Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for the fast column? Let's kick of with Best Shots, as Aaron Duran takes a look at the latest Marvel team book, Mighty Avengers...
Mighty Avengers #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): With Earth's mightiest mortals off facing yet another galaxy-shattering event, Earth's other mighty (but maybe not mightiest) mortals are all the stands between us and destruction. I like how writer Al Ewing brings Luke Cage back into the superhero fold. It's fun to watch the character juggle his desire to fight for the common good and still keep his family safe. That he does so while smacking around some villains and trash-talking Octo-Spidey is icing on the cake. Visually, Mighty Avengers #1 is simply lacking any spirit. I know Greg Land is a fan favorite, but to me, his images are just too photo rendered. There is no sense of movement in this comic, everyone simply poses so Jay Leisten can color them. It's a real shame, Ewing has the seeds for a very fun book with this cast. I just wish it didn't look so lifeless.
Batman #23.2 The Riddler (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Something tells me the Riddler is Scott Snyder's favorite villain. In Batman #23.2, he and co-writer Ray Fawkes have fun delving into Nigma's labyrinthine psyche, while maintaining the overall arc set by Forever Evil. Both Synder and Fawkes understand that with the Riddler, it's always about game, the ending is almost inconsequential. Jeremy Haun's pencils are a mixed bag. His Riddler moves with purpose, but he lacks any real expressive presence once that green domino mask goes on. As his non-masked characters don't have this issue, I know Haun is capable of better. The panel backgrounds are as interesting as possible when you consider the bulk of comic is in a bland corporate building. Colorist John Rausch does his best to bring life to such a sterile setting. While it might all be setup, Batman #23.2 is still a solid entry in the Villains Month event.
Sidekick #2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Flyboy gets a glimmer of hope from an unlikely source but it only leads to further problems as this great series from writer J. Michael Straczynski drags its protagonist further down in the second issue. Bringing in a love interest for the Red Cowl, JMS rubs his mentor’s ease and success right in the face of Flyboy. We also get his troubled origin, and if there’s one complaint here, it’s that I felt this issue revealed a bit too much too early. Artist Tom Mandrake kills it on art again, blending scenes in splash pages and keeping things feeling tarnished by not showing them in complete clarity. He does some great close-up work and character design here as this series continues to be highly recommended.
The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys #4 (Published by Dark Horse; Review by Lindsey Morris; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The bodies have started piling up at last within the vibrant pages of this week's Killjoys. Gerard Way and Shaun Simon give us a taste of the blood we've been waiting for, driving the story forward with visions of revenge and swift retribution. The hidden layers of our main characters are being unveiled, revealing things both sinister and righteous. Becky Cloonan does some of her best work in this issue, every panel brimming with action or emotion. Coupled with colors by Dan Jackson, each mood is set perfectly. Only two issues to go and on the brink of war, this book approaches its terminal velocity.
Justice League #23.2: Lobo (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Villains Month continues on at DC and the recently revealed redesign of Lobo makes his debut. Writer Marguerite Bennett establishes the Last Czarnian as an evil intergalactic swashbuckler with a penchant for killing and repeating himself.The big moment in the book is finding out why this svelte new Lobo exists (think about DC’s recent justification for the LEgion). It’s curious that a company dedicated to simplifying things, consistently makes them more complicated. Ben Oliver and Cliff Richards’ artwork suits the story well. They set the stage by drawing a myriad of different aliens without the designs feeling repetitive. This book is fairly by the numbers - Lobo’s just skinnier now.
Aquaman #23.1: Black Manta (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Although Villains’ Month has been hit or miss so far, the latest issue of Aquaman gets a lot of things right but still doesn’t hit the nail on the head. Here, the continuity is all lined up properly (a complaint from last week) but even though we got to see where Black Manta is, we don’t get to really see where he was. The issue is mostly clips from other Trinity War story lines where Manta appears. The reader can almost feel writers Geoff Johns and Tony Bedard lining up the pieces for the big picture and sacrificing a stronger narrative. Despite some amazing looking panels by artist Claude St. Aubin, Aqauman #23.1: Black Manta gets the character to his next chapter without adding anything new.
Star Wars #9 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): This issue works particularly well in the way Brian Wood is able to capture Leia's journey through the grieving process – in this instance, her desire to return to the remains of Alderaan in order to fully come to grips with its destruction. She had been able to find temporary escape from her feelings through her responsibilities as one of the rebellion's leaders as seen in previous issues. Things noticeably slow down in this issue, however, which provides her with the time and space to process the repercussions of the events from Star Wars: A New Hope. We also touch base briefly with Han and Chewie as they continue their escape from the bounty hunters as well as Luke and Wedge, who continue their infiltration operations aboard the Imperial star destroyer. The art continues to remain consistent and engaging even during the quieter moments of the story, all of which combine to tell an equally engaging story.
Detective Comics #23.2: Harley Quinn (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Harley Quinn’s origin is fairly cut and dry: a psychiatrist falls in love with one of her patients and he happens to be the Joker. Writer Matt Kindt provides that origin in the context of the New 52 and it works out well. There are a few kinks thrown in just to differentiate this Harley from past iterations. There some (bad) justification for her current costume but overall Kindt isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel. He does succeed in making sure we know that this Harley has the potential to be just as twisted as the Joker. Neil Googe handles the art on this one and it’s inconsistent at best. There are some really great, smaller character moments when Harley is home with her family but his art doesn’t come across with the same kinetic energy that say a Humberto Ramos Spider-Man book has.
Eternal Warrior #1 (Published by Valiant Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): I can't lie: this comic is gorgeous. Although I've never heard of Trevor Hairsine before reading this issue, he's on my radar now. His battle scenes are dynamic while his characters are both expressive and engaging. And Greg Pak's script is something right out of Robert E. Howard. What I like about it though is it is original in its approach and yet feels inspired by the father of swords and sorcery without being at all derivative. Pak does a great job of introducing enough about his main character to whet our appetites for while still leaving questions hanging in their air at the end of the issue to make buying issue #2 a sure thing. I never read Valiant Comics back in the 1990s, but it seems that's about to change now.
Flash #23.2: Reverse-Flash (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato’s Flash has been a joy to read. But their origin for an all-new Reverse-Flash leaves me wanting. It treads familiar supervillain origin ground but the dramatic tension is supposed to be elevated by the new Reverse-Flash’s close proximity to Barry’s regular life. It feels forced. The art remains a strong point for this series, though. Scott Hepburn does his best to imitate Manapul and Buccellato’s previous work and it works. I think the consistency has a lot to do with Buccellato remaining the colorist for the issue but Hepburn throws a lot of different looks out there with dynamic panel placement, strong visual storytelling and excellent character expressions.
Red Sonja #2 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Sonja prepares to breathe her last and recalls the moment she became the She-Devil in an well-done origin issue from the team of Gail Simone and Walter Geovani. Simone creates even more backstory for Sonja here, and it feels perfectly natural. I’m not sure how much is drawn from Howard or the old Marvel books, but making her a tomboy whose kind nature is destroyed by a raiding party killing her entire village fits Sonja like a glove. Meanwhile, Geovani continues to use every visual trick to make this story shine, showing the snap in Sonja’s personality just by the look in her eyes. Ranging from touching moments to violent battles and ending on a cliffhanger, Red Sonja is a book worthy of its pedigree.
Archer and Armstrong #13 (Published by Valiant Entertainment; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): One more guest star flies in as the fight with General Redacted is one of many things to hit a climax when this story arc comes to an explosive conclusion. Lacing his broad comedy with a serious undertone about the nature of life and friendship, writer Fred Van Lente shows his range here. He keeps the ridiculous concepts of this arc grounded and gives artist Pere Perez plenty of opportunities to show off his amazing skill at facial emotions and character placement. Perez is a big reason this arc has worked so well, as he nails just the right visual moment for each of the notes Van Lente hits in the script. This is a comic in perfect harmony, and is a must-read this week.
Kings Watch #1 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Jeff Parker and Marc Laming take some of Dynamite’s pulp toys for a spin as they combine three classic characters in a fast-paced first issue that’s got me hooked. Parker writes a script that literally takes us all over the world, setting up the players for an event that could lead to the end of everything. They’re blended together effortlessly, thanks to Laming’s artwork, which switches from a stubbled, almost grinning Phantom to mysterious and shadowy robed figures to city scenes without jarring the reader’s senses. Parker’s dialogue is crisp and witty as usual, but still switches styles as we move back and forth from Mandrake, Flash Gordon, and the Ghost Who Walks. This one’s a must-read, even if you don’t usually do pulp stories.