issue. Visual gags such as these, balanced with the clinical awkwardness of being at the gynecologist, bring a sense of realism and empathy to Suzie, no matter how cringe-worthy the scenario.

Despite the awkwardness of trying to pick up your gynecologist, Suzie asks Robert out. True to the exponential weirdness of her life thus far, their innocent coffee date takes a turn for the potentially disastrous when Jon and Robert run into each other. Here we discover Robert’s awkward origins, his relationship with Jon, and what’s become of Jon since Suzie left him.

Still reeling from the breakup, Jon hasn’t been faring well on his own. All his other issues now compounded by guilt and abandonment, he turns to his therapist for answers. Realizing his therapist is a hack, however, he bails, soon finding himself screaming in the mall food court in the search for catharsis. Instead of being removed by security, Jon finds himself drawn into a conversation with another therapist on his lunch break. Their darkly amusing exchange is equally insightful, and like the rest of Jon’s downward spiral, pulls no punches about the nature of emotional problems. Soon Jon takes the therapist’s advice to go running for ten days and clear his head, which is where he runs into Suzie and Robert.

It’s a strange narrative transition from character to character, their respective captions occupying the same panels, but Fraction and Zdarsky pull it off. And while this encounter looks to lead to a confrontation, this strange intersection of character threads brings a moment of clarity. Jon and Robert bury the hatchet; soon the tensions in Jon and Suzie’s relationship dissipate and they are all happy, even for that fleeting moment. Such strange and raw moments of genuine human connection continue to ground the characters of this book in something relatable, making for one of my favorite sequences of the series so far. As they walk down the street, however, Suzie finds the library being torn by a wrecking crew, and this little bubble of happiness is well and truly burst.

Sad, funny, and loaded with secondhand embarrassment, Fraction and Zdarsky kill it once again in Sex Criminals #8.

Comic Book Review: Captain Marvel #8

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Carol’s deep space misadventure continues in Release the Flerken, Part Two, from series writer DeConnick and artist Marcio Takara. The alien threat bombarding Carol, Rocket and Tic takes a potentially deadly turn as Chewie’s horde of Flerken young emerge from their eggs, spurring the wrath of the creature outside. This comical arc provides a nice segue into Carol’s next arc, requiring everything the unlikely band of heroes and stowaways has to defeat the alien menace. With its breezy and action-heavy plot, DeConnick also provides several timely laughs along the way, making for a lovable adventure from start to finish.

Chewie’s secret identity as the last Flerken now out, Carol and Rocket must put their disagreements aside to save the ship. Tic rounds up the kittens for safe-keeping while Carol goes out to deal with the alien herself, leaving Rocket and Chewie to hold off the advancing tendrils that have pierced the hull. Takara’s rendering of the alien as an amorphous, inky black monster makes for some lovely panels throughout, infusing the action with elements of horror storytelling that successfully echo movies like Alien and The Thing.

The well-paced issue keeps the action and humor rolling at a good clip all the way to the end, thanks to the strength of this formidable creative team. While Carol is outside punching the alien into submission, it’s the combined effort of the cast that wins in the end. Tic and Carol do the heavy lifting, but inside Chewie eats the alien, saving day as well as her reputation, and earning Rocket’s immediate respect. This resolution is not only adorable, but also one of the funniest moments in the book.

Carol departs Rocket’s surly company and plans to leave Tic, Chewie, and the Flerken brood at a refugee relocation center, resigned to making her trip back to Earth alone. Tic and Chewie won’t let that happen, of course, and use Chewie’s (somewhat gross) teleportation ability to transport themselves aboard Carol’s ship. Despite the ills that have befallen them, this makeshift alien family sets their course for the next adventure. With equal measures of heart and humor, Captain Marvel #8 is another great read from the first page to the last.

Comic Book Review: Wytches #1

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Just in time for Halloween, Scott Snyder and Jock team up for Wytches #1. With an intriguing set-up and a wealth of memorable imagery, this supernatural thrill strives to freshen up familiar witch tropes through strong characterizations and impressive the work of artist Jock and colorist Matt Hollingsworth respectively. Snyder offers an interesting protagonist in Sailor Rook, a teenaged girl whose family has moved to a small town to escape a horrific encounter with her now missing bully, Annie. This title has a lot going for it, but some of its soft spots do diminish its overall effectiveness.

The issue sets the tone with a horrific opening sequence set in 1918. A woman with her nose cut off is trapped inside a tree, screaming from a hole at her young son for help. Instead the boy picks up a rock and beats his mother’s face, sealing her fate as hands reach out from within the tree to drag her further inside. Fast forward to 2014 and the Rook family is moving into a new house and a new town, looking for a fresh start after their daughter’s attack. However, as strange events begin to plague the family, it’s clear that they can never run far enough to escape the truth.

While her concerned parents trying to help her cope, Sailor is still reeling from the trauma that forced the family to move. As she tries to navigate life at school, she finds herself alone against the accusations that she killed her previous bully. Flashbacks provide the background on Annie, whose unfettered and thinly conceived aggression towards Sailor (explaining only that Sailor’s mere birth was all it took to set the other girl off) culminates in a violent encounter in the woods. Leading Sailor by gunpoint, Annie tries to sexually assault Sailor with a knife and record the act to humiliate her with later. She is only stopped when arms reach out from a nearby tree to grab Annie, pulling her into the hole in a spray of blood. The story comes full circle as Annie later returns from the tree to torment Sailor, ending the issue on a cliffhanger that raises even more questions about the forces at work here.

An overall solid read, the real strength of the book comes from the Rook family themselves, Sailor and her parents Charlie and Lucy. Their chemistry is organic, endearing, and sometimes a little quirky. Snyder has taken special care to craft a real sense of love and history into these characters in only one issue, and it pays off. Often the tender sequences between Sailor and Charlie steal the show more than the scares do, brought to the page by Jock through truly affective figure work and thoughtful attention to detail. The supernatural elements of the story are given equal merit, of course, and carry substantial weight. From the thick, scratchy immediacy of Jock’s lines, to Hollingsworth’s use of muted palettes and grungy textures to build up space and tone, the scares are cleverly paced throughout as to create a meaningful sense of dread.

Despite these highlights, the issue suffers from some confusion due to the disjointedness of the Rook’s storyline. Where did they come from? Where did they move to? How far did they have to move to escape the stigma of Annie’s disappearance, only to have every kid at Sailor’s school know immediately who she was? As for Annie herself, her generic motivation and stiff dialogue does little to develop her beyond the sexual violence she means to inflict upon Sailor. Her return at the end of the issue is suitably creepy, but with its abrupt cliffhanger, doesn’t even have the same effect of the brutal opening sequence. Perhaps these issues will be dealt with in coming months, but overall Wytches #1 is still an intriguing jaunt into the horror genre.

Comic Book Review: Dragon Slayer #1 by Devin Kraft

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DRAGONSLAYER1As some readers might recall, back in March I did an interview with Texas-based comic artist and illustrator Devin Kraft about his ongoing original project Dragon Slayer. This is a hunting epic that blends science fiction and fantasy with a mash-up of Eastern fables and Western fiction. On the heels of the book’s recent success on Kickstarter, I’ve had the opportunity to read the first volume of Kraft’s indie series in its entirety. Written and illustrated by Kraft, with colors by the artists of Space Gun Studios, it follows the journeys of protagonists King Aldebrand and El Diel, two very different hunters whose paths cross on a bloody journey of revenge, following the dragon that sent them down this fatal road. If you’re looking for an interesting adventure comic, or you’re just on the lookout for a fresh indie book, stick around for my review of Dragon Slayer.

I intended for this review to be posted over the summer, in time to coincide with the issue’s release. Unfortunately various things kept it tied up, much to my chagrin. Here it is, the review I promise, better late than never.

The story is a fairly straightforward one: King Aldebrand of Bel Brixus is a just ruler, but the kingdom’s long-standing peacetime has made him restless. Instead of conquering other lands and defending his city, he’s turned his attention to hunting, tracking and killing ever greater beasts. When a dragon ravages Bel Brixus, Aldebrand sets out to slay the beast himself, leaving his army behind as the city tries to rebuild. Angered by the king’s foolishness, the animal tracker El follows Aldebrand to kill him, seeking revenge for the loved ones lost to the dragon’s attack. Neither of them is truly prepared for the journey that awaits beyond the city’s walls, or the kind of cunning beasts they will meet along the way. All of these beasts, be they ghost-women in the icy mountains or intelligent bears, pose intriguing questions about the nature of the protagonists’ journeys and the overlap of man’s world with a far more mystic one.

DRAGONSLAYER2Inspired by manga artists Otomo Katsuhiro and Terada Katsuya as well as the work of Western comics artists Moebius and Geoff Darrow, this book wears its influences on its sleeve, but in a good way. Kraft’s world is a visually pleasing blend of past and future, the dreamlike and the tangible. In Dragon Slayer dragons roam the skies and humans in tribal-inspired masks communicate with the animals that dominate the natural world beyond mankind’s cities. He makes good use of the Eastern aesthetic, drawing on manga traditions to develop a world that reads as timeless and otherworldly. While the page designs are simple throughout, the panel compositions become better developed toward the middle of the book, making for a more engaging read as the story progresses.

Moving through the book, I came to appreciate the rhythm of Kraft’s style. There is a truly expressive sense of motion in the gesture of his lines, a palpable energy in swaying blades of grass or the curl of steam coming off a bowl of noodles. Even architectural elements feel like they are barely tethered to the scene, as though the mountains themselves may float way if given the chance. This lightness is wonderfully captured by the colors of Matthew Warlick and Jake Ekiss of Space Gun Studios, developing Kraft’s world through dynamic palette choices and the soft, delicate glow of ghostly eyes and light sources.

Even with such a small budget and production team, Dragon Slayer is a visually impressive book from start to finish. Kraft builds on strong graphic foundations to deliver a fun reading experience, steeped in adventure and exciting imagery. I look forward to seeing more of this project, and this creative team, in the near future. You can pick up a copy of this and Kraft’s other works here at his Etsy page.

Comic Book Review: Moon Knight #8

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When a high-stakes rescue mission goes awry, the night’s greatest detective finds himself in the target of an elaborate set-up in Moon Knight #8. Terrorists have taken hostages atop One World Trade Center and all eyes are on Detective Flint of the NYPD, who sends his best man to monitor the situation. But as Moon Knight scales the tower to make his way inside, who is Flint talking to? Marc Spector? Jack Lockley? Mr. Grant? And just what do these different personalities want, as this dramatic case reaches its bloody end on TV and phone screens across the city?

Told from the viewpoints of numerous cameras, artist Smallwood brings Moon Knight’s rescue mission to the page in the form of screens. Every panel represents different mediums of communication, from security feeds to smart phone videos, live news footage to Spector’s own network of scarab drones. This novel use of page and panel design is not only an example of Wood and Smallwood’s investigation of graphic narrative, but it also raises intriguing questions about the nature of surveillance in the 21st century.

Does the constant scrutiny and observation of the digital age make modern life any less dangerous? Are masked vigilantes, the supposed heroes of the Marvel Universe, subject to the same surveillance as the average civilian? Does seeing the gritty, violent details of vigilantism change our perspective of it? This issue offers no answers, only questions, making the most of its visual conceit for twenty-two pages and drawing the reader into its engrossing world of images. Colorist Bellaire cleverly layers film grain, texture and the distorted palettes of low-quality footage to affect a truly immersive reading experience.

As Spector becomes more and more unpredictable, asking to be addressed by the names of his other identities, it becomes clear that he’s not the only man on the case. This is one of the most intriguing aspects of the issue. With each action and costume change comes a different personality with a specific goal, as Wood examines the real depths of Spector’s erratic mental state to show each identity at work. In the end it’s this instability that does him in, asking for Flint to reach out to his psychiatrist, the same psychiatrist whose revenge scheme he foiled in the last issue. As one of Spector’s alternate personalities kills the terrorist on camera, his psychiatrist warns the police of the threat he poses to himself and others, turning the attention of law enforcement on Moon Knight himself.

Full of intriguing questions, Moon Knight #8 teases the reader with something more than a simple done-in-one caper. Something strange is indeed brewing in New York City, opening up to a possible new arc as Spector must deal with the consequences of this betrayal. Just how this plays out remains to be seen, but I have ample reason to put my faith in this dynamic creative team.

Comic Book Review: Black Widow #11

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Natasha’s search for Isaiah brings her and X-23 to Macau, where the always duplicitous Tori Raven fills them in on the kidnapping plot. Rashid and his henchmen await in the penthouse suite of the casino where the issue opens, in true spy genre fashion, as Natasha and Laura battle their way to the top floor. If it’s action, intrigue and exotic locales you’re after, Edmondson and Noto deliver the goods in Black Widow #11.

The kidnapping plot deepens in this issue as Rashid and Tori make their respective returns, teasing information about Chaos, the nefarious group behind Natasha’s recent troubles. As always, there’s more to this rescue mission than meets the eye, with Natasha, Isaiah, and the other players serving as cogs in the larger machinations of the overall arc. Edmondson successfully ties up this leg of the story with Isaiah’s daring rescue and leaves the future shrouded in appropriate mystery, through well-crafted exchanges and ample foreshadowing. This issue offers a satisfying conclusion to Natasha’s present predicament, with plenty of action and adventure to show for it, but closes with the promise of more intrigue as Tori is revealed as an operative of Chaos.

Black Widow #11 has a lot going for it. Natasha and Laura prove a very formidable team as they cut through waves of henchmen, carried by their fun and engaging dynamic. Laura is the muscle with anger management problems and Natasha is the brains behind the operation, and their styles and personalities complement each other well. Such a team-up in the hands of a less conscientious writer would be cheesy, but the strength of Edmondson’s characterizations and dialogue make for some great chemistry throughout. Isaiah is even given the opportunity to pull his weight, and I hope to see him take a more active role in this arc moving forward.

The action-heavy issue is impeccably paced, with gorgeous action compliments of Noto, moving from sequence to sequence with a great sense of energy and momentum. Not only is Noto’s artwork is as beautiful as ever, but so is the rest of the production, continuing to prove just how in-synch this creative team really is. The synergy between script, art and lettering never fails to impress, with every panel and dialogue bubble working together to keep the story moving at an exciting pace.

Comic Book Review: C.O.W.L. #5

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After the riot at the C.O.W.L. picket-line, Geoffrey Warner’s feud with Mayor Daley takes a grim turn in C.O.W.L. #5. The strike falls apart as supporting unions flee Warner’s sinking ship, and with no one else in the chief’s corner, desperate times call for desperate measures. This issue will likely be a polarizing one for readers of this compelling reimagining of cape book fare, as these heroes are forced to cross lines that no amount of genre convention can sweep under the rug. Writers Higgins and Siegel promised to take this series in an intriguing new direction, and while some of the twists were foreseeable, they’ve certainly lived up to their word.

As the fallout of the riot at City Hall reverberates across Chicago, Warner is working every angle he can to maintain power in his political play against Daley.  The police, teachers, and other labor unions pull their support and leave Warner alone in the fight. Meanwhile, Pierce reaches out to Hadyn, tapped to be the face of C.O.W.L. in an effort to win back public favor. Pierce plans to turn all his findings on the weapons leak to the CPD and bring Warner down, and Hadyn finds himself caught between the opposing plans of the chief and the detective.

One of the strengths of this issue, and the series in general, is the complexity of the characters. In only five issues we haven’t had much time with this cast, but Hggins and Siegel have managed to make an interesting antagonist of Warner. Despite his corruption, he seems to operate from a world-weary sense of good and evil, one that is perpetuated by the corrupt power systems at work around him. This makes for a fascinating confrontation between Warner and Hadyn, as Warner reaches out to Hadyn’s sense of duty, however diluted it may be by excess and self-preservation. Hadyn’s motivations are unfortunately a bit hazy at this point, which raises some irksome questions as the issue draws to a close.

In the end, however, just as Pierce is about to break the entire scandal, Hadyn’s allegiances to Warner win out. He murders Pierce in an alleyway and takes the evidence file, closing the door on Pierce’s case but opening another as the ramifications of Pierce’s death loom. In the closing pages, Warner meets with Camden and proposes a deal with the mob to put costumed aggressors back on the streets of Chicago. With villains to fight, the heroes must return, and C.O.W.L. will live on. The cycle of good and evil will sustain itself once more, just as Warner needs it to.

While the scripting from Higgins and Siegel is excellent, artist Reis brings the gritty world of C.O.W.L. to the page with impeccable line work and smart design decisions. Moody color palettes and soft, gestural painting add subtle variance and emotional weight to these sequences, which are distinctively color-coded as the story progresses. The blues and indigos of the post-riot street scene give way to the clean grays and lighting effects of Warren’s following meeting. These scenes, as well as the consistently gloomier ones that follow, are broken up by the bright yellow hues and halftone textures of Pierce’s conversation with Hadyn. This makes for a diverse but overall cohesive reading experience, memorable from the first page to the last.