Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your weekly helping of Rapid-Fire Reviews? Best Shots has you covered, with 24 bite-sized pellets of this week's newest releases. So let's kick off today's column with Jovial Jake Baumgart, as he takes a look at Green Arrow #28...
Green Arrow #28 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): This might not be the best jumping on point, but if you have been following the Lemire/Sorrentino Green Arrow run you know this issue was a knock out! Jeff Lemire has been an amazing boon to this title; fleshing out Ollie’s history and rogues while paying homage to the past and setting up the character’s future. However, the real stand-out here is the art. Andrea Sorrentino and Marcelo Maiola make these pages glow. There is a gritty, ember-like feeling that vibrates during the fight scene’s full-page onomatopoeias and a penetrating radiance when clan leaders clash that allows the whole story to crackle on the page. Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino’s Green Arrow is a beautiful cataclysm that’s remaking the Emerald Archer into one of DC’s top-tier characters.
Superior Foes of Spider-Man #8 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Another wholly entertaining issue of Superior Foes offers up some funny dream sequences to break up the main narrative. The gig is kind of up for Boomerang, but Nick Spencer continues the character’s turn as a lovable loser and it’s still hard not to root for him. Spencer has created a quintessential everyman out of a character who rarely gets a fair shake, proving once again that there are no bad characters, only misused ones. Steve Lieber gets to draw just about everything you could think of in this one from pirates to Obama to everyone’s favorite meth kingpins. Superior Foes is still a must-read month and month, because if we could, we’d all at least try being super villains - just, y'know, not very evil ones.
Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #1 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Each iteration of Turok: Dinosaur Hunter sees the creative team putting their on take on what's basically a man-versus-nature story. Writer Greg Pak takes some of the best lessons from Planet Hulk and creates a Turok that is among his people, but still very much an outsider. It's refreshing to read the character still so new to the world he will soon inherit. However, the real star of this comic is artist Mirko Colak. His line work sets a fantastic tone for the book and drafts a world that feels very much alive, both in beauty and brutality. His inks balance perfectly with smart coloring choices by Laureen Affe. While Pak's dialog reads a little choppy at times, the twist and art more than raises Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #1 to a must-read.
Action Comics #28 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Greg Pak certainly puts the "action" into Action Comics this week, and while his trademark characterization still shines strongly, the frenetic set pieces are a little overwhelming. The best parts of the book are the humor and romantic tension between Superman and his high school sweetheart, Lana Lang, as they discover an ominous alien race deep undergrond - well, as ominous as a group of lemurs can be. That said, once the fight sequences start, it's hard to not get lost in the dust, particularly as cartoony artist Aaron Kuder's page layouts wind up getting extremely compact - there's a 10-panel page where Lana takes on not one, but two subterranean warlords, all while catching an orb of limitless power, and it definitely takes several reads to make it all make sense. Still, the theme of Superman seeing the best in everyone is a good angle to take on the Man of Steel, and I anticipate this is just a slight step back for an otherwise robust run.
Punisher #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by George Marston; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): Punisher is one of those characters that, a lot of the time, just doesn't make sense in a world full of heroes who spend every day of their lives going after guys who haven't committed even 10% of Frank Castle's crimes. It takes a lot to make a Punisher book feel like it fits in that world, but somehow Nathan Edmondson and Mitch Gerads's small-screen cinematics present a pitch-perfect version of Frank Castle that feels like he belongs in the Marvel universe, without sacrificing the violence and theatrics that Frank's fans will crave. The book's ending, tying Punisher into the larger Marvel universe, is the textbook definition of a solid hook. This is the best of what a character like Punisher can accomplish.
Detective Comics #28 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): The major question remains, “Where is Gothtopia going?” With only a couple issues in, we’re shown that Scarecrow is responsible for these delusions. While that answer is welcomed, the reader is still left in the dark about what exactly Gothtopia is trying to accomplish. While the pacing and action in this issue is well done, author John Layman’s only fault is that he has to write within the larger context of Gothtopia. Artist Aaron Lopresti has a habit of overusing white backgrounds, which makes the art for certain panels, like Batman socking on Killer Croc without a defined setting or Batman talking against a blank background, sometimes feel removed from the rest of sequence of events. He sticks to the same perspective for the most part, which makes for boring visuals, but the actual drawings are well-done enough for the reader to overlook that drawback. Gothtopia seems like it can be an interesting story, let’s just hope that future issues will be more engaging for readers in the context of the overall story.
Ms. Marvel #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Never wish to be a superhero in the Marvel Universe unless you mean it, a lesson Kamala learns the hard way in an opening issue with lots of promise. G. Willow Wilson makes Kamala feel real by giving her struggles that fit her character and background as a Muslim American. Kamala is instantly likeable, though sometimes it feels like Wilson tried too hard to use her to counter all that ails mainstream comics. Adrian Alphona and Ian Herring’s art is expressive and backs up the dialogue with character poses and looks that emphasize Wilson’s points. However it feels over-processed, taking away from the realism and lacks variety in panel selection, sticking to medium shots. Despite some rough edges, this should be Marvel’s next breakout hit.
Lazarus #6 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10):This was not an easy issue to read. Not to say Lazarus #6 isn't a good comic, indeed, it's one of the strongest of the series. It's hard because Greg Rucka places both the reader and Forever Carlyle in the reality of the world. For 5 issues we've really only seen the power struggle between warring families. Now we see the real repercussions and it's ugly. Michael Lark's line work is a little stiff in this issue. With much of emotional heavy lifting coming in with subtle facial expressions, his stilted style doesn't quite rise to the moment. He comes close at times, but something is still missing. Still, the inking and coloring are are strong and help make up for the shortcomings. Even with the visual concerns, Lazarus #6 still manages to tell a compelling character study with Forever Carlyle while dragging us deeper into the world.
Black Widow #3 (Published by Marvel; Review by Lindsey Morris; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto are getting more comfortable with Natasha Romanov, and it shows in this issue. The plot is straight forward and concise, and the art is tighter than it was in the first two issues. Edmondson creates a classic jailbreak plot with a twist, and the outlying pieces of our heroine's story continue to fall into place. Noto is still stealing the show with his beautiful panels, particularly in his use of flat colors, which create such a great contrast to his painterly style. A deeper insight into Natasha's character is slowly coming to light, both in professional and personal circumstances. There are no great strides being made in regards to new obstacles and challenges for her, but the series remains a solid read and representation of the Black Widow.
Forever Evil #5 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Sinestro, it’s glad to have you back; it feels even better to watch you in action. Geoff Johns bounces between action, establishing future conflict, and ominous dialogues, which makes for an enjoyable, albeit disjointed, narrative. Sinestro steals the spotlight as the reader spends too much time wondering why Deathstroke needed Luthor to make him realize he’s on the wrong side. David Finch’s art throughout the issue is rather hit or miss: he chooses to zoom in during most of the fighting, showing only heads, bodies, and the immediate action. By neglecting the backgrounds, the action feels self-contained and less impressive. Johns spends the rest of the issue planting seeds for future conflict, highlighting the power struggle between Batman and the villains and the introduction of this ethereal villain the Syndicate is so afraid of, which ultimately makes the ending fall flat. There’s so much buildup that it’s getting to the point where the reader doesn’t want to wait any longer for the climax.
New Avengers #14 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): This isn't a bad comic, but New Avengers is hampered down by two things - not only is the main story moving at a glacial pace, but we've seen much of this particular issue before. Just like the last issue, Jonathan Hickman shows us an alternate universe's version of the Illuminati getting torn apart by extradimensional invaders. It's a better action sequence than the last time he did this - particularly the way that Doctor Doom and Reed Richards get a nice moment before meeting their maker - but you can't help but recognize we're retreading here. Hickman's B-story, featuring Dr. Strange making a literal deal with the devil to save his world, is a far more compelling story, but it's only a little bit of meat around a decent amount of filler. Simone Bianchi's squiggly linework still feels off-putting, but works well for the scenes where Strange is meeting with horrifying demons. This one is split right down the middle.
Batman: Black and White #6 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Cliff Chang opens this issue with a Robin-centric story that carries a classic vibe in its costume and aesthetic design, and his storytelling is equally developed and well paced. Likewise, Adam Hughes' story delivers some fine moments that capture elements of Batman quite effectively in terms of visuals and voice. Dave Taylor's short, however, suffered from overworked or pitch imperfect dialogue and confusing letter placement. Becky Cloonan's art in "Bruce" was evocative and well suited to the story, but I wasn't completely sold on Moss' characterization of Bruce. Dave Johnson's noir story is arguably the most powerful of the bunch in its moody, tragic depiction of a common thug's "victory" over Batman. Overall, it was still a solid issue with some real standout moments.
Mighty Avengers #6 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The X-Men have baseball games. The Justice League and Justice Society have yearly reunions. But the way Al Ewing and Valerio Schiti get to know the Mighty Avengers is on move-in day. This interlude somehow doesn't lose its momentum, as Ewing swiftly bounces between the members of this new splinter group of Earth's Mightiest Street Heroes. In particular, Ewing deserves a medal for his rehabilitation of the heretofore unusable character known as the Blue Marvel, making him a warm moral compass for the rest of the team to lean on. The Blue Marvel winds up having a great one-on-one debate with team leader Luke Cage, as Ewing shows each of these characters have histories, perspectives and secrets that they're not letting on. Schiti's artwork, meanwhile, is exactly what this book deserves - it's smooth, gorgeous, endearing with its expressions, particularly the way that Iron Fist puts a baby to sleep using a chi-powered laser light show. All that, and a little bit of action? Sign me up.
Green Lantern #28 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Robert Venditti and Billy Tan take on the first part of the “Red Daughter of Krypton” story that sees Supergirl become a Red Lantern and it’s entirely okay. Hal must seek out the last Blue Lantern for help with Supergirl but hope doesn’t spring eternal. Venditti doesn’t do too much more than move the chains in the story but his character work between Walker and Hal is really strong, serving to reestablish the diffrent ways that some pieces of the emotional spectrum operate. Tan’s artwork is sketchy and messy but never enough to distract from the story. The scratchiness of his lines actual adds a bit of energy to the action scenes but doesn’t work well in smaller moments.
Red Lanterns #28 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): This issue wraps last issue’s story with Ice and flows right into the “Red Daughter of Krypton” story. Charles Soule has established a great voice for Guy Gardner and his team. He handles a very large cast with aplomb in this one before eventually getting down to the Supergirl portion of the story. Soule’s Gardner is truly Hal Jordan’s equal and their relationship dynamic is fun to read. Alessandro Vitti turns in another stunning effort and he gets a ton to draw in this one. The Atrocitus scenes are definitely the highlight of the book but overall Vitti’s work is a near perfect for these avatars of Rage as the freneticism on display seems to hint at an anger boiling just beneath the surface.
Loki: Agent of Asgard #1 (Published by Marvel; Review by Lindsey Morris; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): He's no Tom Hiddleston, but he'll have to do. The all-new Loki series has finally dropped, and with it came a number of references to previous Marvel events. Appreciative as I usually am for a call-back or pop culture joke, it gets tiresome quickly. Writer Al Ewing does a decent enough job with the character, but Loki lacks that fundamental je ne said quoi that makes him so charismatic and likable - he is very nearly eclipsed by his supporting cast. Artist Lee Garbett seems to have the same problem, presenting us with characters that are well-rendered and pleasant but lack anything to distinguish them from previous iterations of themselves. Shortcomings aside, this book is a decent read for a first issue, and will hopefully improve with a little time and tweaking.
Swamp Thing #28 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): With the “Seeder” arc concluded, there’s a new status quo for Swamp Thing. He’s the avatar of the Green again but the Parliament of trees is gone so he’s essentially all alone. But he saved three members of the Parliament and shows them some of the humanity they’ve missed out on. Charles Soule doesn’t balance these scenes with Capucine’s origins very well and it makes the issue seem back-loaded with exposition. Javier Pina can definitely handle Swamp Thing. His characters are strong and he has an adept storytelling sense, but he’s given a rather boring issue. The art isn’t bad but it’s a far cry from the imagination and originality that has been on display in this title in the past.
Archer #0 (Published by Valiant Entertainment; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Readers find out why Archer is so often targeted himself in an origin issue that lacks the life and fun of the main series. In order to make the crossover with Bloodshot work, writer Fred Van Lente is forced to shoehorn a connection between Archer and Project Rising Spirit, darkening the tone of Archer’s upbringing and undermining his decision to forge his own path. Instead of an awakening, it’s now a deprogramming. Pere Perez is as good as ever, varying panels, page designs, and perspectives. A perfect example is Archer trapped in the snake pit, which begins with a bird’s eye view and ends from the opposite approach. With few jokes or satire, this one’s just another grim and gritty book, albeit a well-written one.
Trinity of Sin: Phantom Stranger #16 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Constantine learns it takes a Stranger to find yourself as the quest to save DC’s magical heroes from the Crime Syndicate continues. No stranger to crossovers, writer J.M. DeMatteis deftly uses the Forever Evil storyline to continue his overall theme of the Phantom Stranger’s struggle for free will and the place of evil in the world, as he potentially defies God by working to save Zatanna and the others. Fernando Blanco’s talents work well with DeMatteis’ style, able to go from repeating the same visual for effect to wide-open action splashes. His framing work on this issue is particularly strong, pushing the reader’s eye to just the right spot. This deeply philosophical comic isn’t your average crossover tie-in and is worth checking out.
Marvel Knights: Spider-Man #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): This book has lost a lot of steam since the early issues. As Matt Kindt’s plot has gotten more convoluted, Marco Rudy’s art has only gotten crazier. Everything comes to a head here in the big conclusion but the ending is a little flat and the machinations behind this miniseries are dull. Maybe that has to be expected from a narrative as sprawling and nontraditional as this one. Rudy is really the breakout star of this book. Every page comes out like a more psychedelic J.H. Williams III. His layouts gain some of the clarity they lost in the last two issues and he expertly blends many different techniques to give us an interesting look at Peter’s descent into confusion and exhaustion. I still can’t believe this the same artist from Jeff Lemire’s Superboy, and it's been a joy to see him evolve.
Adventures of Superman #41 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): If you haven't been reading Max Landis and Jock's two-parter featuring the Joker, get on it now. Whereas Landis's last issue was a smart take on the ever-fluid characterization of the Joker in pop culture (ranging from Romero to Nicholson to Ledger to even Batman: The Animated Series), Landis uses this opportunity to dress down the Man of Steel. Superman's boring, he's bland, he's not defined enough - Landis smartly parrots irate fanboys and winds up knocking their arguments into the stratosphere, showing that Superman's broadness as a character is also the secret to his longevity as a literary figure. Jock's jagged artwork rapidly shifts from sedate to menacing, as both the Joker and Superman get their moments to show how dangerous they are. If only more DC books could be this good.
Captain America #16 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Jeff Marsick; ‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): Arnim Zola’s daughter, Jet Black, hates our world. It would take two pages, tops, to sell that, but Rick Remender does it in roughly 12. Then she’s propositioned by the Red Skull to join his S-Men, but what will she decide, and is it all real or imagined? The ultimate answer is: Who cares? As a prologue for “The Iron Nail,” Rick Remender’s written a filler issue: Nothing’s at stake and I’m not drawn to care an iota for Jet’s dilemma. Pascal Alixe’s artwork has a Neal Adams feel to it, but the blacks are too heavy and figures end up being little more than amorphous splotches of color. Pick this up if you’re a completist, but you won’t miss anything if you skip it.
Joker’s Daughter (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 2 out of 10): Overwrought narration and a weak concept bring this one down. A Joker derivative as a villain will always be appealing in theory but the execution leaves this one lacking. All we can be sure of is that this young woman in completely insane. But where many of Batman’s villains are somewhat reflective of Bruce Wayne himself, I’m hard pressed to find a reasoning behind the Joker’s Daughter. Meghan Hetrick’s art is murky and suits this story. It’s ugly and brutal and disconcerting. But one gets the feeling that Marguerite Bennett and Hetrick rely too much on the shock factor and skimp on the substance. We’re going to need to see more before we crown this character the true Clown Princess of Crime.
Garfield #22 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Garfield takes on predatory mortgages while Nermal gets dirty in an issue of Garfield that’s funny but seems misplaced in the kids section. Writer Mark Evanier treads a fine line between jokes for precocious kids and their parents, but when Jon nearly loses everything signing a deal to keep Garfield in Lasagna, it feels aimed squarely at adults. The Nermal story is more on type, with references to Evanier’s (and creator Jim Davis’) constant running gags. There’s a nice variety in the art this month, with Andy Hirsch staying on-model and Sibylline Meynet gleefully making the fat cat resemble an indie-comix parody. Hirsch’s Garfield-with-glasses is full of dry wit while Meynet’s flat thin lines look more like modern animation, combining for a solid visual comic.