Greetings, 'Rama readers! Let's put the pedal to the metal with this week's Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's cut to the chase with the Best Shots team, as Aaron Duran starts us off with the latest issue of The Flash...
The Flash #18 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10):As much as it pains me to make speed jokes in this review, there is no getting around it. Flash #18 is all about the character slowing down a bit. Brian Buccellato does a good job of letting our hero deal with the fallout of the past few issues. It's a fun tone, without losing some classic Flash moments. Marcio Takara steps into some large shoes on art duties but pulls off the look we've come to expect in this series, while still making it his own. While not quite a new reader friendly issue, Flash #18 is a solid read for fans of the Scarlet Speedster. Like Barry Allen, this title continues to quietly work as one of DC's most consistently entertaining books, and doing so without headlines.
BPRD Vampire #1 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): Agent Anders is on a slow-moving quest to kill vampires in a story that’s visually appealing but does little else to make a reader move to Issue #2. Hellboy Universe architect Mike Mignola spends six pages introducing a newly formed vampire and another four pages at the end to let us know Anders is going to hunt her down. Artists/co-writers Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon (along with colorist Dave Stewart) do their best to make this glacial pacing look creepy and important, but it’s not possible. I’m a big fan of the creators involved, and seeing the Ba/Moon team adjust their style to fit Mignola’s world, doing even more with shadow than usual, is intriguing, but this needs to move faster in issue two.
Aquaman #18 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): It took me a little while to realize it, but Aquaman is taking an interesting swerve — it's basically DC Comics' underwater take on Game of Thrones. Lots of characters being juggled, this underlying political intrigue, it's definitely Geoff Johns stretching some very different muscles than I've seen from him before. Sometimes the energy can be a little lacking, however, but that's partially because Johns assumes we're already in Aquaman's corner. Paul Pelletier's designwork is still clean and imminently easy to take in, which is good, as there aren't quite as many big visual beats for him to hit (and the few splashes don't quite hit home). This book is missing a key likeability that holds it back from super-success, but the tonal shift is still a fascinating one.
Witch Doctor: Mal Practice #5 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10):There is a lot to like about Witch Doctor: Mal Practice #5. Brandon Seifert's writing is sharp and packed with Dr. Morrow's signature wit. Lukas Ketner's art is equally horrific, with just a touch of the fantastic and absurd to stop the book from being too serious. But in the end, the element I liked the most about this issue was loyal paramedic Eric Gast. He's spent the bulk of this serious as, well, us. The one the doctor has to explain everything to. With this issue, Gast has finally come into his own and it makes for a stronger issue. What the future holds is uncertain, but with this new character growth, it is sure to be interesting. This is still one strong title.
Bionic Man vs Bionic Woman #3 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The enemy of my enemy is still my enemy, as this mini-series picks up steam again. All the problems that plagued Issue #2 are gone, replaced by a fast-moving, action based plot that used both the main characters and villain quite well. I loved the way writer Keith Champagne twists the usual fight-then-team-up nature of pairings like this, keeping the reader guessing. It was also nice to see that Jaime has the upper hand, even if she may be wrong in the long run. There were a few awkward moments in Jose Luis’ art, as though it were cut off at the wrong point, but his visual style works well here, providing just the right amount of drama in an unexpectedly enjoyable mini-series so far.
Star Trek #19 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Engineer Scott receives the background story in Star Trek #19, and it's a mixed bag. I love the ancestral moments Mike Johnson weaves into a starry-eyed Montgomery Scott. Grandpa was a little too cliché, but it worked. The shoehorning into the 2009 film is what makes this book ring a little untrue. We don't need every element to lead to the moment before Scotty meets Kirk and Spock. Claudia Balboni, whom I've been incredibly impressed with, has a misstep or two with this issue. Her panels are dynamic when Scotty dreams of his forefathers on the high seas. However, as Scott ages, her work looks more rushed and lacks detail. Star Trek #19 is a serviceable story, but not one that will impress the loyal or attract the newcomer.
Mister X Hard Candy One Shot (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Dean Motter’s technological noir world is back in this one-shot story that works incredibly well despite being a well-mined story trope. Mister X is hired by a rich matriarch to find a kidnapped granddaughter but it quickly gets more complicated as the story winds its way through incredibly cool concepts like attractive undead bartenders, government-run malls, and even a killer robot. Motter loses points for an unnecessary narrator and a plot that’s standard stuff, but the visuals, which resemble a rounder, softer Howard Chaykin, do a lot to cover the lack of originality. They’re highlighted by a color palette that alternates between dark and garish, giving an almost neon glow to finish off the nourish plot. This is a great one-shot for crime comic fans.
Injustice: Gods Among Us #3 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Up to this point, DC’s video game tie-in, Injustice: Gods Among Us has been the best non-New 52 title you might not be reading. Issues #1 and #2 felt like the old-school Elseworlds books that DC used to put out with who-cares continuity and insane storytelling. Issue #3 hits a speed bump, however. With the previous two issues having a few shocking (and I mean shocking) turn of events, #3 feels rather dull in comparison. Adding to this is the disrupting change of artists halfway through the issue between Jheremy Raapack and David Yardin. Although both fine artists in their own right, Yardin and Raapack don’t mix well together and adds to this lackluster installment.
Green Hornet #1 (Published by Dynamite; Review by Jeff Marsick; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): The Green Hornet hasn't been captivating in years, and even the terrific Mark Waid can't reverse the trend. His version of the Hornet, playing wolf in sheep's clothing to take the underworld apart from the inside, is merely a character treading water in a plot devoid of any real stakes. Once more the formula is tactician-without-peer Hornet plus Kato the sidekick-who-can't-be-touched, equalling an outcome predictable from page one. Britt Reid rattling his newspaper as a saber against corruption is a more compelling story, but that's not why we read this book. Daniel Indro's artwork, while typically very good, is often too heavily inked and can be inconsistent, especially panels drawn with a slanted perspective. Disappointing.
Time Warp #1 (Published by Vertigo; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Vertigo's quirky sci-if anthology sets its phasers to stunning. Damon Lindelof and Jeff Lemire open things up with a smart, iconoclastic take on Rip Hunter, while Gail Simone teams up with a cartoony yet haunting story of a candy shop that dabbles in time travel. Simon Spurrier and Michel Dowling might have my favorite of the bunch, a crass, photo-realistic science story that winds up having a heart to match its mischeviousness. The only problem this book has its the economics behind it: that $7.99 behemoth price point is a tough pill to swallow. If Vertigo could figure out how to make this book easier on the wallet, it would be a great way to bring new readers in.
Peanuts #7 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Charlie Brown is good at strikes, but finds bowling just as hard as baseball while Schroeder turns into a busker in another set of stories that hew (almost too) closely to Charles Schulz’s original vision. Nat Gertler plays with Schulz’s lighter side to his creations that ends with a great gag. Vicki Scott runs almost the entire cast through their paces in “Alley Oops,” which actually works against the story since the reactions are predictable, without taking chances on characters that aren’t hers. Once again, we have the usual original Sunday reprints by Schulz and the two art teams of Stephanie Gladden/Justin Thompson and Vicki Scott/Paige Braddock make these the characters we know and love in a series that is always reliable but rarely innovative.
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