Writer: Daniel Warren Johnson WRITER & Art: Daniel Warren Johnson, Mike Spicer, and VC’S Joe Sabino
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Release Date: June 30th, 2021
Reviewer: Blue Fox
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In Beta Ray Bill #4, Bill and his companions have finally arrived in Musspelheim, home of the dreaded fire-lord Surtur. In the last installment’s surprise twist, Bill’s loyal Spacecraft Scuttlebutt unexpectedly developed a humanoid-form and helped Bill and his loyal travel companions Pip the Troll and Skurge to defeat a bunch of Demons. However, all of this was done only to end up in the clutches of an alien tentacle monster.
Beta Ray Bill #4 begins with Bill waking up and trying to figure out what’s exactly going on with Scuttlebutts’ help. They soon realize that their ship is being held by a giant squid-like monster that is plunging them both (figuratively and literally) into murky depths. The ship must be freed – and they’ll need to be quick about it.
Pip and Skurge are mostly a no-show in this issue. This is fine as Beta Ray Bill mostly focuses on the dramatic rebirth of Bill the Korbinite into Beta Ray Bill the Savior of Korbinites. Throughout the issue, readers uncover all the dramatic twists and turns as Bill trudges through the mindscape of his past. Bill and his companions eventually reach their goal, ending Beta Ray Bill #4 in a wild cliffhanger.
The art has this rough, sort of hand-drawn underground feel. It’s deliberately “shaky” with its linework. Yet, even with its rough and unsteady appearance, the illustrations worked well with the overall story and plot. That said, Daniel Warren Johnson’s splash pages don’t quite work with his preferred style. They rather feel a bit flat and mundane than the gorgeous vistas they’re trying to convey. In smaller panels, Jonhson’s style is fine causing the muted palette from Mike Spencer to work well. Unfortunately, a splash page is supposed to be eye-popping and “splash” to your eyes which the flat and muted palette doesn’t portray.
Overall, I didn’t really feel the art at first, but it has slowly grown on me. The story is in the end more about Bill finding his place again in the universe than finding a new weapon. Ultimately, I like Beta Ray Bill as a character and I am sure his fans will enjoy this issue. Nevertheless, I really have to wonder why Pip and Skurge are in the book at all when they clearly have such little to do inside this anecdote.
As a story, this has so far been a fairly straightforward item hunt which is fine. Bill needs a new weapon, and this is how he’ll get one. It doesn’t add a whole lot of news to Bill’s character. Yet, not every story has to. Sometimes we’re just happy to have an entertaining ongoing that’s fun to read, especially when we’re talking about Beta Ray Bill who hasn’t had a dedicated ongoing or limited series comic since 2005 Stormbreaker: The Saga of Beta Ray Bill six-issue limited series.