By Molly Jane Kremer, Arpad Okay, and Matthew C. BrownOur Week In Review sums up our weekly comic book coverage while taking time for a new review or two before it’s all over. Did we miss your favorite books this week? Well. This is where you need to be.

Mister Miracle #2Mister Miracle #2

DC Comics/$3.99

Written by Tom King.

Art by Mitch Gerads.

Letters by Clayton Cowles.

MJ: Mister Miracle is already one of this year’s biggest successes. Its first issue sold out the first day it was published and has already gone into a second printing, strategically released the same day as its second. (As a retailer, I’m very happy when publishers are kind enough to do that.) The second issue varies greatly from the first, with a more linear structure and (a bit) less uncertainty and paranoia woven into the narrative. Though it is more action-oriented, it still packs an emotional wallop — and the tangible anxiety that something isn’t right remains under the surface.

There’s less emotional realism here than in the debut — issue #2 follows Scott and Barda to Apokolips, where marauding parademons stand in for existential dread — but the idea of “war is hell” on a literal hell-planet is communicated fully and well.

The issue opens with a parademon feasting on some unfortunate’s entrails before having his skull blasted to bits, which sets a fittingly bleak tone for the next twenty-one pages. Amid the fiery lava pits and the intense bursts of violence — which bathe Scott’s colorful uniform in neon green parademon blood, which contrasts better with the sequence’s pervasive orange glow — this issue is a truly unsettling and visceral experience.

The ideas of parentage and “nature vs. nurture” are explored a bit as well, through the strained relationship of Scott (the son of Highfather raised by Granny Goodness and, by proxy, Darkseid) and Orion (son of Darkseid but raised by Highfather). Partway through the book we find out that Orion is now Highfather — an alarming development not mentioned in his abrupt appearance last issue whatsoever — putting an even stranger twist on the entire affair. And the contrast between Granny’s recognizable sweet old-auntie characteristics (and palpable affection for Scott and Barda) and her unapologetic fancy for slow torture was virtuosic and affecting.

We learn more about Barda in this issue, though we still only see her in context of being Scott’s wife. King and Gerads excel at the depiction of their couplehood, however, and their exchange about how to turn on magical New Genesis showers is a sweet interlude before we return to the couple fighting parademon hordes side by side.

Mister Miracle is shaping up to be one of the most important series of the year, made by a team in their prime, booming on all cylinders. Don’t. Miss. This. Book.

9.5 out of 10

'The Realm' #1The Realm #1

Image Comics/$3.99

Created by Jeremy Haun and Seth M. Peck.

Colors by Nick Filardi.

Letters and Design by Thomas Mauer.

MCB: The Realm has a visual style and tone that is reminiscent of many different post-apocalyptic properties across multiple media, which means it is very easy to see this world being turned into a video game, a film, or a TV show. It’s post-apocalyptic nature, visual style, and story elements cannot help but evoke shows like The Walking Dead, video games like The Last of Us and Fallout, and films like The Book of Eli and The Road. Though it is like all of those in different respects it also takes us to a very unique place: A vision of America, and presumably the world, where all manner of ancient, D&D style fantasy beings exist.

There are orcs, dragons, blood sacrifice, dark magic, and kings being usurped, but there are also Mauser pistols, gas masks, machetes, shotguns with bayonets, places called Missouri and Chicago. And there are places yet to be named by the guy with the skull of an orc over his face, who walks around brutally slaying even more orcs while singing “Dirty Work” by Steely Dan.

The main character is a courtly bounty hunter named Will Nolan who sports a crazy demon arm, and who — judging by the creepy dark wizard with the pentagrams and the blood sacrifice and the dark magic whom Nolan knows nothing about — will have a lot of crazy shit to deal with as this story and world widen.

I have no idea how the history of the Realm unfolded, at what point Middle Earth melded with Middle America, but I really don’t care. This book is pure badassery, and the potential here is endless. With visceral gore and dynamic action sequences, a world that is as confounding as it is uncompromising and characters that suit the situation, I’m in.

9 out of 10

'Redlands' #2Redlands #2

Image Comics/$3.99

Written by Jordie Bellaire.

Art by Vanessa R. Del Ray.

Colors by Jordie Bellaire.

Letters by Clayton Cowles.

AOK: It’s only the second issue, but I can already tell that Redlands is going to be a lush, tricky series. What you thought it would be, it isn’t. The sun is up now, and a quarter century has passed since the bloody coup of the debut. The three witches who took the town have been keeping it quiet.

They’ve got a pure and funny rapport, posing as cops, secretly pulling strings, making the town seem like things are better than they were before all the murders. Yet children still disappear. Monsters still run things. Redlands, Florida is still cursed.

And now, a new adversary, a serial killer who makes art of his victims. He’s psychotic, but worse, the kind of monster men are. That’s what makes Redlands a singular comic. On one hand, you have the ancient evil of witches and blood magic. On the other, toxic masculinity.

It makes everything complicated. If the witches who run Redlands are secretly sacrificing girls to maintain their power, rebellion against them isn’t necessarily uncalled for. But the men who try to stop them aren’t altruistic. They’re patriarchal, misogynist — they’re assholes. The things men say in this book, a horror comic about ageless magic warrior queens, are disturbing because they are (sadly) things we hear men say every day.

Their evil is our status quo. Decapitating dudes like that is kind of cathartic.

For me, this is horror’s highest calling. Where do you draw the line? Which set of murderers should we be cheering for? Sympathizing with a character who goes on to murder the folks she should be saving is unsettling. The men fighting demons are worse than demons. That’s Redlands, messing with you. Placing powerful hooks in your heart and then tugging hard to see which side hurts worse.

8.5 out of 10

From earlier this week — 

IMAGERY: Image’s ‘Retcon’ subverts an all-too familiar gimmick by facing it head-on

Preview: Between magic and madness is ‘Backways’, the new AfterShock title from Jordan & Carlini

REQUIRED READING: ‘The Retreat’ meditates on loss and the regret that comes with it

Staff Picks: ‘Runaways’ is back and our hearts are so full

Richard Rubenfeld remembers his friend, Len Wein

Undercover, or: Six covers from this week that we won’t live without

REBIRTH IN REVIEW: “The Oz Effect” underscores the vital cultural importance of Superman

BUILDING A BETTER MARVEL: ‘Runaways’ #1 is captivating, heartbreaking, and 100% essential

What books did YOU read this week? We want to know! Tell us about those feelings of yours in the comments section below.