The Apocalypse

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The Wicked + the Divine #9

This issue has a lot of emphasis on Ananke, the elderly but immortal guide and guardian of the gods. She comforts 12-year-old Minerva and Baphomet, then conducts an interview with Cassandra Igarashi, Laura’s frenemy, crusading journalist, and rock-solid atheist. Ananke tells Cassandra that the gods and their incarnations on Earth created human civilization, and to make sure that future gods would have someone to guide them and show them the divine ropes, Ananke gave up her godhood and ability to inspire humanity so she could be their guide. And she reveals that it’s time for the long-awaited 12th god to appear. Who will it be?

Verdict: Thumbs up. An absolutely brilliant comic with a shocker twist and a thoroughly “Oh crap” cliffhanger. Are y’all reading this? Y’all should be reading this.

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The Multiversity: Ultra Comics #1

Well, this one is just complicated as heck.

Welcome to Earth-33, the world with no superheroes — supposedly, our Earth right here. But we’ve just created our own superhero, and his name is Ultra Comics — a conceptual hero powered by crazy science and dreamed into being by everyone. He’s somehow managed to have adventures during every age of comics. But his latest adventure in a ruined New York is a trap — and so is this comic book! Just by reading along, we, along with Ultra, are being ensnared by forces from beyond. Ultra demolishes a bunch of monster superheroes victimizing a bunch of kids. But there are other forces allied against him — cannibals, massive cosmic supermen, and the Intellectron itself. Is there any way to turn the trap around, or are we doomed to die with the Gentry eating our minds and souls?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A fantastically weird comic with heavy horror overtones. Everyone we meet in this comic is corrupted or destroyed by exposure to the Gentry — and the Fourth Wall is so thoroughly kicked down, from the cover image all the way through — so how lucky do you feel, now that the Gentry has stared into your soul?

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Wytches #5

Charlie Rooks is shocked that his wife no longer remembers that they have a daughter — and when he realizes that Officer Petal’s name is on a list of the Wytches’ servants, he manages to get the drop on him and order him to take him to where they’ve hidden Sailor. Petal leads Charlie into the woods and tells him that, thanks to the deal he’s made with the Wytches, he’s unfathomably old and almost immortal. But he shows Charlie to the entrance of their realm, and Charlie readies himself to travel into hell — he arms himself with flares and tainted bullets and covers himself in a foul-smelling substance to mask his scent. Can Charlie make his way to the Cauldron, the deepest, darkest, hottest part of the Wytches’ lair? Can he find Sailor? Can he make it out without a horde of monsters chasing him down?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Dark, claustrophobic, intense horror. We’ve got Scott Snyder’s emotional, suspenseful, gut-wrenching writing combined with Jock’s astonishing artwork. Just one issue left, and it feels like there’s so much more to tell, too…

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The Ghost in the Machine

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Batgirl #40

The villain who’s been messing with Barbara Gordon’s life has been revealed, and it’s… Barbara Gordon? It’s actually a computer program taken from Barbara’s brain algorithms soon after she’d been shot and paralyzed. The program is angry, resentful, and fueled with a Batman-esque desire for vengeance and a Joker-esque desire for mass murder. She’s controlling Riot Black with cyber implants, and she’s invited a bunch of people who she’s decided have a very slight chance of someday causing crime to Burnside Square so she can kill them all with a hacked military satellite. Can Batgirl and her allies save Burnside from destruction?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Fantastic art, fantastic story. Love the way this ties so many elements of previous stories together — not just plots, but plenty of characters make prominent appearances. Most of Barbara’s supporting cast shows up at Burnside Square, all tied by Cyber-Babs by extremely tenuous strands to possible future crimes. Batgirl’s solution is a combination of face-punching, acrobatics, and brain work — I only wish she’d been able to do her own hacking, instead of leaving it to someone else.

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Loki: Agent of Asgard #12

Old Loki has escaped and bound Teen Loki so he can tell him what the future holds — how Old Loki triumphs over everything, destroys Midgard, and humiliates Thor — so when his younger counterpart hears how it all went down, he’ll be inevitably drawn to the dark side. When everyone considers you, now and forever, no matter how much good you do, as only the God of Lies, why not just go full-on evil?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s not a bad example of how labeling someone can help force them into a path they may not want to go down. If everyone expects you to be evil, and treats you like you are evil, at some point, you’ll get frustrated and live down to everyone’s expectations.

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Squirrels in Space!

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The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #3

Squirrel Girl needs to get to the moon to stop Galactus. She has Iron Man’s armor — but that just makes Whiplash show up, and then there’s a big ol’ fight that wastes some more time. Plus there’s a bank robbery, and Doreen’s roommate Nancy has been taken hostage! Doreen takes out the bank robbers, too — using powered armor that is actually made of squirrels which is pretty much the weirdest and most awesome thing on this or any other planet. But can Squirrel Girl still make it to the moon in time? And how can a girl with squirrel powers, along with one backup squirrel, defeat the Devourer of Worlds?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Again, the squirrel armor is just gloriously audacious. And Nancy’s denunciation of “sucky Larrys” is probably the best single line in any comic this week. And for a comedy book, the beginning of Doreen’s confrontation with Galactus is appropriately epic.

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Lumberjanes #12

Trapped in a dinosaur-filled lost world with the cranky shapeshifting Bear Woman, Molly and Mal make their plans to escape — by retrieving the Bear Woman’s lost glasses! And back in the somewhat more normal world, April, Jo, and Ripley are still gunning for merit badges, finally settling on the scrapbooking badge. But they’ll have to decide whether they want to win the scrapbook competition or just make a scrapbook they can all be proud of.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I love the fact that we’ve got one storyline that’s a genuine crisis — Molly and Mal are stuck where they have to worry about dinosaur attacks and may never get home — and one that’s an absolute non-crisis — April, Jo, and Ripley want merit badges! — and they’re both treated as equally earth-shattering, and that makes both of them even funnier.

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Beyond the Pale

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Captain America and the Mighty Avengers #6

So a few months ago, Jason Quantrell, CEO of Cortex, went and got his mind obliterated and his body possessed by the Beyond Corporation, last seen in the glorious pages of Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. He turned his pet supervillainess, Quickfire, into a monster who spreads corruption to turn other people into monsters. She’s already corrupted Power Man and White Tiger, and she has no trouble at all transforming She-Hulk and Kaluu, too, leaving Captain America to fight alone. Meanwhile, Quantrell talks a bunch of nuttiness to Luke Cage and Jessica Jones before dumping them into outer space. The Blue Marvel rescues them in the nick of time, but when they mention the Beyond Corporation, Monica Rambeau loses it — she’s been told for years that the Beyond Corporation never existed and all the events of Nextwave were in her head.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Though I have my doubts that Warren Ellis is real happy with this. And Monica is getting progressively lighter-skinned — although it is good to see her back in her dreads again. But in all, it’s a good story with some nice Nextwave touches — and if we don’t see the rest of the Nextwave team, I’ll be deeply disappointed.

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Sensation Comics #8

We start out with a fantastic story written by James Tynion IV and illustrated by Noelle Stevenson, who we’ve seen most recently as the artist on Lumberjanes. Fifteen-year-old Princess Diana has sneaked away from Themyscira to see what the rest of the world is like. She meets up with a girl named Riley, who is upset because a bunch of boys are keeping her from playing Dance Dance Revolution. Diana’s sense of justice is awakened, and she decides to help Riley out. She also meets her friends and discovers ice cream and roller skating and laser tag and so much more. In the second story, Heather Nuhfer and Ryan Benjamin bring us a tale of Wonder Woman helping protect the fledgling Indian space program from the plots of Lex Luthor.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The second story is pretty nice, but holy frijoles, the first one, starring Wonder Teen, is absolutely outstanding. It might be the best — or at least the most pure fun — of any of the stories in this series, which was already filled with a lot of very enjoyable tales.

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Duck and Cover

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Howard the Duck #1

It’s been a while since we had a high-profile ongoing comic starring Howard the Duck, and we can pretty much credit it all to that one post-credits scene from “Guardians of the Galaxy.” This one is written by Chip Zdarsky and illustrated by Joe Quinones.

So we’ve got Howard, now trying to make a living as a private detective — and getting thrown into jail now and then for being unable to control his temper. He meets a new friend there, a girl named Tara Tam, a tattoo artist, and once he gets released from the slammer, he quickly gets a new client, a suspiciously wrapped-up schlub who’s looking for a necklace stolen by the Black Cat.

He heads out to pester Jennifer Walters, the She-Hulk, in her legal practice, hoping to get a moment alone with her rolodex so he can yoink Spider-Man’s contact info. Spidey is less than helpful, but as it turns out, Tara knows exactly where she lives. So after a terribly thought-out plan, they break into her place — alerting her, her goons, and the cops — and steal the necklace. And then an oversized space mook kidnaps Howard for the Collector’s space zoo. Hey, do I smell a Guardians team-up?

Verdict: Thumbs up. I wasn’t really expecting much from this one, so I was pleasantly surprised by how good the story was and how consistently funny it was all the way through the issue. It’s great to see She-Hulk and her supporting cast from her just-cancelled comic, and it’s cool to think that we may get to see more of them in this comic. Wonderful dialogue, excellent humor — some slapstick, some punning, some surreality. I approve of this comic, and I hope we get to keep enjoying it for a while.

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Captain Marvel #13

Well, Cap has gotten herself stranded in a quasi-multi-dimensional subspace pocket, and it’ll take her weeks to steer her way out, all while her cat and her friend Tic are threatened by interstellar slavers. So she has to steer her ship through some deeply unscientific hyperspeed gel to accellerate herself to safety. Can she make it out without blasting her ship to pieces? Can she save her friends in time?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nicely whacked-out space opera, complete with unlikely physics, improbable piloting and laser-shootin’, aliens galore, and witty banter with a computer. As always, lots of fun.

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Silver Surfer #10

Galactus is ready to devour the planet of Newhaven, and the Silver Surfer has been depowered and left to die in space. But wait — he was just playing possum all along! But his attacks still aren’t doing enough to harm Galactus — until the citizens of Newhaven hear how Norrin agreed to become the World-Devourer’s herald in exchange for sparing his own world — and they all volunteer for the same duty! But Galactus is uninterested — he’s already destroyed their own worlds, so he doesn’t care. But he’s never destroyed Earth, and when Dawn Greenwood volunteers, he takes her up on the offer. But the transformation is agonizing, and the Surfer can’t save her. Will anyone else make the supreme sacrifice for Dawn?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a fantastically epic story, with every character in the story, including every person on the planet, willing to sacrifice anything to stop Galactus. Mike Allred’s art is epic, Dan Slott’s writing is epic, pretty much everything in the comic is epic!

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Crackerjack Cracks

AstroCity21

Astro City #21

Crackerjack has been taken captive by a high tech criminal organization known as the Black Lab, run by a computerized villain called Gormenghast. Quarrel, along with the rest of Honor Guard, invades their undersea base, only to discover that the Black Lab has cloned Crackerjack to create a small army of soldiers. Once they’re dispatched, they find Crackerjack in the facility’s garbage dump, gravely injured. They’re able to save his life, but while he’s recovering, Quarrel goes off to meet with her father, the first Quarrel, a long retired supervillain. She also gets to try out her newly designed powered armor, designed to let her continue fighting crime as she gets older. So what does the future hold for Quarrel and Crackerjack?

Verdict: Thumbs up. This has been a great story. It’s been hard to see some of our old favorites getting older — Crackerjack has been an important supporting character in this comic almost from the very beginning — so the stoy has been a little bittersweet. But it’s interesting to hear that Samaritan thinks he can do something to keep his friends from getting older…

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Spider-Gwen #2

Spider-Woman managed to escape certain death via high-altitude plummeting, thanks to some clever spider-improvisation — but now she’s hallucinating Peter Porker, the Amazing Spider-Ham. Meanwhile, her father, Captain George Stacy, is trying to wrangle Captain Frank Castle and Detective Jean DeWolff, who are responsible to tracking down and arresting Spider-Woman. Their interview with the imprisoned Wilson Fisk goes nowhere, and his pet lawyer Matt Murdock orders the Vulture to find Spider-Woman or die.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Fun storytelling and art. It’s also great to see how all these supporting characters from the Spider-Man comics are re-imagined for this alternate universe. I also kinda like the Amazing Spider-Ham hanging out in Gwen’s subconscious. And there are some great details hidden in the background, too — did you know this world’s Felicia Hardy is leading a band called the Black Cats?

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Ms. Marvel #13

Kamala’s family are having some visitors — some old friends who moved away years ago. Her parents would sorta like to set her up with their son, Kamran, who Kamala remembers as a nose-picking little twerp. But he’s grown into an extremly good-looking overachiever — who also shares most of Kamala’s geeky interests. Kamala quickly suggests they go shopping for Bollywood DVDs, with her big brother Aamir tagging along as a chaperone. And of course, once they’re out, a supervillain shows up — an electro-blasting anarchist who calls herself Kaboom. Will Kamala be able to defeat her? Will she learn anymore valuable lessons about superheroing? And what unexpected secrets are lurking around the corner?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Fantastic story — it’s always fun to see more about Kamala’s family life. Really, the Khans are just fantastically fun people to read about. Kamran is looking like a very interesting character, too. Gotta give props to guest artist Takeshi Miyazawa, whose style is a bit more cartoony than we’re used to on this book, but still really cool.

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Ghosted #18

Jackson Winters, Oliver King, and Nina Bloodcrow have been betrayed by the ghostly Anderson, giving Markus Schrecken and the Maestro (along with the kidnapped Edzia Rusnak) enough control over the lot of them to dictate their future plans for the heist. Markus wants to enter the spirit plane and steal Death itself. But to do so, they all have to get through the ghost town Markus created — eyes shut so the ghosts won’t attack them, all while being assaulted by their worst fears. Can they run the gauntlet without losing any members of their team?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Spooky and fun, with some nicely tense moments and well-done characterization.

Today’s Cool Links:

  • Is there just something about actors who play superheroes in movies that makes them all incredibly awesome people?
  • This “Microscope” RPG — which lets players create thousands of years of history for any fictional reality — sounds very, very cool.
  • It’s a very long read, but I think you’ll be very, very interested in this true story about a luxury liner, its suspiciously dead captain, its suspicious inferno, and the secret madman who might’ve been behind it all.

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Rest in Peace, Sir Terry Pratchett

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Yesterday was tough, wasn’t it? If you’re anything like me and several million other fans of fun, geeky, glorious literature, you found out around mid-morning that Terry Pratchett, author best known for the Discworld series of novels, had died. And after that, you spent the rest of the day in a severe funk, if not going to hide somewhere so you could safely cry at work.

I don’t think I can reach any unusual heights of eloquence here. I can’t tell you any stories about him you haven’t heard. There are people who’ve actually met him and worked with him who can do that, and you should seek them out and read them, because they’re remarkably good and moving. I can’t tell you about how reading Pratchett’s novels changed my life, because I was already a sci-fi and fantasy-loving geek when I read my first Discworld novel — but there are a lot of people who had their lives transformed by his books, and you should seek them out, too, because they’re also good and even more moving.

I can tell you that I haven’t read all of Sir Terry’s books, but I’ve read a lot, and I’ve loved most of them. And though I know so very many people who love his books as much as I do, it’s also vastly frustrating how little known he seems to be outside of his fanbase. Even those who aren’t readers of horror know Stephen King; even those who aren’t readers of science fiction know Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury; even those who aren’t readers of fantasy know Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and J.K. Rowling. But Pratchett wasn’t just a funny fantasy writer — he was also one of the grandest wordsmiths on the planet — yet most of my officemates at work had never heard of him. That’s terrible, and I don’t know how to solve that.

I am, in fact, sorely tempted to go grab handfuls of my favorite Discworld books and force them on people — but my favorite books — “Small Gods,” “Reaper Man,” etc. — wouldn’t make the best introductions to the Discworld. But some of the earlier books are maybe a bit too chaotic and could turn off neophyte fans. I have no solution, and it frustrates me terribly.

Perhaps the best solution is just to keep evangelizing about how good his books are, and let those who are open to his style of humor and wonder and epic glory… discover for themselves.

I think I have to close with a line — one which has been strongly affecting me throughout the day — from one of Pratchett’s best and oddest characters: WHAT CAN THE HARVEST HOPE FOR, IF NOT FOR THE CARE OF THE REAPER MAN?

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The Terror from Beyond Space

Nameless2

Nameless #2

Nameless tries to get adjusted to visiting the moon and devising some mystic protection for a bunch of astronauts who don’t believe in magic. There’s a giant deadly asteroid on the way to destroy Earth in just one month — and if that task weren’t momentous enough, there are plenty more troubles going on. One of the personnel has been murdered — beheaded — by another astronaut who’s gone completely insane and is babbling in Enochian, the language of the angels, according to John Dee. What is the monstrous asteroid? Where — and when — did it come from? And why do the astronauts’ benefactors all mysteriously have the flu?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Wonderfully creepy horror that combines near-future sci-fi and more Lovecraftian themes. Grand art by Christ Burnham — and it’s fun to watch Grant Morrison flex his esoteric horror muscles again.

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Revival #28

Em, Tao, and Blaine have finally found Aaron Weimar, Em’s former college professor lover and the father of her possibly undead baby — unfortunately, he’s even more undead than Em is. He’s been floating upside down in a tank of contaminated water for a month or two. He doesn’t have a lot of mind left, but Em is able to use a reviver mind-meld technique to get an idea of how Aaron may have helped bring the revival to Wisconsin in the first place. Meanwhile, crazy teabagging terrorist-wannabe Edmond Holt has kidnapped Dana and is working on a scheme to cause some widespread murder and mayhem in town.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nice to see our first hints about what might’ve caused the revival in the first place, even if they’re vague and a bit hallucinatory. And as always, wonderful storytelling by Tim Seeley and Mike Norton.

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So Many Rats

RatQueens9

Rat Queens #9

After a few months of hiatus for this title, the Rat Queens are back with their new artist, Stjepan Sejic. Our story picks up from the octopoid monster-god N’rygoth’s invasion of the city. He specializes in making people who look at him get lost in their own fantasies and nightmares. Hannah gets stuck in a couple — one a nightmare about her half-breed childhood and another about sexytimes with Sawyer. By the way, Sawyer is actually being held prisoner by Gerrig, who mainly wants revenge on the entire city because his life sucks. Soon enough, the rest of the Rat Queens are together, along with plenty of their mercenary allies, including super-awesome Braga and Orc Dave and his magnificent beard. Can they fight their way through an army? Can they foil whatever plan Gerrig has put together?

Verdict: Thumbs up. So great to see all these characters together again. Love the bits about Hannah’s past, love the super-awesome fight sequences, love Sejic’s artwork. Glad to see this title back and firing on all cylinders again.

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Rat God #2

Clark Elwood continues to be a spectacularly stupid and horrible man, despite his supposed learning and sophistication. While stumbling lost in the snow, he remembers some happier times with his quasi-girlfriend Kito. After enjoying a soda with her, he later barges into her workplace, only to discover that she works as a nude model. He’s shocked and horrified, especially when Kito follows him outside, still naked, to profess her love. Back in the present, Clark is rescued by Kito’s brother, who Clark continues to treat abominably. Clark takes his car back and continues his search for Kito’s hometown, Lame Dog, a terribly decayed village where all the residents looks suspiciously like rats — and where they all advise him to leave town before dark and definitely to avoid the local cemetery. But Clark continues to treat everyone horribly and to keep jumping into conflicts he’s got no business getting into.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Wondrously wonderful artwork by Richard Corben, creepy-weird story-telling, and just an all-around bizarre horror comic. Have I mentioned what a complete douchebag Clark Elwood is? Because the man is just an absolute douchebag. He’s the protagonist I love to hate, and knowing Corben, he’ll end this miniseries at the bottom of some eldritch monstrosity’s digestive tract.

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Arrow in the Sky

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All-New Hawkeye #1

Did the previous series ever get an ending? I could’ve sworn it still had one more issue to go…

At any rate, here’s the new Hawkeye series, this time by Jeff Lemire and Ramon Perez. We get a couple criss-crossing stories — one set when Clint and Barney Barton were kids getting shuffled from one foster home to the next, amusing themselves by catching frogs and goofing off during the day and getting beaten by their abusive foster parents at night, and the other in the present as Clint and Kate Bishop are raiding a HYDRA base, fighting their way through an army of HYDRA goons, and eventually discovering something terribly unexpected.

Verdict: Thumbs up. We can’t really tell much of where we’re going with the plot yet, but the art is whooo-doggy amazing. You’ll want to pick this up for that reason alone.

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Lady Killer #2

This is a whole month old, but the local shop’s shipment of this issue were all damaged, and then Diamond never bothered to ship replacements. (Diamond is kinda a dick to the folks running my local shop.)

So here’s Josie, 1960s housewife and professional assassin. She’s been ordered to dress up as a Playboy bunny to kill her latest target, and Peck, her handler, is treating her like he thinks she’s his own personal plaything. After she eliminates the bloke in the bunny bar, Josie is ordered to a meeting with the head of the agency. He clearly doesn’t like her, partly because she’s a woman, partly because she has a family. And he gives her the next assignment — a target it’d be hard for anyone to agree to.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Wonderful ’60s style, nice action, scarier politicking than you’d expect for an espionage comic.

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Lady Killer #3

Josie learns that her resentful mother-in-law suspects her of wrongdoing, though she only thinks she’s carrying on an affair. The head of the agency thinks Josie is a liability and wants Peck to eliminate her. Meanwhile, Josie goes to take down her latest target — a 10-year-old boy whose parents had already been killed by another assassin. Can Josie bring herself to kill the kid? And is she prepared for her own employers to turn on her?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Again, a really wonderfully stylish story. Joelle Jones’ art is entirely to die for.

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