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Justin may be found on Twitter, @thirteenminutes.

I apologize up front if I confuse anyone with the title of this issue, but I refuse to call it X-Men #10: Now Ghosts #1 or whatever, because I just find that a little ridiculous. It’s also been a bit of a recurring struggle to enjoy the book as fully as I would like to when it’s endured such a revolving door of artists. It was initially announced as a Brian Wood and Olivier Coipel book, which immediately got my attention. He’s my favorite writer and a terrific artist. That lasted three issues. Since then, the title was momentarily conscripted by a crossover event, and we’ve seen artists David Lopez, Terry Dodson, and Barry Kitson come and go. For this issue, we have Clay Mann and Kris Anka sharing art duties. The good news is that some cheesecake tendencies from Terry Dodson aside, all of these artists are pretty interesting. Call me an old cynic, but I just long for the days that a single creative team would steward a run of 100, or 50, or heck, even 24, or 12 issues of an uninterrupted, on time, monthly series.

The second print of the first issue of Umbral is also being released on 12/18, the same day as the second issue, so there’s absolutely no excuse for you not to purchase the set as a stocking stuffer for that person in your life who is a would-be fan of The Dark Crystal meets Game of Thrones lying in wait. You know the one. If the first issue was front-loaded with a world establishing and explaining itself in non-expository fashion, then the second issue is more concerned with plotting forward motion. There’s a cold open suggesting other jobs being pulled during the eclipse, a thread that will inevitably collide with our protagonists. Then, the entire front half of the issue is largely dedicated to an adventurous chase sequence. Speaking of our protagonists, writer Antony Johnston and artist Chris Mitten make it clear than we’re in for a “buddy team-up” with two very unlikely partners. Rascal is the plucky, young female and Dalone appears to be a grizzled old spellcaster, and the pair couldn’t be more different in terms of gender, age, education, beliefs, class, and other demographics. What the two have in common, though, could be a strong bond forging their uneasy alliance. They’re both outlaws, one for practicing magic, and one for thieving. They’re also both humans, maybe the only humans, who have seen The Umbral and lived to tell about it.

Wasteland is one of my favorite books of the last decade, so I was excited to learn that creators Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten were working on a new project together. I was excited purely as a fan who wanted to see more of their riveting work. I was also excited for them, excited that they’d chosen to push this new book through the Image Comics machine and ride some of the creator-owned fanfare the publisher is currently raining down on the industry. There’s no doubt Image Comics is responsible for publishing some of the best books of the year, and their creator-first approach is so refreshing. Antony and Chris are swell guys; they deserve a wider audience, and I hope this venue brings in legions of additional fans. If you count the Queen & Country: Declassified story that Antony and Chris worked on as guests of Greg Rucka’s superb spy franchise, then this is the third major project that the duo have crafted together. Once you see Umbral, you’ll realize they’ve proven the old saying correct. The third time is, indeed, the charm.

Brian Wood’s socially-conscious action-adventure story kicks off the initial installment of the anachronistic “Longship” arc this issue. Wood and regular series artist Garry Brown pick up aboard the Ninth Wave Marine Conservationist Direct Action Force command ship, The Kapital. The crew is venturing deep into the North Sea territory, where post-Crash society has degenerated the technology and basic infrastructure to an interesting point, altering the very way of life. The inhabitants of this region have basically returned to primitive subsistence fishing in order to survive. Ninth Wave’s origins are rooted in combating illegal whaling operations, so, naturally, this brings them into conflict with a small fleet of newly manufactured Viking longships(!) helmed by a guy named Bors Bergsen.

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