Review – Basketful of Heads #1 (DC Black Label)

A Horrifying Tale Beings In Basketful of Heads #1

Basketful of Heads #1 is the first issue in a new miniseries from DC Comics. The series is going to run for a total of six issues and is one of the darker series – falling solidly under their new Black Label.

June Branch was a happy and outgoing girl before her life changed forever. Before that day, she had her whole life ahead of her. But that was before four deranged criminals invaded her space and took her boyfriend hostage.

The first issue of this harrowing series will introduce us to June and her life before that all went down. As you can probably tell from the cover alone – this series promises to be delightfully dark and dangerous. I know I certainly don’t envy June or the journey she’s about to embark on.


 Basketful of Heads #1 was not the issue I was expecting, and I mean that in the best ways possible. I knew that this series was going to be a dark one. But what I hadn’t expected was the amount of effort put into making us care about the characters in the story.

Almost the entire first issue is dedicated to June Branch and her life before; well…let’s just call it the incident for now. June is bright and bubbly. It’s rather hard to picture her walking around with a bloody ax.

Joe Hill did an excellent job of subverting expectations in this first issue. And with forcing an emotional investment out of its readers. As if that wasn’t enough, the series somehow made the mundane, the bright and sunny days of summer foreboding. That takes effort.


Basketful of Heads #1 is one of those issues that’ll force you to do a double-take. The series starts off with images similar to the cover but then does a 180, presenting us with a bright and sunny setting. It’s jarring, but in many ways, it added to the intensity of the tale that is bound to follow.

Leomacs was the lead artist for this issue, and they clearly went for a rougher stylized take on the artwork. The style matches perfectly with the tones of the story itself – all raw and emotional. Meanwhile, Dave Steward provided the coloring. And I feel like he should get a lot of the credit for making a sunny day creepy. After all, it was his color palette that set the tone.

Finally, Deron Bennett was the letterer for the issue. And his lettering was both unobtrusive and a stylistic match for the artwork inside these pages.


Basketful of Heads #1 was a fascinating beginning for this series. It wasn’t as dark or as disturbing as I expected – but there’s little doubt in my mind that those elements are on their way. I also have no doubt that we’re going to pay for our emotional investment in the characters. Series like this are always good at making you pay the price…

It will be interesting to see how this tale unfolds over the next five issues. There are plenty of directions that they can take it in if they so desire. Based on the twists already thrown at us, I doubt it’ll be the predictable path they choose.

This review was originally written for Word of the Nerd, but has been ported over to Quirky Cat’s Fat Stacks now that the site has shut down.

Review: Unearthed: A Jessica Cruz Story

Author: Lilliam Rivera
Artist: Steph C.
Publisher: DC Comics
Released: September 14, 2021
Received: NetGalley

DC Comics is continuing their young adult graphic novel run, and I personally couldn’t be more excited about their latest protagonist. Jessica Cruz is one of my all-time favorite DC characters and, without a doubt, my favorite Green Lantern. Naturally, that left me feeling very excited for Unearthed: A Jessica Cruz Story.

Jessica Cruz is a woman who has always been haunted by anxiety – even as a teenager. Living in the city and knowing full well that her parents are undocumented, it’s difficult for her to turn away from the fear of losing them.

Those fears reach all new heights when a new candidate for mayor creates a campaign on booting immigrants. It very well might have become too much for Jessica had she not found a safe space and a way of fighting back.

Unearthed has to be one of the most breathtaking and timely graphic novels I have ever read. Full stop. I know I sound biased here since I adore Jessica Cruz and all, but I really do mean it. Her struggles are so painfully human here, and more specifically: it lends a voice to those that need it most.

On top of loving this story’s overall plot and message, there were a few pleasant surprises in the mix. One comes from the safe space Jessica found, and the other is an unlikely new friend she makes. But I’ll leave that for you to learn when you pick up Unearthed to read for yourself!

Thanks to DC Comics and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Review: Justice League Odyssey #2

Justice League Odyssey 2

Justice League Odyssey #2
Publisher: DC Comics
Released: October 22nd 2018
Rating: 3 1/2 Star

Thanks to multiverse breaking plots of the last major event, four of our DC heroes have found themselves very far from home. Jessica Cruz, Cyborg, Starfire, and Azreal are not exactly the sort of team I’d be expecting to find, well ever, but they’re going to have to work out their differences very shortly. Or not. I’m just guessing here.

At first I was kind of tired at the revelation of who was behind everyone (minus Jessica) coming here. I feel like his character has been overused as of late. However, once they explained his reasoning and what he was trying to do/prevent, I realized they had a very good reason for dragging him into this plot. He’s really the only character that would fit this particular need.

I love that Jessica Cruz ended up coming along for the ride. I only just read the last Green Lanterns issue (for now, at least – I hope it reboots once this plot is over with) so now I understand why Jessica was so far away from home. That added context helped a lot and part of me wishes that they had waited a couple more weeks before releasing the first Justice League Odyssey issue. But then again, there’s probably more important timing that they’re concerned about.

Despite several revelations that were made, and a couple of fighting scenes, this issue read a bit too slowly for me. I think the pacing was just off in general. I think it’s still settling into the plot, so to speak. Now that we have a better grasp of what’s happening hopefully things will go more smoothly.

The issue did leave off on a cliffhanger, though that’s less shocking than it should be (kind of hard to avoid those when you have less than thirty pages to work with).


Review: Batman Beyond #25

Batman Beyond 25

Batman Beyond #25
Publisher: DC Comics
Released: October 22nd 2018
Rating: 4 Star

I’m actually really quite conflicted about this issue, despite the good rating I gave it. I think the problem is that given a choice I wouldn’t have had this particular character come back, but they did a really great job with it and I can’t fault them for it.

I think the problem for me is that I want to see more villains unique to Terry and the age we’re seeing here. All of my favorite antagonists have been ones specific to the series – not the ones that were pulled into the future, one way or the other. So I was reflexively off-put at the idea of such a major one making his way into the world.

But I just can’t be upset about it. They did a fantastic job setting up his arrival. We had already seen it hinted quite some time ago (though it could easily have been assumed to be a hoax). Having him go against the modernized version of himself first was brilliant. Not only is it without a shadow of a doubt something the character would do, it was oddly compelling.

Along with the antagonist there were several other familiar faces from the past. I also don’t know how to feel about them, but while it’s a bit in your face (there’s no denying who they are or what their history with Bruce is) at least it doesn’t take over the whole plot. I actually believe they were used to set up the climatic ending for this issue, and likely bigger things to come in the future.

My one regret is that we didn’t see any of Melanie or Dana this issue. Terry has a lot of things to work out courtesy of some of the events in the previous plot. By now you probably all know how I feel about both characters (to recap: I adore Melanie and hate Dana) and can probably guess the sort of interactions I’m hoping for. I have a feeling any of that is going to have to wait until things calm down though.

Review: Batgirl #28

Batgirl 28.jpg

Batgirl #28
Publisher: DC Comics
Released: October 22nd 2018
Rating: 3 1/2 Star

I’ll be brutally honest with you here; while I thought Grotesque may have had some potential in the beginning, I am thoroughly sick of his character now. The more twists and complications they add to his character the less I like him. And no, that isn’t in the ‘love to hate him’ sort of way. He’s just overdone and not that interesting. Just my two cents. With any luck the last issue will bring us the end of that plot, but who knows.

I’m still conflicted on a few of the parts about this plot, on the whole. I like that they’ve had Barbara thinking about her past, and what it means to her versus everybody else in her life. And I like the idea of her father being brought into the investigation as well – just not the method that was used to do it.

It has been fun to see Barbara in her retro Batgirl suit. That much I have to give full marks for – especially the way they were able to implement it. I’m sure we’ll see her back in her regular and modern suit soon enough, but sometimes flashbacks can be fun. And it fits in well with all of the reflecting she’s been doing lately.

Review: Scarlet #3

Scarlet 3

Scarlet #3
Publisher: DC Comics
Released: October 22nd 2018
Rating: 4 Star

Between the this issue and the last I took the time to read the original Scarlet run, so now I have a much better idea of why all of this is happening. While I don’t know how we got from point a to b, I’m not sure I need to know it either. Clearly the end result was violence.

This issue starts off with more backstory, though ironically not Scarlet’s. It’s all about Kit. You remember Kit, the woman with the beautiful teal hair? Well, it’s probably no surprise that her past is as messed up as Scarlet’s. Though it at least explains why she has been all in on everything that’s happened. I imagine that’ll be the case for all the major supports of Scarlet’s cause.

I’m getting used to the cycles of corruption and violence that seem to be prevalent in Scarlet. It does not make for light reading, however it is interesting nonetheless. Thankfully they haven’t started killing off as many characters as some other authors I read would have by now (looking at you Brian K. Vaughan)…but that’s probably just a matter of time.

I wasn’t expecting how this issue ended. In fact, I still don’t really believe it. It’s got to be a trap or a hoax or something, right? That or something will go horribly wrong, setting everyone back to the beginning again. Or at least that’s what I’m anticipating.


Review: Cover #2

Cover 2

Cover #2
Publisher: DC Comics
Released: October 17th 2018
Rating: 4 Star

Cover is an interesting sort of series. I wasn’t completely certain with how to feel about it last issue, since it was the first one and all. It sort of felt self-indulgent in a way. You know, a comic book author writing about comic book writers/artists and all that. It seemed like the perfect fantasy.

Now? Now I’m thinking it’s a nightmare. Or something less than fantastical, at least. It’s clear that this guys world isn’t perfect, nor would it be

The storytelling for this issue was less linear that the last one. It keeps jumping back and forth between a couple points in time. What is interesting is that those points aren’t all that far apart, all things considered. I’d guess no more than a day or two? A week at the most, but that’s probably stretching it.

Its interesting how one person’s life can become such a mess by the actions of another. In this case it’s a crazy fan, but not even remotely in the way you’d expect. It’s kind of fun seeing the ‘stalker fan’ trope flipped on its head.

The artwork for this series has been absolutely lovely. The main character in this series is a comic book writer, as you well know, and has created a few famous series. The pages are occasionally included, and it’s always immediately clear when they switch to showing us one. Having so many different styles shown in the same series is very impressive. The main style isn’t afraid to take risks either – I’m personally very fond of the water color-esque style used towards the end of this issue. It was absolutely striking.

Review: Batman #57

Batman 57.jpg

Batman #57
Publisher: DC Comics
Released: October 17th 2018
Rating: 3 1/2 Star

Batman has been teetering on the edge for a while now. We’ve all noticed it. I think it goes back farther than the wedding-that-wasn’t, but said catastrophe certainly didn’t help his mental state much. The point I’m trying to make is this; I can’t be the only one wondering how much Batman can take before he breaks. How much he’ll put up with before he stops caring about the values he holds the closest to him.

To be fair, Batman is easily the most stubborn character out there right now. It’s half the reason why he’s never wavered on those values. Sure, he’ll leave a guy horribly maimed, but he’ll never kill him. Even if it’s the easiest solution to the problem (looking at you: Joker).

So the question is; could a villain ever get Bruce to break that point? Would it Nightwing’s killer? Now, personally my vote is no in this case. I mean, he’s seen all of his protégée go down at one point in time, including his son. Hell, that’s the whole reason Red Hood is so mad at Batman half the time; his inability to get revenge even then.

Still, that belief of mine wasn’t enough to allow me to relax while reading this issue. Knowing that Batman was tracking this guy down, and likely minutes away from finding him…well let’s just say that they set up the situation perfectly. I was on the edge of my seat.

The story being told between the pages seemed silly at first, but very quickly turns dark. Upon the revelation of what is really happening…yikes.

The conclusion is a bit of a cliffhanger, but also not. If that makes any sense at all. It’s the sort of inconclusive ending they love in Batman, so I’m neither surprised nor disappointed.

The artwork was well done in this issue. I loved the cooler color palette – appropriate both for the emotions here as well as the colder setting itself. The storybook images were somewhere between cute and macabre, which is perfect really.

Review: Batman #56

Batman 56.jpg

Batman #56
Publisher: DC Comics
Released: October 3rd 2018
Rating:  4 Star

So…for sake of honestly I should tell you that for a quick minute there I forgot how the last issue ended. I know that sounds crazy, because of the climatic conclusion…but I think it didn’t really strike me as hard as it could of, since the character affected wasn’t in his main series, and I usually assume that permanent character deaths won’t happen outside of their series (and let’s be honest, he’s not staying dead).

I may have laughed out loud when I saw the antagonist introduced here, but not for the reasons you’d think. Seeing him just made me think of his introduction (and exit) from the Assault on Arkham movie (which was fantastic by the way, so if you haven’t seen it please take some time to watch it). I think his appearance in that movie forever changed my opinion of him, for better or worse.

They did a good job with the buildup for this issue. I love it when they don’t rush things, but also focus on the antagonist as a way of building the tension of the plot. Plus it was nice to learn a bit more about this guy, before Batman presumably beats his face in.

I really enjoyed the artwork for this issue as well. It wasn’t overstated, though the colors were wonderfully done.


Review: Green Lanterns #56

Green Lanterns #56.jpg

Green Lanterns #56
Publisher: DC Comics
Released: October 3rd 2018
Rating: 4 Star

I’ll admit that I was a little worried that Green Lanterns would end conclude, just like the Hal Jordan series has (though rumor has it we’ll be seeing something new soon), especially with seeing Jessica Cruz get wrapped up in another plot very far away from the corps. Thankfully that doesn’t appear to be the case. I can at least safely say that they’re finishing this plot, and they don’t seem to be rushing through it either, which is appreciated.

Now that we all know what was really going on here, it’s nice seeing the tricks that were played being actually recognized. While there were lots of loopholes used in this issue, they all made sense and were based on facts and events that were revealed in previous plots, so that was fine by me.

It looks like this plot may be heading back to earth – which isn’t terribly surprising, considering the antagonist and all. Still, it’s been a while since we’ve seen a major Green Lantern event occur there (and rightly so – they have quite a bit of territory to defend, and it can’t all be about earth). This could get interesting.

There were several epic moments in this issue, and I feel like most (but not all) of the main Green Lantern characters got a moment to shine here. Or at least had an opportunity for a quippy one-liner.


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