The second issue of American Ronin has much to live up to. The series’ debut is one of the coolest comics of the year, largely due to the artistic team of ACO, David Lorenzo, and Dean White, but they are nearly matched by the core concept of an assassin who uses empathy to control others. To a degree, American Ronin #2 doesn’t match the first issue, but I think it’s still worth the time and price to read it.
This issue splits its time between our titular ronin hunting his next mark, and he himself being hunted. On one hand it feels too vague, and on the other it feels too packed. It feels like a definitive second issue in that it’s continuing the good stuff from the first issue, but it’s also adding more to it, and it doesn’t all quite work together yet. I expect that it will, likely with the next issue, but it didn’t quite get there for me here. I especially think the empathy power wasn’t utilized as well in this issue as it was in the previous one. There are good story reasons for this, but seeing empathy used as a super power is an extremely cool concept to me. The cliffhanger is good enough to follow up on, and the artistic team is worth continuing to follow, though.
Really, the selling point in this issue, and the series, is the art team, and while they don’t quite hit the highs of the first issue for me, it’s still one of the best looking comics of 2020. The layouts are incredible and inventive, and the use of yellow throughout the issue feels aimed perfectly at me. Part of my lack of enthusiasm toward the issue probably has to do with the fact that there isn’t a big action set piece, instead opting for short, sometimes off-screen, action. It feels like a bit of a waste of ACO in particular, but again, there are in-story reasons for it. None of that is intended as an art critique, especially when it reads as a story one.
The story here, while lacking in my opinion, is always told in the most interesting way possible. There are two nightmare sequences where the use of color, composition, and layouts are utilized perfectly. Circles and eyes are used as motifs throughout the issue for various purposes, and I’m excited to keep unpacking them. One recurring page layout in particular is something I’m really interested in figuring out.
Ultimately, though, this is a disappointing second issue. It’s a pretty typical second issue in that way. It feels like it’s more of a bridge between the first and third issues than it is a story of its own, which feels weird as a follow up to the debut. I’m still excited to see where the series goes from here, and much of it still works, but it is disappointing to feel like I got a two month gap between issues.
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