Face front, 'Rama Readers! Your usual host David Pepose is off on one of his cosmic walkabouts, no doubt ensuring the prosperity of the galaxy for many moons to come. While he's out traversing the spaceways, I, George Marston, will be your interim guide through this week's releases. We're gonna kick things off with a peek at Justice League #25 from Jake Baumgart. Excelsior!
Justice League #25 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): If it’s true what they say about death holding no weight in comics anymore- then how about life? Geoff Johns has been able to take the Forever Evil cross event and, instead of killing/rebirthing every B-list character, he has increasingly been hinting towards the future with the origins of new heroes in the absence of Justice League. Ivan Reis is the perfect artist for this scale of comic. Reis is able to render characters in a style that almost feels cinematic on the page when combined with his flawless paneling. Justice League #25 may feel like a long winter of wickedness in the DCU, but sharp-eyed readers are going to see the hint of a brighter future- a second chapter- for DC’s heroes.
Krampus #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10):Your level of enjoyment with Krampus #1 will really depend on how well you know your Winter seasonal myths. Basically, the more you know (or are willing to learn), the more you'll enjoy this comic. Writer Brian Joines has fun with the various legends of Santa as they turn to one-time ally, now prisoner, Krampus in order to uncover a deadly conspiracy. It's not the deepest of stories, but it doesn't really need to be. The art by Dean Kotz is nice, if slightly unbalanced. When he has the space to open up, his designs and composition are great. Sadly, the majority of this book feels crowded. With most of the exposition taken care of in this issue, I hope Kotz has more room to play in the future. Krampus #1 isn't going to break any records, but it's a fun addition to the usually stagnant Christmas comic.
Shaolin Cowboy #3 (Published by Dark Horse; Review by Lindsey Morris; 'Rama Rating 9 out of 10): Making no departure the previous issue, this newest installment of Shaolin Cowboy is another blood bath teeming with zombies and light on discourse. Creator Geoff Darrow deftly maneuvers his main character from chainsaw-wielding warrior to zen monk, leaping gracefully from zombie head to zombie head, destroying all in his path. Indeed, the gravitas possessed by our hero as his foot makes contact with innumerable shriveled heads, spilling out eyes and brains and clouds of red mist, is almost profound. These connecting splashes of red connect to form what look like a message, though one I was unable to decipher. Darrow's art remains astounding, making this a great issue for any fan of stunning visuals, gore, and the undead.
Inhumanity: The Awakening #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; review by George Marston; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Inhumanity: The Awakening #1 takes a look at the process of Terrigenesis, filtering it through the eyes of young heroes not so far out from their own manifestations, and the lens of social media, simulating real-time commentary. The conceit of viewing young Fiona's apotheosis through a series of YouTube comments is both brilliant and cloying. When it works, it’s a sign of Matt Kindt's ingenuity, but there's a point where it seems a little too clever, almost arguing against his own premise. Still, it works overall, giving the book a youthful vibe that is matched by artist Paul Davidson, whose cartoonish characters are energetic, despite some inconsistency. Inhumanity: The Awakening begins the case for "Attilans" as another branch of Marvel's superheroes, but shows little to distinguish them just yet.
Uncanny #5 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Wheeler reaches bottom as the user becomes the used in a rather subdued issue that doesn’t do anything new with the captured protagonist trope. Uncanny has been a frustrating series to read, going from amazing to okay, depending on the issue. This is the latter, with writer Andy Diggle hitting every cliché (ruthless captor, reluctant scientist, torture of the female character, fake lost tourist infiltrates the base, etc.), leaving artist Aaron Campbell little to work with. The scenes don’t play to his strengths in detailing, as one can only do so much to make hotel rooms and sterile operating rooms interesting, but the character moments are still expressive. Overall, this feels like padded storytelling with clever dialogue and Diggle is capable of a lot more.
The Army of Doctor Moreau #2 (Published by MonkeyBrain Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): David Walker and Carl Sciacchitano deliver a suitably creepy second offering for The Army of Doctor Moreau, although its abrupt cutoff may grate on readers, even with its 99-cent price point. Sciacchitano's artwork really sets a good first impression, as we flash back to a gruesome life-or-death battle with the animal-human hybrids of Moreau's island. Writer David Walker really nails the alien nature of this island, showing how disturbing it is this animal-headed creatures have laws and a rudimentary tribal system. "What is the law?" the lettering oppressively asks us. That said, this issue's big problem is that it's over just as it begins, as the 18-page page count also includes unnecessary backmatter instead of stuff that drives the Nazi subplot forward. An intriguing concept, if perhaps not necessarily the best issue to start on.
Batgirl #26 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10):Barbara Gordon risks her life to save the man that's been hunting her for weeks, her father. With Batgirl #26, Gail Simone wraps up an arc that's been building since the final pages of Death of the Family. While the conclusion between vigilante and police commissioner lacked the full emotional punch I was hoping for, it's still a strong ending. This issue also shows some of Daniel Sampere's best pencil work to date. The action scenes are tight, filled with just the right balance of movement and tense stills. Indeed, the visuals are darn near perfect, with inker Jonathan Glapion really bringing out the strengths in Sampere. With a highly satisfying ending, Batgirl #26 might be the books strongest showing to date.
Kings Watch #3 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): It’s Mingining to look a lot like disaster when Cobra uses misdirection to bring forth an even greater evil in an action-packed third issue of this mini-series. Pulling everyone together for the first time, writer Jeff Parker’s plot in this issue is the best yet, setting up the climax by foreshadowing it in an earlier event that the reader can see but the characters are too close to realize until it’s too late. Marc Laming and Jordan Boyd combine to keep this one of the best-looking books from Dynamite, with amazing scenes like making the Phantom’s name into a literal interpretation or the splash page of the invading forces, which mix sci-fi and fantasy together along with multiple colors for a great ending image.
FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics #6 (Published by DC Vertigo; Review by Lindsey Morris; 'Rama Rating 7 out of 10): After a quick glimpse into the future, this issue dives headlong into the first investigation the team makes with newcomer Agent Reyes. Writer Simon Oliver wastes no time establishing the new arc while also shedding light onto Reyes' origin and Adam's search for Blackwood. There is a lot going on here, but the quickened pace gives the story a much needed boost. Robbi Rodriguez continues to lay down compelling linework, and the new character designs are a fitting addition to the series. Along with colorist Rico Renzi, who sets each mood perfectly with his well-honed palette, this team continues to make great strides in a world comprised of fiction and physics.
Farlaine the Goblin #2 (Published by Farlaine Studios; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): This was a fun follow up to the first issue from indie publisher, Farlaine Studios. The story picks up with Farlaine the tree goblin traveling through many strange lands as he seeks out a forest to call home. This issue takes a slightly slapstick approach with the salt creatures and employs the same strong and visually appealing aesthetic appropriate to an all-ages audience from the first issue. My only gripe was the use of the word "helluva" at the end of the story. It's not exactly the most appropriate word choice given the tenor of the rest of the book, and it felt out of character coming from little Farlaine. Overall, it's a cute story that's free of the sort of violence found in many comics, and relies on strong characterization to appeal to its audience.
Three #3 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Revenge is a bitter dish for all who partake as the three Helots try to escape their fate and a disgraced Spartan looks to change his in another excellent issue of this historical fiction. Ryan Kelly’s art is the main draw here, as he shows the brutality of the Spartans, even to their own, with images that aid the cutting remarks scripted by Kieron Gillen. The hate and spite flows off the page thanks to carefully constructed panels and facial close-ups, and there’s no mercy or heroics in the bloody fight scenes, colored just right by Jordie Bellaire. Three pulls no punches in telling a story that is as compelling as it is ruthless in its depiction of the glory-free nature of Sparta.