Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday Rapids? Best Shots has you covered, as we take a look at the latest releases from comics' biggest publishers! So let's get into the head of a ruthless villain who just wants to be super, man, with the Villains Month special on Lex Luthor...
Action Comics #23.3: Lex Luthor (Published by DC Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): It’s a peek into the mind of Superman’s greatest foe as Lex Luthor walks us through his day in a one-shot that pushes the point just a bit too far. Any one of the examples writer Charles Soule gives us of Luthor’s ruthlessness and manipulation would have been enough, but they come so rapid fire that when we get to the climax, I’m less shocked than I should be. He’s so villainous we lose some of the complexity of Lex’s character. Raymund Bermudez and Dan Green do a great job capturing Luthor’s personality in his arrogant looks and refined body posture. The comic has a smooth, rounded feel, which conflicts a bit with the sharp nature of the plot, but overall, it’s another good one-shot.
Superior Spider-Man #18 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): I have to give Dan Slott a lot of credit - he's particularly ambitious with Superior Spider-Man #18, as Otto Octavius feels the combined weight of that confounded Parker luck and his own arrogant temperment. Slott rides a lot on the high concept of this arc, as Spider-Man 2099 goes head-to-head (and claw-to-claw) with the unfriendly neigborhood web-slinger, and that helps keep the reader's interest amid a ton of subplots. Between Horizon Labs, time travel, the Hobgoblin, Otto's thesis, there is a bit of a lack of focus here that does take away from the book a bit. Ryan Stegman kills it on this issue, however, particularly the economical way he composes a fight sequence in this already packed book. Not a perfect read by any means, but it's definitely a good one.
Batman #23.3: Penguin (Published by DC Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Never underestimate the Penguin - that's the lesson Frank Tieri and Christian Duce teach in this spotlight that shows Cobblepot at his best. Balancing him on a razor’s edge of sophistication and brutal murder, Tieri has a great understanding of what makes Penguin unique in Batman’s rogues gallery. He’s one part mob boss, one part insane, and smart enough to keep one step ahead of just about anyone. Duce’s art is stellar, working in a crisp and clean style. He draws Penguin as a person with dignity (and a huge nose), giving him the dapper appearance of a gentlemen. When he moves into manic mode, the transition shows a real snap and we feel feral rage. This was a great one-shot and worth grabbing this week.
Infinity #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Scott Cederlund; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Infinity #3 continues the two-front war for the Avengers that we've been reading about here and in Avengers (space) and New Avengers (Earth.) Hickman, Opeña and Weaver are trying to create a modern "Kree Skrull War" but Hickman's writing lacks the little human touches that colored Roy Thomas's classic story. Thomas weaved in just the right amount of soap opera into his Avengers stories, whether it was the developing love between a synthezoid and a mutant or the seemingly growing distrust between the founders of the Avengers and the latest team members to carry that name. Hickman lacks Thomas's character-driven passion, preventing the characters from actually acting like people instead of chess pieces on a game board as he maintains the austerity of the story. It is like we are being made to worship at some temple dedicated to the deity of The Avengers rather than reading a comic book full of colorful characters and alien races. Opeña's art, crisp and precise, reinforces Hickman's solemn approach to the story while Weaver tries to go full on Neal Adams as he draws the Inhumans. Weaver is the only part of this creative team who looks like he's having fun on nearly every page he gets to work on. The shape of Hickman's story is fascinating to watch but the execution of it feels trapped in the form of a giant Marvel event that's forced to be both expansive and cramped as Hickman struggles to find a balance between plot and characterization.
Zero #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Political commentary in a comic is a tricky thing, and Zero doesn’t quite made the grade in this first issue that features a future where Israel and Palestine send super soldiers at each other and the US tries to clean up the mess. Ales Kot pictures what might happen as technology improves in war zones, but the design feels too much like Iron Man, which is partly on artist Michael Walsh (they are powered by circular discs on their chests). Most of the issue is non-stop violence without much in the way of regret and the characters felt stock and unoriginal, hurting the anti-war theme. Other than Walsh’s strong and scratchy depictions of the horror of the conflict, there’s not much to recommend this one.
Savage Dragon #190 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): A breakout in prison gets lethal while Malcolm’s personal life breaks down in an issue that’s not Larsen’s best. Unlike the last issue, the art felt very rough here, almost at the level of basic sketching just colored in, especially in the space scenes. In other places, characters are cut off for no reason due to the panel selections made. That hurt the comic a lot for me, as did the fact that there was too much packed in for the reader to follow. There’s a prison breakout, Malcolm’s issues, a fight between the villains, and Dragon’s ex-lover, dragging racial DNA in tow, all within twenty pages. Larsen is gearing for the 200th issue, but he ramped up the engines a bit too much here.
New Avengers #10 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 2 out of 10): The first real casualty of Infinity is here - and it's Jonathan Hickman's best book, New Avengers. With the threat of parallel universes getting sidetracked because of Thanos' plot, Hickman doesn't really add too much more than he does in the main Infinity storyline. The Illuminati search for the son of Thanos, but there's no stellar moments here. Mike Deodato's artwork isn't bad, but because there are few bits of action to this book, there's not too much he can do to crank up the energy of this book. Besides Stephen Strange suffering a silent defeat, this issue is more of a distraction than anything else. Unless you are a completist, this issue is completely skippable.
X-Files Season 10 #4 (Published by IDW; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): A national park might just be a national prison as Mulder and Scully draw closer to the truth - and each other - in a series that keeps getting better. Writer Joe Harris does his best to keep both the characters and the readers off-balance, as Scully loses her ability to trust her senses in an understated way. The confusion of the script feels natural, not purposefully obscured, revealing as much as it hides. Best of all, Michael Walsh finally brings more action and movement to the pages and cuts way back on the posing of characters. They look at each other, not the reader. Combined with his ability to create creepy shadows, the art is now on the level of the script in this highly recommended series.
Batman '66 #3 (Published by DC; Review by Lindsey Morris; 'Rama Rating 9 out of 10): Jeff Parker and company are back at it this week with another mega campy, Adam West style romp through Gotham. Batman and the Boy Wonder first solve the mystery of Red Hood and the Joker, and later take on Egghead in this two-part issue. Parker continues to do a wonderful job crafting stories true to the tone of the original television series, with many a "BANG, POW" and a large helping of egg related puns. The art department also keeps the magic alive with Joe Quinones and Sandy Jarrell laying down some great inks rivaling those of Jonathan Case, and colorists Maris Wicks and Rico Renzi setting the appropriate zany moods. A great read for anyone looking to add some laughs to their comic reading.
Savage Wolverine #8 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): The litmus test for Savage Wolverine #8 is pretty simple - do you like Joe Madureira? Do you like Wolverine? If the answer is yes, then you'll probably buy this book sight unseen - this is absolutely just a showcase for Joe Mad's visuals, as Wolverine lays the smackdown on a (fairly generic) demonic ninja behemoth. Madureira's characters are over-the-top in terms of their anatomy, with Wolverine bulking up as he screams in rage. With that in mind, Zeb Wells' plot is paper-thin, particularly when he comes back to the "man versus animal" debate that has been done to death with Wolverine since the 1980s. Still, he gets a clever bit in with the Kingpin, even if the character's inclusion (along with Elektra) is completely arbitrary. Ultimately, if you're in this for the visuals, you won't be disappointed, but what you see is pretty much all you get.
Five Ghosts Vol. 1: The Haunting of Fabian Gray (Published by Image Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): A treasure hunter gets linked to five literary ghosts and must use their powers to redeem himself and stop demons from wreaking havoc on earth in this fun series that revels in its homage to Bronze Age horror comics. Given just the right look by artist Chris Mooneyham, whose work here owes a lot to John Buscema, Gil Kane, and Dick Giordano, writer Frank Barbarie scripts a story that has the feel of older comics but just enough modern oomph to make this story stand on its own. As we watch Fabian Gray prove himself worthy of the powers of Holmes, Dracula, and others, there’s plenty of action as this trade sets up for the ongoing series coming in October and is highly recommended.