Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for the Thursday column? Best Shots has you covered, with this week's installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's kick off today's column with Forrest Helvie, as he takes a look at the newest issue of Hawkeye...
Hawkeye #13 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): The superhero comic that refuses to be a proper superhero comics returns with Fraction and Aja in full form in Hawkeye #13. We see Clint attempting to pick up the pieces of himself following the murder of his friend, Grills, while Kate and Barney enter back into the picture – either to help Clint out or for reasons that are more self-serving. I liked that while we've seen Kate as a strong, badass hero in recent issues, this story allows Fraction to draw out her more compassionate side again. Aja and Hollingsworth's art expertly captures the tone of the story while Fraction's minimalist use of dialogue conveys the quiet detachment Clint experiences all of which come together for yet another must-read comic from Marvel.
Wonder Woman #24 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10):As Apollo begins his reign as the king of the gods, he demands Wonder Woman take her place as the new War. While I've enjoyed the mythology Brian Azzarello has been creating since the beginning, Issue #24 still suffers as a title that sidelines it's main character. Even more frustrating is Azzarello's pacing. There is setting up the pieces and then there is flat out filler. And, to be honest, I'm already living in a world with tedious government bickering, I don't need it in my Wonder Woman comic. Goran Sudzuka has a nice grasp on the visuals, with a strong eye towards facial expressions. While he lacks Chiang's more graceful line work, Sudzuka is not a jarring shift and definitely shows potential as a strong artistic style for the Amazon turned goddess. This is a title that can see its greatness, it just can't snag it.
X-Files Season 10 #5 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The truth is out there - but it might not be the truth you’re looking for, as this series ends its first arc a bit more shakily than I’d hoped. After four solid issues of build-up, I was a bit disappointed that writer Joe Harris left a lot on the table for future arcs to reveal. The band is back together, but it takes withholding information to do it. This is another good outing from artist Michael Walsh, who keeps Mulder and Scully moving, brings the backgrounds to life in some nice surprise scenes, and even manages to capture the foggy memory of Scully visually. He’s the key to making the set-up for the next issue menacing as we wait for the next arc to begin.
Batman and Two-Face #24 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgar; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): There have truly been some amazing teams to take on Batman over the years. However, while everyone’s attention is on the main Batman title, don’t over look the now-solo Batman and …. Tomasi and Gleason bring the good stuff every single month and this October is no exception. Gleason is the notable standout this month, delivering some truly dynamic panels with the showering Bruce to the spitting Erin McKillan. Even on the first story in an arc the story is gripping without losing too much momentum in the beginning. Still the best Bat-book for your money, Batman and… #24 cranks up the tension of the next big arc.
Avengers Assemble #20 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Al Ewing knocks it out of the park as he makes his return to Avengers Assemble. Focusing on Wonder Man, the Wasp and the Scarlet Witch of the Uncanny Avengers, Ewing delivers a quiet Inhumanity tie-in that really plays off each character's powers and histories. While Ewing mines the continuity with bits like Wonder Man's pacifism and Wasp's time in the Microverse, Pepe Larraz draws some smooth, if not particularly flashy artwork, reminding me a bit of a scratchier Clayton Henry or Rafa Sandoval. While the low-key nature of the writing and the art means fans won't break down the doors of their comic book shop to buy this book, it would be their mistake - Avengers Assemble brings the goods, through and through.
S.H.O.O.T. First #1 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Justin Aclin goes in guns blazing pitting the Secular Humanist Occult Obliteration Taskforce against a Jinn at the center of a suicide bombing. In S.H.O.O.T. First, we’re quickly introduced to a world where angels, demons and other supernatural factions exist but god doesn’t, and those factions are battling for our belief. That premise creates a little distance between this book and the rest of the supernatural thriller crowd. However, Nicolás Daniel Sentra’s artwork is nothing to write home about. Clean lines come across as bland. Certain angles and panel placements are baffling. The whole book is rendered in uninteresting shades of brown and gray. S.H.O.O.T. First has a solid concept at its core but subpar art is likely to clip its wings.
Batwoman #24 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Although still one of the better books that DC is publishing, it’s hard not to read Batwoman #24 and know that the writers, and core, of this title won’t be on the book anymore. Issue #24 sees the beginning of the throwdown between Batman and Batwoman and although the action keeps you engaged, one can’t help but wonder when this book is going to take a sharp turn because of the shake-up behind the scenes instead of on the page. Although Issue #24 of Batwoman sets the stage for the larger battle, we know that no matter what the outcome that the real loss is losing writers J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman to editorial conflicts.
Kings Watch #2 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The Ghost Who Walks teams up with a friend of Mandrake’s to block a Cobra’s path, but Flash Gordon is the one who feels its sting in this second issue that starts drawing everything together. Not wasting a minute of panel space, writer Jeff Parker links the plot points of issue one with the help of Marc Laming’s amazing artwork that steals the show. Laming’s Phantom sections are the best, from his Batman-like first appearance to the subtle mark of the Phantom’s sigil on a tribal guard’s face. Parker takes full advantage, writing lines that tie directly into the visuals while also keeping his usual banter fresh and meaningful as the pair leave the reader on a cliffhanger that looks bad for the good guys.
Batman '66 #4 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): It would be easy enough to claim Batman '66 works so well because it simply taps into that powerful nostalgia vein. Only we're up to issue #4 and it's clear writer Jeff Parker is doing more than Adam West by the numbers. Traveling to England, the Dynamic Duo face that Hooligan of Haberdashery, the Mad Hatter. It's a simple setup that leads the reader on a Beatlemania style adventure within London. Batman '66 #4 is simply a non-stop spree of fab antics. Jonathan Case again draws a book that not only plays homage to the classic series, but generates a sense of motion and excitement I didn't think was possible on the page. Honest and enjoyable camp isn't easy. For all it's winking and nodding at the audience, there is no denying the truth. Batman '66 #4 is just smart storytelling.
Indestructible Hulk Special #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Hulk smash puny... puppies? Nah, Mike Costa and Jacob Wyatt reveal the Unjolly Green Giants love for all things fluffy and cute in Indestructible Hulk Special #1, which continues the surprisingly fun "Arms of the Octopus" crossover with All-New X-Men and Superior Spider-Man. While Spidey gets a bit of a back-seat in this issue, Costa focuses on Bruce Banner, drawing in the reader with Banner's innate curiosity and love of science. Costa also ups the likability factor by checking in with Hank McCoy, the bashful and loveable narrator of the last installment. Artist Jacob Wyatt is similar enough in tone to Kris Anka to keep the visuals coherent, and his expressiveness helps keep the book flowing even as some scenes drag due to heavy dialogue. The exposition may give this issue a slight drop from the first chapter, Indestructible Hulk Special #1 is still a fun read.
Code Monkey Save the World #1 (Published by Monkey Brain Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Code Monkey Save the World #1 is an offbeat comic that flirts on the border of science fiction and the absurd, written by Greg Pak and illustrated by Takeshi Miyazama and Jessica Kholinne. Set in a near-futuristic world where robots, zombies, monkeys and mankind co-exist – though not always so peacefully - the story focuses on Charles the monkey and his attempt to save the girl in his office whom he has a crush on after she is abducted by robotic slavers. Charles' relationship to the "Skullcrusher" does not make much sense in this first issue, and it is a little unclear where the "moral right" falls – if anywhere. Pak does, however, do a fine job of blending in some dry humor that will appeal to adult readers while still delivering a comic that is perfectly age appropriate for readers in the 9+-year-old age range.
In Case You Missed It!
Three #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The brutal and cruel world of Sparta comes to life thanks to amazing visuals from Ryan Kelly in this new series that sets its tone-and opinion of the Spartans-early and often. Writer Kieron Gillen instantly stakes his own claim to the territory of Frank Miller’s 300 by showing the slavery and class warfare of the time, all in the name of order. With a historian on call, the details are striking-and horrifying. Kelly is the perfect fit for this one. His linework is well-defined but has just enough grime and rough edges to set the scene. The facial expressions nail Gillen’s dialogue and tell so much even when no one is speaking. This is a set-up issue for what should be a great series.
Sidekick #3 (Published by Joe’s Comics/Image Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): A leopard cannot change its spots, and neither can Flyboy, in an issue that’s good but gets bogged down by an origin story. Juggling dual plotlines, writer J. Michael Straczynski skimps on Flyboy’s attempt for a new life in order to tell us more about the mysterious woman who visits him, which hurts the story. She’s not interesting enough to carry that much of the issue. The dialogue felt rushed, too, with lines that feel more directed at the reader than the characters. Tom Mandrake, however, doesn’t miss a beat, continuing his visual blurring of the narrative by blending images together. The fog on Flyboy’s brain is copied in the art. He tastefully illustrates some rather unpleasant material this issue, which hopefully improves next month.