Daniel Warren Johnson and Mike Spicer’s Beta Ray Bill had to end at some point, and sadly it does this week. The epic series had an incredible penultimate issue come out on June 30th that’s got everyone itching for a bare-knuckle brawl. This issue certainly has that and more as one of the more visually arresting series in some time wraps it up with Beta Ray Bill #5.
This spoiler-free review has the benefit of the preview revealing the first few pages as we can see Surtur is about to throw down with Beta Ray Bill. Per the credits, Johnson is aided by Joe Sabino on letters, which you can see from the preview is a mix of hand-drawn and conventional lettering. Likely Johnson is providing dialogue like “Twilight is wise!” as Beta Ray Bill rushes in to kill Surtur or die trying. This opening reveals how Surtur agrees to play fair shrinking down throwing a few giant hits while Beta Ray Bill is clearly going into this fight in a berserker mode.
Enter Beta Ray Bill’s friends, who do whatever it takes to help their friend. Johnson continues to meld fantasy and sci-fi very well in this issue, similar to the last. Giant tech blends seamlessly with the raging fire on the planet and the huge blows Beta Ray Bill takes from Surtur. That goes for the guns as well, which reminds us this is a high-tech setting even though literal gods are fighting.
Ultimately you’re reading this for the fight comics fun, and Johnson leans into that with some impressive sound effects. Nothing beats a great hand-drawn “Boom” for instance, and there are fun unconventional effects too like “grapple” or a wild “pow” seemingly getting torn in half. I recommend folks read this, then go back and read only the sound effects to see how impressive they are.
Speaking of fighting, Johnson must be a pro wrestling fan because there distinct moves used between Surtur and Beta Ray Bill. Outside of the masterfully planned out fight choreography, it’s cool to see grappling and other fight styles. That’s not something you see in an average superhero comic.
This issue ends in a way that’s deeply sad, but also deeply real. Much like Beta Ray Bill, we all fight for what we think we need or want, but is it ever truly enough? We find out in regards to Beta Ray Bill’s journey in this issue. It also pays off seeing how his friends aid him.
Speaking of, the way one friend aids Beta Ray Bill is a bit too familiar. It’s a trope we’ve seen before, especially in sci-fi, which reduced the originality a touch even though it was fitting for the character.
Beta Ray Bill #5 ends in such a way that you’ll be dying to know what character Daniel Warren Johnson will tackle next. The impact of Johnson’s art and take on this character — and Wonder Woman last year — is resoundingly obvious. This ending certainly is fitting and satisfying in its own right, but Johnson leaves the character in a place where much more could be told. For that reason, this is a great finale, especially if you like beat ’em up action.
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