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Reign of the Supermen…26 Years From Page to Screen

Last week–maybe the week before as well (but this last week for sure) I was greeted with a pleasant surprise in an ad. Most advertising is frustrating, deceptive, or otherwise just bugs the sheer heck outta me. This was one of THE BEST ads I can think of in a number of YEARS.

superman_double_feature_fathom_events_january2019

See…THIS ad prompted me to ACTION. It informed me of this two-day event. Reminded me that this was happening, as I believe I’d seen SOMEthing about it some time back. And it was well-timed, being the Wednesday before the event–providing me with several days to consider and make plans and actually attend the event!

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The Death of Superman came out last July or so, and I enjoyed it overall. It was certainly far superior to 2007’s Superman: Doomsday (which I still hold as primarily worthwhile for its retrospective documentary on the actual comics event).

This "do-over" was good, catching a number of good points from the original comics…while updating, modifying, and adjusting stuff in such a way as to fit it–essentially–into the New 52 continuity, as the last few years of these DC Universe Movie features have been–some based directly on those comics, others drawing inspiration from, and so on.

For me, probably the most stand-out thing about this The Death of Superman was the way it pulled off addressing Lex Luthor as he’s generally been known, and yet the Luthor at the time in the comics was vastly different. I remember that moment in here leaving me chuckling–like "Alright, I was wondering, and that’s good, I like that, that’s awesome!"

In its Return of the King style multiple "epilogues," it also drew from what I feel is one of THE absolute KEY moments of Funeral for a Friend/World Without a Superman, the heart of that story, and in some ways maybe the entire reason one could do this sort of story. It gives us a voiceover of Bibbo praying, talking to God, asking how it is that He would take Superman…while a washed up old roughneck like him goes on living. It was a scene in the comics that made me cry in 1993, it’s a scene that has brought tears to my eyes multiple times since in re-reading the comics, and darned if it didn’t have my eyes wet in the theater the other day!

[SPOILER WARNING! I’m gonna get into spoilers below with Reign of the Supermen!]

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The biggest draw here for ME, of this double-feature, though, was Reign of the Supermen. Not only the chance to see these on "the big screen," but the fact that it was a chance to see this one a couple days BEFORE the "digital-only" "window" that I so thoroughly DESPISE that has been such a trend lately/for years.

I’m still trying to decide what I think of this one, and perhaps as I’m typing this I’ll better settle it out.

————— [Again, spoiler warning! Stop reading if you care about knowing nothing really about it going into Reign of the Supermen!] —————

Something that really stood out to me quite a bit was the way that the Justice League was involved, as well as the very presence AT ALL of Darkseid.That more than even just the costumes rooted this as a sort of New 52 version of The Death and Return of Superman stuff.

It worked–having Doomsday be a weapon of Darkseid, and Darkseid having been behind Hank Henshaw, and all that. In context of Darkseid being THE big Justice League foe of the New 52 and all that; being the driving force of the "origin" of the League, etc.

But it also turned this into a Justice League story in which Superman had died…rather than being fully at its heart a Superman story.

While I can "appreciate" certain stuff with Darkseid and even like certain visual interpretations…on the whole I just do not care for the character and find the character to be vastly over-used and uninteresting.

We still had key moments adapted into the film. Steel still had a momentary subplot with weapons; Superboy hitting on women; the "visored Superman" still used deadly force; the Cyborg still saved the president and was recognized as the real, one, true Superman; and so on. Scenes had some clever nods to comic covers in montage mode that I really liked. To "just anyone" it was a montage; someone like me that read the individual comics each week as the story originally unfolded across much of 1993, it was an excellent way to acknowledge the original comics without being hung up on them and their story.

While Superman, the Supermen were a primary driving force…I just strongly feel that this could have been just as easily Justice League: Invasion II or some such.

In the end, though, I enjoyed this, especially as I decided that for me at least it’s simply the New 52 version of the death and return story, updated and adapted for the New 52 such that it fit the altered continuity and such, while keeping many of the moments from the comics that were important and informative of the characters. Unfortunately, the biggest disservice was probably done to the Eradicator, with virtually no real character exploration nor explanation. (Why the visor??? The visor wasn’t even really acknowledged! except his being "the visored" Superman)


I’ve missed at least a couple other Fathom Events presentations of DC Universe movies. I’d been very interested in and planning on going to see the Batman: The Killing Joke back in 2016, but was laid off days before and still in a bit of "shock" over the whole situation, and didn’t go. And I’m pretty certain there was at least one other "premiere" in theaters in 2017 and/or 2018.

But it feels "fitting" to see these…and all the better a value for having both together. I think the listing I saw indicated the combined thing was 2 hours 45 minutes or so–which makes for a "longer movie," with an individual 70-74 minute animated feature "short" and a "full length" film running closer to 120 minutes. But unlike most of these "longer movies" in theaters, having these as two movies but back to back…there was a whopping 5-minute "intermission," which was more than enough time to go to the restroom and grab a quick drink. I certainly wish more films would be a bit longer BUT (such as on a cliffhanger) have a brief intermission for using the restroom and such.

I despise this "digital window" on movies. I have never ONCE decided to blow $20 on a digital-only film JUST to have it 2 weeks before it would be available on physical media. It just pisses me off. If "digital" were a completely separate thing and there were NEVER "DVD + Digital" or "Blu-Ray + Digital" or "Blu-Ray + DVD + Digital" combo packs, that’d be a different thing. I refuse to "convert" to digital-ONLY when it’s basically the same price to get the physical media WITH a digital code. (Or for $2-3 difference–cheaper than a single issue of a comic book–it’s negligible for a huge benefit/convenience!)

Even having bought and watched The Death of Superman last year, and even just having seen Reign of the Supermen in the theater…I’ll still be buying the latter in a couple weeks when it’s available.

If you’ve bought/watched The Death of Superman this is a solid continuation. And even if you’re not really a Superman fan but dig Batman and the rest of the Justice League, this is also very much a Justice League thing, and fits with the other recent Justice League animated features, references the Teen Titans, and generally works in that continuity.

It’s taken 26 years…from the original comics to this animated (double) feature. I’m glad to be able to have ’em, all the more as they make a 25+ year old story "new" and "current" again for an entirely new generation!

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Zero Hour Revisited – Outsiders #11

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outsiders_0011Final Blood II

Writer: Mike W. Barr
Penciller: Paul Pelletier
Inker: Robert Campanella
Colorist: Stuart Chalfetz
Letterer: Kevin Cunningham
Asst. Editor: Eddie Berganza
Editor: Kevin Dooley
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.95

This incarnation of the Outsiders is one I’ve long been aware of, but really never read. It came to my attention back in the day thanks to the use of the Eradicator character–moving from the Superman books, I was at least "interested" in the title, though it was not one I ever got around to acquiring during its actual publication. If this isn’t my first issue reading, it’s at least the first I can consciously recall reading…and though I know OF several of the characters, recognize them at least in name if not by appearances elsewhere over the years…I just felt lost.

This issue basically sees the outsiders fighting vampires (or werewolves? But I think they’re supposed to be vampires), and arguing amongst themselves as the fighting and such happens. Even when the team would seem to have emerged victorious, there are breaks between characters, and outcomes from recent events I have not read that play into their relationships and the team dynamic, leaving the team quite splintered. Most disappointingly, the only actual tie that I noticed to Zero Hour (on the single "casual"/"reading for the experience as with every other issue of this project" read-through) is that two characters who appear in this issue also appear in Zero Hour.

That this issue carries that Zero Hour banner is very disappointing as such, and I’m not at all thrilled at the virtual "deception," as I did not enjoy the characters, the story, nor get anything "new" for Zero Hour. There was a throw-away line by Katana in Zero Hour #4 that I suppose references what happened here, but it was just that–trivial and throw-away.

I suppose the art works for the title, but I was so thoroughly out of the loop reading the issue that I hardly noticed it. When I hardly have a clue who’s who or what’s going on, I don’t much care how anyone looks. They could all be alternate timeline doppelgangers of one another for all I know.

All that said…while I appreciate that this issue probably made some sense in context of reading the earlier issues leading to this…I’m highly disappointed to have taken the time to read it as a Zero Hour tie-in when it doesn’t do a thing for the Event story.

Definitely an issue to pass on if reading stuff to get the "full" Zero Hour experience, I’d say!

Superman (2016) #2 [Review]

superman(2016)_0002Son of Superman Part Two

Storytellers: Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
Inker: Mick Gray
Colorist: John Kalisz
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Cover: Gleason, Gray, Kalisz
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: Early September 2016
Cover Price: $2.99

In a way, there’s not much to this issue. At least, in a simple way of looking at it, there are just several main things. First, Jon accompanies Clark–Superman–on a mission, to save an icebreaker. While Jon proves reluctant, he is shown–“live”–his father in action AS Superman. We also see that Clark is aware of what happened with the cat, and Jon confesses. They head home to allow Lois in on that. While Lois and Clark discuss the outing, Jon is joined by the neighbor girl, and they discuss things sitting in a tree before the branch they’re on breaks. She and her grandfather soon arrive at the Smiths’ door, where the adults’ meeting isn’t the greatest. Meanwhile, a Kryptonian energy signature is detected in Antarctica, drawing the attention of an entity not seen in quite awhile.

[Spoiler warning for further into the review]

I’m pretty sure I’ve had an issue with Gleason‘s art in the past. Assuming so, I feel like that’s made up for here. The style is not 100% to my preference…but it’s growing on me. Perhaps it’s not even the art, but the designs–elements such as the more familiar version of the “S” in the S-shield, or that Jon and the neighbors are new characters, or that I’m flat-out simply enjoying the Rebirth stuff in general so far. The art in general carries a sort of simplicity that is working well for me, as well as conveying the story in general. There’s plenty of other art stuff in that–especially the colors, that I’m liking. I never minded “the trunks” in Superman’s costume, but I’m appreciating this new look that kinda blends the classic with the new.

Story-wise, I’m really enjoying Superman as a father. Not just a father-FIGURE (we can go back 8 or 9 years to the stuff with Chris Kent for that) but an actual father…an older Superman (old ER, not “old”), with a 10-year-old son.

We’re still in early issues of this status quo…less than a year including the Lois and Clark series, and even including the Convergence issues. And this is “only” the 2nd issue of THIS series…and it feels like it. We’re getting development that feels natural and authentic (if a BIT quick), and as the STORY title indicates, the focus is on the SON of Superman…essentially, we’re seeing Superman in his own book as his son transitions from “kid who discovered he’s heat-resistant” to being active “out there” with the “S.” And we know that’s coming, in the Super-Sons book that’ll pair Jon with Damian (Robin), so Jon has to go from some kid who learns he can reach through fire to someone who can keep up with–and perhaps keep in line–Damian.

[Spoiler warning for further into the review]

Earlier in the issue, I wondered at what it was that was homing in on Clark, on the Kryptonian energy–and had my suspicion as to what it could be. Namely, that it would be interesting if it was a new version of a certain Kryptonian artifact…even though Clark did not have one in his fortress, nor did this Earth’s Superman in his (as discussed in the Superman: Rebirth issue). Seeing my suspicion borne out on the last page–and the LOOK of that last page–just made me smile.

[Final Spoiler warning for just below this line]

I love seeing the visored figure…and we’re presumably back to it being just what it looks like. I’ve–since 1993–always enjoyed stuff with the character, though didn’t care as much for what they did with it for and after the Imperiex stuff with Our Worlds at War in 2001…but any time you involve this character or the three contemporaries, I’m generally a sucker for it. I’d been used to the Eradicator’s later appearance…but seeing it back in this form is a real treat, and leaves me totally chomping at the bit for the next issue.

That an issue did that–it’s a great sign. I didn’t just passively “not dislike” this issue…I truly ENJOYED it. And seeing the last page as I did…reminds me how much I’ve missed in the Superman books, for years–aside from an all-too-brief blip, it’s been close to a decade.

Obviously at “only” #2, at “only” a chapter of the first arc that’ll be inevitably collected into a graphic novel/thicker format, I won’t say jump in on this issue. But I dare say that THIS is the title for lapsed Superman fans, those who were reading 10, 15, 20 years ago…even as it paves the way with a new character (Jon) from the new, dealing with events and a world born of the New 52, in which that Superman did exist, did live, did do the Super-thing.

I definitely recommend this title, and this issue just serves to solidify my being glad to be “back.” Anecdotally backing that–I have the issue pre-ordered as part of a “bundle,” but rather than wait for the end of the month, this copy that I read is a “duplicate” copy that I bought, at full price, just because I want to read new Superman stuff–that I’m enjoying–every week. (This being biweekly, alternating with Action Comics–which I’m also thoroughly enjoying–makes for a weekly, enjoyable Superman experience for the first time in ages!

The ’90s Revisited: Superman – Dead Again!

deadagain_supermanthemanofsteel038Over the past several weeks, I’ve been reading/rereading complete stories rather than “just” single issues here or there that aren’t connected directly to one another by story or series.

The latest instance comes from issues I picked up recently at a sale (Carol and John’s Not At ComicCon 2015 sale). Finding they had a good stock of mid-’90s Superman books–ALL FIVE TITLES–allowed me finally to in one single purchase get the entirety of the Dead Again! arc (which either has not ever been reprinted in collected volume, or at least I do not have said volume). This purchase saved me the hassle of moving then replacing a dozen-some longboxes in a confined space to pull hardly a dozen issues, where I would then have to move and replace the boxes again after reading.

deadagain_superman094Despite seeing issues from this arc here and there over the past several months/years and being interested in re-reading the story in its entirety…it wasn’t until Michael Bailey and Jeffrey Taylor began their coverage of the story on their From Crisis to Crisis podcast that my interest was heightened to the point of action…which combined nicely with the well-timed opportunity of getting the issues and the time to actually read the entirety of the 11-issue arc in two days.

I actually can’t remember the last time I sat down and re-read more than one or two Superman issues in a row, let alone an entire cover-branded storyline like this from the ’90s Superman books. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and may next look to The Trial of Superman.

deadagain_adventuresofsuperman517I never noticed it as a kid when I originally read this some 20 years ago, but the issues do not line up 100% going from issue to issue the way they probably would if this was being published in 2015. Each issue ends on a some level of cliffhanger/dramatic moment–setting the stage for the next chapter–but then that next chapter didn’t often seem to pick up from the exact same moment. Additionally, some of the narratives of individual chapters would be different stylistically…some straight-forward, others picking up “later” and then flashing back to fill the reader in, then continuing on.

The art is also all over the place throughout the arc, and reading it all at once, I noticed the differences from book to book in a way I never had before.

deadagain_actioncomics704All of this is not unexpected, given the multiple titles and creative teams. I rarely went back to re-read issues week-to-week as the issues were coming out, and having a week between issues I don’t recall comparing the visuals to each other all that much…though even back then I’d noticed a personal preference for the art in the Superman title.

Dead Again! begins with characters reacting to the fact that a body–one that APPEARS to be the genuine Superman’s–is found in what should have been an EMPTY tomb. The tomb/room had been damaged in a fight between the current/live Superman and new villain Conduit. Various tests seem to confirm the body as being genuine, leading our active Superman to seek out villains that might be responsible for trickery…after all, he remembers coming back from the dead, being Clark Kent, etc. Other characters react in differing ways–Lois believing him to be genuine, while other characters aren’t so sure (and don’t have Lois’ “insight” into Superman’s genuinity).

deadagain_supermanthemanofsteel039Across the arc, Superman’s search involves Conduit, a new villain named Death Trap, the Eradicator and the Outsiders, STAR Labs, Atom, the New Gods on New Genesis, Darkseid on Apokalips, Mr. Mxyzptlk, the Metropolis SCU, hallucinations, and finally the ultimate villain of the piece (despite seemingly being ruled out on New Genesis) Brainiac himself.

Over the course of the story, we see Superman growing increasingly irrational as the situation drives him closer to sheer madness, as the supporting cast gets more concerned about him and his mental state. We also have a significant subplot as a young orphan–Keith–finds and loses his mother while gaining new foster parents in Perry and Alice White. We see the majority of Superman’s rogues gallery, and generally see questions raised and answered regarding whether or not there could have been–if this is–another “imposter” Superman…the possibility that Superman himself, the true Superman might never have actually been resurrected.

deadagain_superman095While I don’t recall this story getting any serious media attention and it does seem largely a footnote in the entirety of the ’90s Superman…this is a pretty significant arc, and an interesting follow-up to stuff. After the Death and Return of Superman “trilogy,” there were a number of smaller arcs and the overall continuing story/”Never Ending Battle” of the multiple titles collectively telling a weekly story…but this seems to be the largest singular story since Superman’s return, and paved the way for the likes of The Death of Clark Kent and The Trial of Superman, as well as (eventually) a number of other several-month arcs that punctuated the ongoing saga.

And this is definitely well worth the read if you get a chance!


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deadagain_adventuresofsuperman519  

Action Comics #904 [Review]

Reign of the Doomsdays Finale

Writer: Paul Cornell
Artist (pp 1-16): Axel Gimenez
Artist (pp 17-20): Ronan Cliquet
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Cover: Kenneth Rocafort
Associate Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Publisher: DC Comics

Hard to believe it, but this is the final issue of Action Comics. Sure, Action Comics (vol. 2) #1 comes out in a couple weeks, but that’s a whole different thing. It’s not this same title. It’s not the actual title with its roots in the dawn of the comics industry, the dawn of the super-hero, going back to even before World War II, touching on eight decades. But that’s mostly a discussion for the new Action Comics.

This issue wraps up Superman, and Action Comics, and is basically the send-off for this title and these characters, at least for what I’m currently reading (I have not read Superman #714, nor the final issues of Supergirl or Superboy).

We open with Superman discovering that the current threat to the world still ties back to Lex Luthor’s recent actions in the Black Ring arc. Talking with this willed-to-existence entity, Superman is restored to solid existence, to lead the heroes in a final attack on the Doomslayer to save their world. While Superman and the Eradicator (in a different but familiar form) take on Doomslayer, the others attend to the multiple Doomsdays. When all’s said and done, Clark and Lois talk over dinner, bringing this era of Superman, and aspects of the character going back a quarter-century, to a close.

The main story seemed to wrap up a little too quickly for my preference. It’s not bad, mind you–but it just seemed a little quick. Perhaps it’s the time between issues combined with all the other stuff I’ve (as an individual) had on my mind and looking toward with the pending relaunch–but it doesn’t feel like the potential with this Doomslayer really had a chance to take off, and the heroes (as with a couple years back in New Krypton) handle the Doomsday threat a little too easily for what the character was created to be. That said, I found the closing to be a great touch and appropriate epilogue to this lengthy Doomsdays thing, which has been going on all year now, since that Steel one-shot back in early January.

Given that it was the Death and Return of Superman “trilogy” that most firmly brought me back into comics in a way that I’ve never truly left since, it’s rather satisfying that Supergirl, Superboy, Steel, the Eradicator, Doomsday, and the Cyborg Superman were all brought into what turned out to be the final story of this title, and these characters.

Visually, I’m not really impressed with the art on the main story segment. I’m not really disappointed, either…it’s just not a style that clicked well with me in reading this issue–something about it just felt off. The characters and action isn’t hard to follow, everyone’s recognizable and all–so it does its job as it should. The epilogue segment worked quite well, though–I’ve mostly enjoyed Gary Frank‘s work on Superman, and Cliquet does an excellent job of emulating that style.

All in all…this issue’s for the longtime/ongoing readers. This is the end of Cornell‘s run on this title; this caps off a quasi-crossover sort-of-“event.” This is the end of Lois & Clark, at least the Lois & Clark of the last 15 years. This is likely the last of a lot of other familiar elements and possibly actual characters that have been part of the Superman story for a generation of readers. This goes out with neither whimper nor bang…but leaves things so that maybe someday, this iteration of the characters can be revisited.

Story: 7/10
Art: 7/10
Whole: 7/10

Action Comics #901 [Review]

Reign of the Doomsdays part 1

Writer: Paul Cornell
Artists: Kenneth Rocafort, Jesus Merino
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Cover: Kenneth Rocafort
Associate Editor: Wil Moss
Editor: Matt Idelson
Published by: DC Comics

The first thing I noticed about this issue was the banner at the top advertising the Green Lantern film due out June 17 “only in theaters.” Now, I know Marvel has done this for YEARS, but they’ve generally done it by way of the upper corner box by the issue’s number and such. And I appreciate this on the GL books–it’s most appropriate there. But on a Superman title, it’s less appropriate, except as the full-DC-wide blast of the advertising. After all, why hide the ad on an interior or the back cover when by having a banner at the top, you’re advertising off any and all ways of displaying comics that allow the top portion to be seen?

That aside…the cover doesn’t impress me all that much. I do appreciate that Doomsday looks a lot closer to what I’m used to than it has in awhile. But the image does seem rather generic to me–Doomsday standing amidst wreckage, the bodies of the Superman Family sprawled at its feet. Something about the imagery just doesn’t do it for me. Then again…the cover is not why I bought the issue.

The story picks up where the lead story of Action #900 left off–the Superman Family has found that they are facing several Doomsdays, each tailored to a diffeent power set, but all set on destruction of the entire group. Cyborg-Superman welcomes destruction, the chance at death. The others, however do not–so after Superman neutralizes the Cyborg, the group gathers up and heads away from their attackers into the depths of the prison they’ve found themselves in. Meanwhile, on Earth, an imminent extinction-level event is detected, and (in contrast to the controversy over a short in the previous issue) the American President proclaims the country’s need of Superman, of any super-powered beings able to help. As Superman & Co. realize their prison is fast approaching Earth, they encounter yet another threat, who steps forth to prevent them from saving the planet. Without wasting time arguing, he delivers a shocking blow to the group, leaving their reaction as our cliffhanger.

I’m not a huge fan of the split art duties on the issue. Rocafort‘s visual style seems a bit “off” to me, and reminded me of my least favorite art from #900, though on a double-checking, it’s not the same. There’s something to this style that makes the characters seem overly generic, Superman especially. Somehow it looks to me more like some guy in a Superman costume, and the face alone doesn’t say “Superman” to me. Merino‘s art in the middle of the issue stands out, and is far preferable to me–the characters look a lot more “on” on those pages…and it makes it rather jarring to then shift right back to a different visual style.

Cornell‘s writing is solid…I haven’t yet read much of his work…the first issue of the Black Ring arc and then the lead in Action 900. But I do like the concept, at least, that’s at play here…and I really enjoy having Superman teamed up again with Supergirl, Eradicator, Steel, Cyborg, and Superboy. And given the first time these characters all got together, it’s fitting that they’re dealing with Doomsday. Given this context–their teamup, and the Doomsday situation…I’m tentatively hooked. I came back for this issue, having figured to only pick up #900 as the anniversary that it was.

While much of the story is fairly serious and played straight…there’s a part where we actually get a thought balloon for Superman, which seems somewhat out of nowhere–especially as I’ve grown used to the LACK of thought balloons in favor of “voiceover” narration and such. The use of the thought balloon in this issue seemed hokey and a bit forced; and momentarily took me out of the story while I thought about it. Not a huge deal, but noticeable.

Where the story is most hurt in my eyes is that I have no idea how many chapters to expect…just as I had no clue how many to expect, really, with the Reign of Doomsday hopping along through various other books without really meaning much. I certainly hope this arc is not dragged out…though this is labled Reign of the Doomsdays part 1 (escaping Reign of Doomsday which was around a half-dozen issues), it’s essentially the same story continuing, so this feels like the 7th chapter, and I’m not sure I’ll want to stick around long-term if it’s simply a dragged-out slugfest or punch-and-run-and-punch-again kinda thing.

While this doesn’t really hold a candle to Reign of the Supermen, if you’re a fan of these characters, this packs a good bit of nostalgia and hope of a new classic. Worth picking up if you enjoy seeing these characters all brought together, and/or if you read #900 and want to follow this Doomsday story.

As of now, I’m interested enough to see where this goes that I plan to come back for #902.

Recommended.

Story: 7/10
Art: 6.5/10
Overall: 7/10

Action Comics #900 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

Story: 3/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 3.5/5

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