Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for the Rapid-Fire column? Best Shots is cutting to the quick, as Forrest Helvie kicks us off with the latest issue of Superior Spider-Man...
Superior Spider-Man #15 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The issue of whether Octospidey can keep all the “balls in the air” of his super-heroic juggling act is raised once again in this issue, and the outlook is uncertain as each facet of Peter’s life calls into question why the Parker they once knew is no longer acting the same as before. It’s a familiar tread that this superior version of Spidey walks as Slott continues to show us Ock is not as amazing as he thinks he is. Paired with somewhat awkward dialogue (“Minions, attend me!”), the story just feels a little stale as the “Big Brother” angle is continually pressed. Ramos’ artwork, however, is quite strong and is arguably the most enjoyable aspect of the issue from his various depictions of Hobgoblin to the general expressiveness of the characters. In general, it will be good once this greater story arc has moved onto something different.
Green Arrow #23 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Green Arrow is the sort of book that is one step forward, one step back - on the one hand, this book has a tremendous artist on board, as Andrea Sorrentino really outdoes himself this month with his wild layouts, particularly the scroll-like effect he has for his flashbacks featuring Shado and Ollie's father. Jeff Lemire also has some high points with the action sequences featuring Green Arrow, Shado and Count Vertigo, and he even makes Henry and Naomi seem endearing with their sweet love triangle. That said, the pacing on this issue is a little off, with the action coming and going in fits and spurts, and with Ollie's secret history and the clans of weapon-themed Outsiders, I still feel like Lemire is in danger of putting the cart before the horse - it's putting continuity ahead of character development, with Ollie still coming off as a bit of a blank slate. Still, the art alone is a great enticement, as Green Arrow is steadily improving.
Satellite Sam #2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Overall, the second issue of Satellite Sam had moments where it piqued my interest, but in the end, it felt like there were too many different plot pieces moving around to really create a cohesive reading experience the first time through. It might have made more sense to take only one or two plot threads and develop them further rather than introduce multiple subplots in one issue. Additionally, the art shines best when focusing on the various cityscapes or those panels with long shots. However, I found many of the characters – particularly the men - indistinguishable from one another at times in the close up panels, which further contributed to the sometimes disjointed feel to this issue. It was still an interesting story, but the inconsistent pacing was noticeable when compared to the first issue’s more steady delivery.
Superior Foes of Spider-Man #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Superior Foes of Spider-Man is, in many ways, Nick Spencer's Justice League International. With a quintet of hapless supervillains, there's plenty of bwa-ha-ha to go with these bad guys. Spencer's taking on Boomerang is basically the anti-Hawkeye, as he juggles a scummy lawyer, some under-the-table deals with some fancy restaurants, and the long con he's got to pull to make the Sinister Six (and his secret benefactor) stay happy and loyal. Spencer packs a lot into this script, and uses that pacing to throw in some great gags, particularly Boomerang daydreaming how he might kill someone, or Speed Demon fleeing from the Punisher (only to return for a doggy bag of leftovers). Steve Lieber is a little scratchier than normal with his inks, and his layouts sometimes feel a little static, but he gives a lot of expressiveness to a lot of characters who are wearing mostly masks. Definitely a book you don't want to miss.
The Movement #4 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Vanessa Gabriel; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): In the throes of a full-scale riot outside the police station, Gail Simone and Freddie Williams move between the chaos to character flashbacks. Its consistent pacing and placement through the issue make for an intricate and engaging story. Up to this point, apart from the occasional one-liner and show of super-power, we know very little about this team of vigilante vagabonds … and it has felt one-note, at times. Williams’s scratchy style muddies up the lines and movement details a bit. It isn’t doing these burgeoning characters any favors as far as endearing them to the reader. But Simone packs plenty of payoff with a sundry of origin snippets, scandalous reveals and unintended consequences. The Movement is growing.
Sidekick #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Writer J. Michael Straczynski sets out to destroy the glamour of being a sidekick in this new series. Flyboy, who saved the day once and then never again, tries to carry on in the shadow of his dead mentor, but finds himself failing at every turn, making bad decisions that point him straight to the worst villain of all: despair. Tom Mandrake switches effortlessly from the glory years of Flyboy to his current depravity, depicting scenes in bold strokes or mired in shadow. His panel work isn’t flashy, but it gets the job done, though I wish his facial expressions were more varied. This is JMS playing with the idea of how things can go very wrong for a hero, and it’s a great start.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic Omnibus vol. 1 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): For comic readers who played the now-classic Knights of the Old Republic computer / console game, this collection will be an enjoyable read as it revisits scenes and even some characters from the epic sci-fi role-playing game. Although the stories do not deliver much in the way that is fresh and new, they are nonetheless still enjoyable as Miller guides readers through familiar character tropes and plot devices such as bringing together an eclectic band of heroes and running them through a series of outlandish adventures. What really struck me while reading this volume, however, was the consistent quality of the art. The line work is generally quite polished, and the colors are especially vibrant – all of which helps keep the reader engaged in the action.
All-New X-Men #15 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Sometimes a title get to that awkward stage between the end of an arc and the beginning of the next big event. It’s what creators do in this period that can really showcase a fun, one-off, story. Although All-New X-Men #15 was putting some of the last pieces together for Battle of the Atom, it didn’t prevent Bendis and artist David Lafuente from turning out a fun one shot. Lafuente’s style, somewhere between John Romita, Jr. and Bryan Lee O’Malley, is able to craft a look that has a certain youthful charm that doesn’t play down to a younger sensibility. There is something sincerely enjoyable in watching Bobby Drake and Scott Summers pal around in New York and the young love between Jean and Hank in All-New X-Men #15.
Godzilla Rulers of Earth #2 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): It’s Godzilla versus Zilla, with Honolulu caught in the middle as this series romps through its second issue that’s fun but lacking depth. While the team of Chris Mowry (words) and Matt Frank (art) start to build an underlying story here, this is mostly a slugfest that puts the monsters front and center. There’s no way to tell this is Hawaii except by being told, for example, and the smashed buildings are generic. Frank shows lots of violence, but his style makes it feel like Looney Tunes mayhem, with no underlying gravitas. We do get a few interesting bits, such as making reference to the prior series and hinting at the reason for the recent attacks, but overall, this one isn’t clicking for me.
The Legend of Luther Strode #6 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Vanessa Gabriel; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The book may be named after Luther, but this is Petra’s story. She’s an entertaining foil to the hyper-masculine protagonist Luther and wildly perverse villain, Jack. Her spit, fire and impeccable timing drive this issue. Justin Jordan’s crisp character definition is on full display. Also on display is one of the most memorable and bloody splash pages I have ever seen. Despite Tradd Moore’s heavy stylization, the perspective he manifests is chilling. Moore’s dynamic, adrenaline-pumping violence with Jordan’s break-neck pacing bring the adventures of Luther and friends to max capacity. This issue is an entertaining and appropriate resolution to this story, but when The Legacy of Luther Strode rolls around next year, some complexity is in order.
Avengers #17 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): It's been 17 issues, and Jonathan Hickman has finally expanded his roster of the Avengers... but considering how slowly this book has progressed, this feels more disappointing than fun. If you were hoping for Hickman to mine the backlogs of the Marvel Universe for his new recruits, think again - if you've been reading this book at all, you can guess who's going to join, and it feels more like vanity picks than fan-favorites. This winds up being a problem when the actual fan-favorites - the Avengers themselves - wind up feeling like side characters in their own book. Stefano Caselli looks energetic as the book's lead artist, but jumping to Marco Rudy and Marco Checchetto winds up feeling pretty jarring. Aside from Manifold getting a decent action beat, not too much happens here, and considering how many issues we've already read, that does not bode well for Earth's Mightiest Heroes.
The Victories #4 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Admittedly, the fourth issue of Oeming’s The Victories feels a bit forced at times with the roles that the Jackal, Tarcus, and Metatron play within the plot amidst the conspiracy theory thread. That said, Oeming absolutely delivers when it comes to casting the spotlight on D.D. Mau – the psychologically and emotionally damaged superhuman who struggles with keeping it together as both a hero and a functional person. When it comes to writing and drawing flawed characters, Oeming absolutely nails it. Given the creative makeup behind this superhero, I hope he continues bringing her (and Faustus) to the forefront. Oeming and Filardi’s art continues to deliver a visceral and animated reading experience, and it’s certainly worth sticking around for the final part of this first story arc.
Batwing #23 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): There's something charmingly old-school about Batwing, as this title has eschewed its original African locale and transformed into something akin to a modern-day Batman Beyond. With Lucas Fox trying to rescue his father from the techno-terror squad known as the Marabunta, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray focus primarily on the action, but also inject a little bit of Spider-Man-esque soap opera into the mix. It's not the most nuanced characterization in the world, but between Lucas trying to please two father figures - his dad Lucius and his boss Batman - as well as dealing with his girlfriend leaving him, you can't help but feel for the poor guy. Artist Eduardo Pansica swings for the fences with this issue, however, channeling a little bit of Bryan Hitch with his realistic figures, yet never sacrificing his energetic fight choreography. While the actual villain of the piece, Lady Vic, feels a little arbitrary, this book is definitely picking up some steam.
Red Sonja: She-Devil with a Sword #11 - Volume XI: Echoes of War (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): My enemy, myself! As if doing the bidding of another wasn’t bad enough, Sonja comes face to face with her worst attributes in a fight to the death against a twisted mirror version of herself in this collection that features the amazing artwork of Walter Geovani. If you enjoyed Gail Simone’s Red Sonja, this is a good trade to pick up, as it features Geovani’s pencils and a solid story by writer Eric Trautmann, who understands how to work within the world of Robert E. Howard while giving Sonja more of a modern feel. Choices, sacrifices, and of course evil magic-users and fights feature prominently, with Geovani using every inch of the page to capture the epic feel of the story and show Sonja’s power.