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General Mills Presents: Justice League (2017) #2 [Review]

general_mills_2017_justice_league_0002Dark Reflections

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Penciller: Rick Leonardi
Inkers: Bob Wiacek and Scott Hanna
Colorist: Rex Lokus
Letterer: Comicraft
Cover Artist: Scott Koblish
Cover Colorist: Val Staples
Assistant Editor: Brittany Holzherr
Editor: Steve Buccellato
Group Editor: Marie Javins
Design Director: Larry Berry

This is the "second" issue of four being made available to the public "blindly" via insertion into specially-marked boxes of General Mills cereal. Though the issues ARE numbered, the first issue and this one do not seem to draw on each other or lead into the other with any singular story, so the numbers are–I’m pretty confident in saying–there to stimulate collectors’ OCD to collect ’em all.

This issue focuses on Batman, though it guest-stars the rest of the Justice League.

Batman arrives home after a "typical" night out. After talking with Alfred and having a flashback to his youth where his parents were still around, Bruce catches a glimpse of a reflection in the mirror that is most certainly not him looking back! Turns out that Mirror Master (one of Flash’s Rogues) has expanded his reach (with the unintentional assistance of Flash himself) to vex the entire Justice League. Using mirrors as gateways, interdimensional counterparts of our heroes are brought through, and the heroes square off with them. While everyone tangles with their mirrored counterparts, Batman (through recalling an incident from his youth) develops a plan to deal with this threat and stop Mirror Master.

Nicieza and Leonardi are a couple more names that I’m definitely familiar with, though I’m far moreso with the former than latter. I’m honestly impressed at the way this issue–and this round of GM Justice League as a whole–has the talent and appearances of something much bigger and less generic than "just" cereal-box comics. At the same time, unfortunately (by seeming necessity) these ARE rather smaller and more generic than non-cereal counterparts.

The story itself is fairly basic, drawing on some basic tropes of comics in general…particularly the lead-in with Batman having just gotten back from a night out, talking about the off-panel adventure, remembering something from his childhood while his parents were alive, and that conveniently being relevant to the current story at hand. Yet, while that may come off as a negative…it fits perfectly into what these comics can and might be–someone’s first. These days, it’s not hard to imagine that there are countless staunch fans of even "obscure" comic book characters…yet said fans may never have actually experienced a comic book! So while these are overdone, overly-familiar things to me as a nearly-30-years comics reader, they may well be someone’s first exposure and be at least some small part of their journey into comics.

The story elements overall do not particularly contradict what I know of the characters, and particularly Batman in this case, though this definitely comes detached from the nuances of recent continuity that I’m familiar with. My biggest eye-opener is the notion of the characters nonchalantly hauling the moon out of its orbit with zero repercussions to the Earth. Perfect for a comic like this, maybe, but epic event-level stuff in general continuity.

Visually, if the pages were "regular" sized and I didn’t see a cover, I wouldn’t really know this was "just" some cereal-box comic…it has "established talent," and does not look like some generic thing. The art is quite good in and of itself, though as with a lot of comic book art, its primary drawback is simply in not being by one of a handful of my favorite comic artists. Once again, these characters look like they’re right out of early-2017 full-size DC comics, down to Batman’s current gold-outlined black bat symbol. Superman’s look is about to be out of date, but fits well into the past ten or so months’ worth of DC Rebirth.

As with the first issue, this was an ok read with good art. It’s a cereal comic and certainly worth reading, but it in no way affects continuity nor particularly draws from it. You might appreciate this more if you’re NOT up on current comics, as you may be less likely to do hard comparisons. I wouldn’t go out of the way to hunt this down, but if you like the cereal and it’s in the box, definitely give it a read-through!

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General Mills Presents: Justice League (2017) #1 [Review]

general_mills_2017_justice_league_0001Power Play

Writer: Tony Bedard
Penciller: Jerry Ordway
Inker: Juan Castro
Colorist: Guy Major
Letterer: Comicraft
Cover Artist: Ale Garza
Cover Colorist: Luis Guerrero
Assistant Editor: Brittany Holzherr
Editor: Steve Buccellato
Group Editor: Marie Javins
Design Director: Larry Berry

Once again, DC Comics and General Mills have teamed up to put comics in boxes of cereal. And, once again, I’m buying cereal specifically to get a copy of all four issues available as part of the promotion. This is the fourth such promotion I can recall in "modern" comics’ times–two prior Justice League runs, last year’s Batman v Superman, and now this. As with the previous ones, these LOOK like they fit in with contemporary issues, just that these are missing UPC boxes, and are atrociously TINY. But hey…they’re "free" with the purchase of a specially-marked box of cereal, and no hassling with coupons, mail-aways, shipping/handling, etc.

As with previous promotions, though these issues are numbered, I’m almost certain there’s no sequential "continuity" to them–this first issue is self-contained with no cliffhanger or anything "driving" one to the next issue. I’m pretty sure the PRIMARY purpose of the issue number is to help "legitimize" the thing as a miniature comic book (and not just some mini-magazine/"insert" or such) and to–as successfully accomplished with me–trigger the OCD to track them all down, because darnit, there are FOUR numbered issues, so I want all 4 issues, and won’t want to have a #4 withOUT 1-3 and so on.

Getting to the issue itself, as an issue…I’m quite impressed with the main creative team. Tony Bedard‘s name is definitely recognizable to me, and even topping that is artist Jerry Ordway, who is an old favorite from my earliest days in comics.

The story is rather prescient given its timing–at least for me as I read this. We open on the Justice League (current Rebirth incarnation, with everyone looking on-model for Rebirth year one) in Metropolis, being celebrated for all their work and constant saving of Earth. A large group statue is unveiled, and almost immediately comes to life, forcing the Leaguers to face off against their giant bronze counterparts. The mischievous antagonist is quickly revealed: Mr. Mxyzptlk! Muddying matters, the League must summon Bat-Mite–another 5th-Dimensional imp–to counter Mxy’s fun. Tricking Mxy yet again into saying his own name backwards, Bat-Mite extracts a promise from the League and then disappears himself…a small bronze addition left with the once-more-inanimate statue, celebrating Bat-Mite side-by-side with the rest of the League.

This story comes outta nowhere: no prologue, nothing setting it up. Just the "typical" generic "our heroes gather to be celebrated by the common people they’ve saved, however reluctant they may be with such adulation and then must save them yet again." Of course, this is NOT some issue partaking in any crossover or event, nor is it "merely" some reprint of just any random issue from within a run…and it’s not anything someone reading the regularly-published comics needs to track down to get a full story, so it’s rather necessary, then, for this to be its own thing in a relative "vacuum." Additionally, there is no cliffhanger, nothing left hanging to "force" or "coerce" someone (while many adults may track these down, I’d assume a large majority of readers are children whose parents had to provide the cereal for them to have the comic) to "have to" get the other issues.

Yet, while the story is pretty simplistic, and doesn’t necessarily play up individual character elements that’d be present in solo books, the characters are recognizable as who they are, and the lineup seems to fit in such that someone reading this and then walking into a comic shop would easily find current DC issues featuring these very characters. Bedard doesn’t really get room to shine as a writer, but he doesn’t play the characters as fools or overly talk down to the audience (though there’s a little bit of that "special lesson" to be imparted to kids: "don’t run from your problems, own up to them…and sometimes you will have to ask for help from others, and that’s ok."

The cover’s art is a bit "off" and generic to me….Superman’s costume (at least on my copy of this issue) seems a bit weirdly-colored and the whole image is basically generic poses of the characters on a yellowy-orange burst-effect…no background setting or situation (though also nothing to give away the antagonist from within). Ordway‘s art on the interior is a huge treat for me, and I really like the depiction of the characters. I don’t much care for Simon’s version of the Green Lantern costume–never have–but it looks as good as is possible here. And somehow most notable to me, Mxyzptlk looks really good in this issue–much like in my first conscious exposure to the character back in 1989 or so.

I imagine I’d have quite loved this as a kid. As an adult, it’s simplistic but pretty…and as something "free" in a box of cereal, it’s much better than it has any "right" to be. Even if you’re not a fan of the cereals, I’d recommend this as a quick-read novelty item…especially as I doubt this or any of the previous ones will ever warrant a full-size collection of their own, so this is likely the only way to read ’em!

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General Mills Presents: Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice #4 [Review]

generalmillspresents_batmanvsuperman0004Lights Out

Writer: Joshua Williamson
Penciller: Eduardo Pansica
Inker: Art Thibert
Colorist: Jeromy Cox
Letterer: Deron Bennett
Cover Artists: Gary Frank and Rod Reis
Assistant Editor: Brittany Holzherr
Editor: Alex Antone
Art Director: Larry Berry
Cover Date: N/A (found in cereal boxes in March 2016)
Cover Price: Free

I’m not sure what I actually expected from this issue…but what I got wasn’t it. And this one’s actually very simplistic yet hard to sum up: essentially, it’s a couple of kids up late at night arguing over who is the better hero–Batman or Superman? Each has reasons, but ultimately it takes the intervention of another to point out that they’d actually work together if they’re both heroes, despite differences.

As such, more than any of the other issues, this one just seemed a bit “off” to me, and extremely “meta.” It’s the argument fans have had for probably three-quarters of a century. And an argument sure to come out of Batman v Superman the movie, regardless of the arguments going in. It’s a real-world argument, and one that honestly bugs me.

Long run of thoughts kept short, my answer to “who would win” is that the result is simply determined by the author and story being told.

Still, it’s interesting to see a handful of simple arguments–and to consider them from the point of view of a kid again (and likely at least a quarter-century my junior), and I can appreciate that. And like an earlier reference (that I made covering this series) to Batman: The Animated Series, this issue reminds me of an episode that itself adapted an earlier comic…one in which some young adults are sitting around a bonfire discussing Batman, and having a number of different interpretations of who/what he was (and whether it was in that comic or not I can’t recall, but my “memory” tells me in that story they dismissed the actual Batman as just some guy in a costume!).

Were this a full-size, bought-by-itself AS itself kind of issue, I’d not find it amusing or worthwhile. As something from a box of cereal, it was mildly entertaining, and did not make me feel like I’d wasted my time reading.

The art is quite good, and perhaps it was the influence of the story and that we aren’t in either hero’s head or actually involved in some ongoing story of either, the visuals just seemed to fit all the more, and differences in costume designs didn’t stand out to me along the way…perhaps taking any differences as being the kids’ own memories/interpretations. I also appreciated that even where we see an image of the two heroes about to collide in battle–that’s what it is: they’re about to, but we’re not given a “hint” one way or the other on a possible outcome…until they actually collide, one could “assume” either one could take the upper hand.

If you’ve got this issue, it’s worth reading–it’s a quick piece devoid of any continuity (and any need for continuity), doesn’t tie to anything else–outside this General Mills mini-series or otherwise, nor even other issues in this series. Other than perhaps wanting to complete a set if you have any of the others, or to complete the set by having a #4 and knowing #s 1-3 exist, I wouldn’t recommend putting much effort into tracking this (or the other issues) down. But for having them, I’m glad to have read them…though I wonder somewhat at these not being a quasi-adaptation of the movie…that would have given them a bit more weight, I guess (or mini-reprints of key issues related to the characters/movie). That these are original issues with a number of “known names” from DC and not “just” reprints is cool, despite the enjoyment I could also see in say, having a random Batman #1 or Superman #1. For that matter…any of the various Batman/Superman confrontations from over the years.

General Mills Presents: Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice #3 [Review]

generalmillspresents_batmanvsuperman0003Picture Proof

Writer: Marguerite Bennett
Artist: Marcus To
Colorist: Irma Kniivila
Letterer: Deron Bennett
Cover Artists: Gary Frank and Rod Reis
Assistant Editor: Brittany Holzherr
Editor: Alex Antone
Art Director: Larry Berry
Cover Date: N/A (found in cereal boxes in March 2016)
Cover Price: Free

While it’ll probably bite me on the next issue, I enjoyed this issue more than the previous two, suggesting that each issue is better than the previous. Whether that’s relational or incidental, I’m not sure…but it works for me!

This issue shows us Emily, a young student who happens to witness Batman in action, stopping some thieves and stolen discs…though her friends at school don’t believe her. “Pictures or it didn’t happen!” and all that. Having noticed a disc that fell to the side, she returns to the scene later, anticipating Batman would as well (a bit convenient) and sure enough, he does…and this time she gets a photo of him. When she’s at school again, she continues to be teased for believing in this bat-man…and later at home wonders to herself why she didn’t just show the photo. Seeing a distinctive shadow, she finds that Batman’s shown up to pay a visit–letting her know that he knows about the photo, but that he’s not going to take it from her…he trusts her (to do the right thing). And she does–she realizes that part of the effectiveness of Batman is criminals not believing he’s truly human. She tears up the photo, opting to let Batman remain a legend rather than drag him into reality.

By comparison to the first two issues of this General Mills Presents series, this is a fantastic issue and I thoroughly enjoyed it. That the main protagonist is likely a quarter-century my junior does not stand out to me as much here as in the prior issues. This one struck me very much as something that would work as an episode of the 1990s Batman: The Animated Series, reminding me a lot of the “I’ve Got Batman in My Basement” episode from that series. Something about that makes this more believable to me, even though we don’t get any kind of internal dialogue from Batman (and that’s something I only just noticed with this issue: none of these are from Superman or Batman’s point of view…they’re all from a kid’s point of view, likely to identify more with the reading audience of the issues!)

I’m not particularly familiar with Marguerite Bennett offhand by name…her name looks familiar to me, but that doesn’t mean an accurate memory on my part, and I’m also unfamiliar with Marcus To and Irma Kniivila. In some ways, I think that’s to the benefit of this issue…I wasn’t trying to be familiar with other work, had no prior expectations to set me up for disappointment, and thus it allowed me to read this the way I ORIGINALLY read comics when I was first introduced to them: by character/what’s on the page, and no real notion of the people who actually wrote or drew or otherwise were part of the creation of a given issue.

As said, this story reminded me of that BTAS episode, and works very well for me as a one-off story. It’s not beholden to anything…not continued from or continued into anything else (even prior issues of this mini-series), and though 20 pages is far too short a span to really get to know any of the characters, there’s just enough there to appreciate Emily’s plight, to identify with her and her friends, and to hint at the benevolence of Batman (he seeks to inspire fear in criminals, not random children). There’s a lot to be pulled “between the panels” in analyzing the issue, but ultimately, I simply ENJOYED reading this, and in the end, that’s what reading a comic’s supposed to be about.

I was neither impressed nor disappointed in the art…but it definitely lands on the higher side than low, for me. From the narration boxes to flying through several pages pretty quickly, this had a definite visual “feel” of a modern comic, and I definitely liked that the Batman we see here looks a lot more like what I’d expect of a comic book Batman than it did some “adaptation” of a live action version.

Of the three issues in this series that I’ve read so far, this is my favorite, and certainly worth checking out if you get a chance (without spending much or going significantly out of your way in order to do so).

General Mills Presents: Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice #2 [Review]

generalmillspresents_batmanvsuperman0002Field Trip

Writer: Christos Gage
Artist: Federico Dallochio
Colorist: Jim Charalampidis
Letterer: Deron Bennett
Cover Artists: Gary Frank and Rod Reis
Assistant Editor: Brittany Holzherr
Editor: Alex Antone
Art Director: Larry Berry
Cover Date: N/A (found in cereal boxes in March 2016)
Cover Price: Free

This second issue of the “cereal comics” was a good deal more enjoyable than the first for me, despite raising a couple questions in my mind. One: what’s up with Superman’s belt? Is it actually a belt, or some sort of punctuated attachment at the waist? Because it does not seem to go all the way around, but there’s a piece on front and a couple of hints of it, but it’s not actually a belt, but there’s SOMETHING there. Second, when was the last time a comic had Bruce Wayne fairly prominent without Batman or any of the rest of the Bat-family? (Leaving aside this ostensibly taking place in the “DC Cinematic Universe”). To say nothing of–as a 35-year-old adult–the ridiculousness of any other adult (particularly a CEO of a major company) having no problem with some random/unknown student straying from a tour group.

The story itself is pretty simple: a middle school (junior high) class visits Wayne Enterprises; one student breaks off from the group and (conveniently) stumbles across a gang of thieves stealing Kryptonian technology. They have a jamming device to block communication signals–including cell phones–so the student is unable to call 911. Before she can be discovered by the gang, she’s found by Bruce Wayne who followed her to make sure she didn’t get into anything dangerous. Superman shows up to deal with the thieves, and Bruce declines to step out and meet the hero at this time, while he and the student agree to hold the secret of each having been anywhere near this action.

OK, maybe that wasn’t as simple when summarized, but it read quickly. Despite my “issues” with Superman’s costume, the oddness of seeing Bruce Wayne as Bruce Wayne (and not Batman as Bruce Wayne walking amidst the citizenry in-action/on a case), and the irresponsibility of the adults, this was an entertaining enough read, and more enjoyable to me than the previous issue.

I was surprised to see Christos Gage as the writer…a name I’ve not been overly familiar with for quite awhile, but whose work I’ve definitely enjoyed in the past. While it might have colored my perspective going in, I did not actually give the credits any attention until after I read this (hence the surprise) but it does explain my enjoyment a bit. This is definitely a comic geared more for a younger reader (especially middle school age). Outside of this being a continuity-free one-off story that doesn’t “matter” anywhere else, it’s actually pretty good for what it is. I’d be curious at someone reading it without any “comics experience” and their notice (or not) of Bruce Wayne, and whether it would bother them to have him without a costumed Batman on-panel.

I’m not familiar with Dallochio‘s name or art…but the art worked well here for this story. It didn’t blow me away, but it gets everything across that it needs to, and in and of itself did not distract me from the story (just that mental tickle of curiosity about Superman’s belt, but that’s a fault of the costume design and not the specific artist, in my mind).

All in all, I liked this issue, and if you get it in a box of cereal or otherwise come across it without significant effort, it’s certainly worth reading, or at least passing along to a young reader in your life.

General Mills Presents: Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice #1 [Review]

generalmillspresents_batmanvsuperman0001Playground Heroes

Writer: Jeff Parker
Penciller: RB Silva
Inker: Jose Marzan Jr.
Colorist: Andrew Dalhouse
Letterer: Deron Bennett
Cover Artists: Gary Frank and Rod Reis
Assistant Editor: Brittany Holzherr
Editor: Alex Antone
Art Director: Larry Berry
Cover Date: N/A (found in cereal boxes in March 2016)
Cover Price: Free

It’s been several years since I reviewed “cereal comics” such as these. Unlike the last batch of General Mills Presents Justice League issues (numbered 5-8 and 9 after 2011’s 1-4) that I never got around to actually reading, these Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice issues are perfectly timed with the new movie about to hit, so I actually have an interest in reading these right away…mostly because I’m curious about the product and to look at it as an adult and consider (if only to myself) the image of these characters kids might get…remembering back to my own early time in comics with “key” issues such as The Untold Legend of the Batman, which I believe was reprinted and given away in cereal boxes in the early 1980s.

We meet Jacob the morning of a big day at school as he’s introduced to a new neighbor Lucas. Jacob’s mom is giving both boys a ride to school. Jacob’s ok with it, and does minimal duty to help Lucas…nothing antagonistic, nothing above and beyond. His attention is focused on the day’s class visit with Metropolis reporter Clark Kent to STAR Labs…an excitement that’s a bit self-centered as he overlooks Lucas getting bullied just for being “the new kid.” When aliens attack STAR, Superman appears on the scene, and watching him in action Jacob is inspired to stand up for Lucas–because it’s about doing what’s RIGHT, whether one knows if they can succeed or not. And of course, we get a happy ending as the class is safe and Jacob and Lucas have learned a valuable lesson on friendship and standing up for something.

This issue is rather simplistic in its way, rather cliché and not too exciting. Though Batman is on the cover, neither he nor Bruce Wayne appear in this issue; though we do get Clark Kent and Superman. As a mid-thirties adult, the plight of junior high children is foreign to me in all but memory, leaving me too many years removed to “identify” with the kids. Though there are aliens Superman gets to fight, they’re “new” or at least I don’t recognize them, so they’re throw-away generic characters to me. This Superman reads vaguely like one I’d be familiar with…but we get the story from the kids’ point of view, so even Clark is a distant/generic character in this story. Being from the perspective of the kids makes it a more entry-level book (which I’m sure is the point, especially considering it must be assumed that it’s kids reading this, pulling it out of a box of cereal!) For depth of characterization and story, I’m not at all impressed…but as a “cereal comic” this actually exceeds my expectation.

Much of that is probably on the art, though. The visuals fail to capture the on-screen effect of Superman’s costume, resulting in a weird appearance to the character–to me–in this issue as it unfortunately LOOKS LIKE it is an “adaptation” trying to be something other than itself. Costume design aside, I really appreciate the layouts and color work on the issue…other than the physical size of the issue, it looks every bit as contemporary as any other comic, avoiding some generic “grid” layout or such, like there’s actual layout work done and this isn’t simply a bunch of images mashed together on a page. The art also gets the story across such as it is, and didn’t leave me questioning what happened or such.

I think for me the best part of this issue is the Gary Frank/Rod Reis cover…definitely top names to me. Parker, too, rings a bell–though I can’t specifically cite what I know him from off the top of my head.

Again…this is a “cereal comic,” an insert in a box of cereal…so it’s totally separate from any ongoing continuity, and is not part of some adaptation of the movie or such…it’s just taking advantage of the timing. It’s also essentially a throwaway piece seemingly meant to entertain but other than simply BEING a comic book, it doesn’t seem to cater to trying to get someone to go get other comics (except the rest that are part of this cereal box promotion).

Me being me–a lifelong Superman fan; a regular consumer of cereal and frequently perusing the cereal aisle–when I saw the strip across the bottom of a box of Lucky Charms indicating there was something Batman v Superman related, I obviously looked closer…and on realizing it was a new comic promotion, I was genuinely excited–as much as one can be for this sort of thing–and immediately bought a couple boxes. (Over a weekend I bought several more and thus had the entire 4-issue mini with relatively little hassle and plenty of leftover cereal for the next few weeks).

This in no way feels like something essential to the movie…nor is it any great work on the character or any kind of high-literature piece. But it’s an entertaining enough story with a “named” writer and “named artists” whose names I actually recognize, rather than just some random people slapping a comic together…the names lend credibility to this project, and I’m willing to read as a result.

I don’t yet know what the next three issues will hold; whether these are functionally one-shots or if there’s a recurring situation or such…but I would hope kids that find this would enjoy reading it and at least appreciate having read a comic book.

If you’re gonna eat the cereal anyway and see any of these, it’s worth picking up…though there’s nothing here to go completely out of your way for.

General Mills Presents: Justice League #4 [Review]

Breakout!

Written by: Joshua Williamson
Art by: Bruno Redondo
Colors by: Tony Avina
Letters by: Wes Abbott
Cover by: Dan Jurgens, Sandra Hope, Carrie Strachan
Associate Editor: Kristy Quinn
Group Editor: Ben Abernathy
Senior Art Director: Larry Berry

So…Atlanteans are just like normal humans, except they live underwater. That’s ‘interesting.’ And Batman’s determined that no other family will ever be destroyed by crime. Penguin instigates a prison breakout to keep Aquaman busy, but the rest of the Justice League show up to help Aquaman and Batman. And we get several of the common “nicknames” such as “Big Blue” (Superman) and “Caped Crusader” (Batman).

This issue continues the trend of feeling rather generic, as well as having some stuff that feels a bit ‘forced’ in the course of dialogue or story.

The art’s not bad…also as with the other issues of this “mini-series” I’m not familiar with the artist…but, the art overall isn’t anything I actively dislike, which makes it good in my book.

The story is pretty basic, but it DOES have simple stuff worked in that would help inform someone on aspects of the characters–namely, that Batman’s all about not seeing another family destroyed as his was. This issue’s nothing special in the grand scheme…but as a comic that’s likely to be read by someone much younger than me…this isn’t a bad starting point to get someone interested in pursuing more about these characters.

And as a whole, this issue–and the whole “mini-series”–serves as a very basic introduction to the Justice League and several of the individual characters that doesn’t really contradict what I’m aware of about the characters, but this also makes the “real” comics look that much better.

Best of all, these comics are 24 pages of story–making them 4 pages (20%?) longer than current $3-$4 comics. And while totally separate from actual continuity…these even work a lot of “standard” elements in that give a “physical structure” like that of any contemporary comics–varied panel sizes, and even double-page spreads.

If these issues were to be collected as a full size 96-page one-shot in the $5 realm, I’d probably buy it for the novelty–and it’d be interesting to see if it would attract younger readers.

Story: 7/10
Art: 7.5/10
Overall: 7.5/10

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