Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your weekly dose of Rapid-Fire Reviews? Best Shots has you covered, as we kick off today's column with Aaron Duran and Superior Spider-Man...
Superior Spider-Man #24 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The most interesting aspect of the Symbiote bonding with Octo-Spidey is the clashing of two massive egos, but with competing engines. Slott writes a Venom that is all but primal in its attempt to control Otto Octavius. Whereas villain turned hero fully believes he can contain the beast on pure intellect. With results that are, mixed, at best. The real standout for me in Superior Spider-Man #24 is the art by Humberto Ramos. There is quite a bit of exposition in this issue and Ramos manages to make those scene not only interesting, but darn right exciting at times. This one could have been simple filler, but Slott and Ramos continue to surprise and this is one reviewer that thinks they'll stick the landing.
Batman and Two-Face #26 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Let’s just get right into it: Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason are writing one of, if not the, best Batman books out there. There may be a lot of attention on the Zero Year stories right now but this issue is the perfect blend for old fans and new followers. Seeing Batman deal with Gotham’s mobs and crazies is refreshing when compared to how spread out the character is these days and Tomasi plays the personal tension between Bruce, Erin and Harvey like a fiddle. Not to mention that Gleason crafts the most realistically horrifying Two-Face face this side of Aaron Eckhart. Kodos also go to colorist Mick Gray for his liberal use of bright splatters of colors over the dreary darks of Batman’s world.
Pretty Deadly #3 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): I still find Pretty Deadly is slow to tip its hand to the audience as to the direction of the plot, but instead of frustrating readers with an aimless story, DeConnick builds tension and intrigue as the relationships between characters and the motivations behind the events quietly unfold. Issue #3 begins to give readers some answers regarding the backstories of the characters, and the reason for Ginny's pursuit of Fox becomes even clearer. Rios and Bellaire continue to create a mix of haunting and evocative visuals from beginning to end. It's still not the most easily digestible series, but that's not a bad thing. It may simply be a case where readers will benefit from waiting to experience the work as a whole versus the serialized nature in which it is currently being published.
All-New X-Men #20 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Now that X-23 has joined the Original X-Men, Brian Michael Bendis takes baby steps towards fleshing out All-New X-Men's all-new status quo. The first half of this issue is an extended conversation, as X-23 readjusts to the New Xavier School. Mahmud Asrar draws the heck out of this half, giving his characters that Immonen-esque expressiveness. Still, Bendis does stretch this scene out past the breaking point, barely even alluding to Avengers Academy, which feels like a bit of an oversight. (Although X-23's scene with Cyclops is a nice touch, ending in an awkward hug.) The second half of this book is pure fight comic, as Brandon Peterson's harder pencils create a grimmer tone. Still, this comic's story feels like it's going through the motions, and despite the smooch-tastic cover, even the introduction of X-23 isn't adding much to All-New X-Men.
Harley Quinn #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10):I really need parts of the current DC Universe to calm down a bit and have some fun. Although a murderous clown in her own right, Harley Quinn has the potential to bring that fun. Writers Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti get close with issue #1. Taking Harley from under the joyless Suicide Squad (or anywhere within 100 miles of Gotham) and to Coney Island is a good start. Visually, Harley Quinn #1 is a real winner. Chad Hardin's style and composition is a perfect fit for this character, and while the book had one too many cheesecake shots, they weren't wholly out of the moment. Combined with some stunningly colors by Alex Sinclair and you've got DC's prettiest book of the week. If Conner and Palmiotti can rise to the art team, we've got a winner.
Animal Man #26 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): I miss when Animal Man got his powers from the morphogenic field. It simplified his mythology and kept the focus on his family. This issue is a prime example of what’s been so problematic about Lemire’s run on this book. In spending so much time with added Red/Green mythos, we lose Buddy’s family and it waters down the threat of Brother Blood. Granted, it’s Buddy’s family that drives his decision-making in this issue and the deal he makes with the Bridgewalker does provide a possible conclusion for the series in March but it feels like a lot of wheel spinning for a few lines of important dialogue. Cully Hamner’s art is exceptional though. Coupled with Dave McCaig’s evocative color work, Hamner’s lines stand out and provide excellent visuals to fairly by-the-numbers action scenes.
Never Ending #2 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): Adam P. Knave and DJ Kirkbride’s Never Ending starts hitting it’s stride in issue two. The writers finally start getting to the emotional poignancy that should drive a story like this one. Chuck told us in the first issue that it was hard for him knowing that everyone he loves will die before him but we finally see it here. Knave and Kirkbride detail Chuck’s relationship with his son and it’s heartwrenching. But Archibald Crane remains a weak villain who doesn’t add anything to the story. Perhaps more than the writing, the art holds this book back. Robert Love’s work is definitely reminiscent of Erik Larsen’s but Love’s awkward foreshortening, dull backgrounds and inconsistent characters make this one hard to get through.
Daredevil #34 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Mark Waid and Javier Rodriguez write a taut thrilled with the latest issue of Daredevil, with their strong execution and dense plotting transcending a fairly shallow plot. Waid packs a lot of great moments in this book, particularly pushing ahead Matt Murdock's relationship with Kirsten McDuffie - she hasn't had the strongest presence in the book lately, but here she truly steals the show, as she and Matt team up against the supremacist schemes of the Sons of the Serpent. Javier Rodriguez is definitely on fire here, channeling Chris Samnee's artwork but giving it a bit more of a bounce - there's a great sequence in particular where Daredevil tears through the city, racing against the clock to save someone he loves, and watching him bounce between panels is a great twist on traditional comic book storytelling. The only downside? The actual Sons of the Serpent plot comes off a bit preachy and afterschool special-esque, and the cliffhanger is something Waid has beaten to death in previous issues. Still, great art and superb characterization win the day once more with Daredevil.
Supergirl #26 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Supergirl has really been through the wringer in her solo series and the new creative team of Tony Bedard and Yildiray Cinar aren’t letting up. Lobo, the last Czarnian, is headed to Earth on a mission and Kara tries to reason with him, extinct alien to extinct alien. It doesn’t really go as planned. There’s not too much substance in this issue but it is a good starting point for new readers. Bedard and Cinar sum up Kara’s New 52 existence thus far quickly and concisely. Lobo is similarly simplified which sets the stage easily for their confrontation. Cinar’s artwork is very strong. His linework is complemented by strong layouts and dynamic posing. It’s good to have him back on a monthly, even if only for one arc.
Uncanny Avengers #15 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Uncanny Avengers is so big that it almost feels like an event book all by itself. The Unity Squad has split up and this issue has the surviving members deal with some of the fallout from their teammates’ deaths. Wasp gets a lot of attention in this issue as the winsome Avenger faces off against Sentry. Steve McNiven injects this issue with a lot more energy than usual. Panels are more thoughtfully laid out than ever resulting in a flow that communicates action better. Remender uses the story of Noah to parallel the Apocalypse Twins’ plan for Earth to an almost eerie effect as themes of wrath and retribution take on a slightly different meaning. This story is dutifully moving forward while the stakes are raising, proving that you don’t need a line-wide crossover to make a big event. Tight, high concept storytelling and strong art can always win the day.
Red Sonja #6 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Everyone must drink from a bitter cup in a solid closing issue of Gail Simone and Walter Geovani’s first Red Sonja story. The revelations come fast and furious as Sonja and her former fellow prisoner learn that their tormentor is alive and the cause of all the “plague” deaths. Geovani draws amazing visuals of the shifting nature of the fight, alternating between long shots and extreme close-ups that show determination and madness on the faces of the characters. Simone’s script has a ton going on but gives the characters strong speeches and a plot that’s got a touch of Shakespeare in it. Though Sonja triumphs, it’s a very hollow victory, leaving her-and the reader-needing a good drink to process the evil of men seeking power.
Young Avengers #14 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The day has already been won but Kieron Gillen and company have a little bit left in the Young Avengers tank. With sort of an art-jam approach, the epilogue shows us where the characters stand with each other following the final battle. The best sequence in Christian Ward’s exploration of America Chavez’s past. A few short pages put her whole attitude and place on the team in perspective with a brilliant little twist by Kieron Gillen. Marvel Boy/Hawkeye and the Hulking/Wiccan/Prodigy triangle both get some play as well, resolving some feelings that hadn’t been put out in the open before. This issue reminds me a lot of Nirvana’s “All Apologies.” That song’s themes of resolution and ending are appropriate for the series, these characters’ stories and even Gillen and Jamie McKelvie themselves. “All in all is all we are,” right?
War of the Woods #1 (Self-Published; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10):It might be a fast read, but there is something wholly charming about War of the Woods, written and drawn by Matthew Petz. A simple retelling of the almost cliché alien invasion story, by well of Orson Welles, Petz mixes in a little Wind in the Willows and creates something quite fun. His dialogue has an air of tradition, as if the creatures all learned to speak via radio dramas or 19th century literature. It's a nice nod to early Warner Brothers and Disney animation. Anthropomorphization only finds it's way in the creatures speech and not look, as Petz keeps his animals completely natural. It's a strong choice that reminds the reader of Mouse Guard. While War of the Woods has not reached that level of artistry, it's still an impressive debut and with issue #1 being free there really isn’t an excuse to ignore it.