Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your weekly helping of Rapid-Fire Reviews! Best Shots has you covered, with our latest edition of bite-sized critiques. So let's kick off today's column with Pugnacious Pierce Lydon, as he takes a look at the Jade Giantess herself, She-Hulk!
She-Hulk #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Marvel’s slice-of-life comics are some of the best in their publishing line right now. Saving the world is relative, and Charles Soule starts us out with a done-in-one story to set the stage for a book that fits on the shelves right between Daredevil and Hawkeye. A lawyer himself, Soule has some fun with the ins and outs of the profession while Javier Pulido delivers some of his best work since Batgirl: Year One. His biggest strength is his work with Jen Walters specifically. Her attitude jumps off the page thanks to his linework. It sets her apart from her male superhero counterparts and elevates her to their level. Soule and Pulido have the start of something sensational on their hands.
Batman #28 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): If this doesn’t win back lapsed readers exhausted by Zero Year, I don’t know what will. Scott Snyder and Dustin Nguyen tease the future of Batman Eternal in this one and its got a little bit for everyone. Finally freed up to tell a story that’s new rather than reinventing an (arguably) already perfect wheel, Snyder has a lot of fun here teasing little details without giving too much away. It exists in stark contrast to Zero Year’s grueling long-form approach and reminds us why superheroes are fun in the first place. Nguyen is a nice choice for this issue, delivering dynamic splash pages and stellar action sequences. His shadows exude dark mystery especially on Batman. Something is different about Bruce Wayne and this issue does a great job in ramping up the anticipation.
Thor: God of Thunder #19.NOW (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Marlene Bonnelly; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): This is a title that hooks you in from the start. Aaron’s image of a sullen Thor overlooking the mess of planet earth is more than a little depressing, but it makes the flashbacks to happier times much more valuable. Thor’s persistent attempts to court someone other than Jane Foster or Sif are also refreshing and a good balance to the drama; Agent Solomon is an engaging and intelligent counter to the god of thunder. The dialogue-heavy issue does take a little more effort to pick through than it should, and Svorcina’s flatter colors don’t quite work with Ribic’s style (in fact, they rob some scenes of precious detail), but Aaron has done a good job of laying down the groundwork for a promising storyline.
Justice League of America #12 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): What is probably the main hang up of Justice League of America #12 isn’t that it leaves the reader hungry for more, but unsatisfied. Part of the larger Forever Evilstoryline, JLA #12 finds Stargirl and Martian Manhunter fighting for their lives and connecting as some of the last heroes left. Matt Kindt does an excellent job of establishing the relationship between what might seem like a completely random pairing and adding a level of compassion to their characters that hasn’t been established in recent history. Artist Eddy Barrows is stands strong in this issue as well delivering the best version of high stakes comic book drama. Even though this issue is mired in crossover confusion, Justice League of America #12 is still a strong book about DC’s leading heroes.
X-Force #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 1 out of 10): To be blunt, this is not a good start to the All-New Marvel Now books. With X-Force #1, Cable and his team of wacky killers (plus Psylocke, who deserves better) is again striking first to keep all mutant kind safe. Which is all well and good were the issue delivered with any form of quality. Simon Spurrier not only drafts a plot that we've seen time and time again, he does so with incredibly clichéd and badly driven dialog. Artist Rock-He Kim has a tenuous grasp on anatomy as best, which makes both conversation and action moments a chore to read. A separate colorist might have been able to mask some of these faults, but Kim coloring his own work only compounds the errors. There is simply no way around it, were I allowed to rate a book a zero, X-Force #1 would be that book. These characters, Marvel, and the readers should expect more.
Manifest Destiny #4 (Published by Image Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): What's perhaps most interesting about Manifest Destiny is that despite the bright and bouncy artwork by Matthew Roberts and Owen Gieni, this comic is still very much a scary story at its core. And if you were Lewis and Clark, trailblazing across the Americas with an unruly crew and actual monsters around the corner, why wouldn't you be scared? Writer Chris Dingess conjures up a real feeling of foreboding, as Lewis and Clark have to decide which men are going to draw out the monsters to allow the rest to escape, but just when it starts to get overbearing, he quickly adds in a pop of fresh air, this time with the monster-killing Sacagawea (and her downright awful husband, Toussaint Charbonneau). Roberts and Gieni evoke much of the same energy as Tony Moore, not just selling the horror moments like a gruesome plant man, but also the dirty sneers of much of these explorers. Definitely a fun diversion.
Superman/Wonder Woman #5 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Bringing movie characters into comics proper isn't new, so adding Faora in Superman/Wonder Woman #5 isn't all that shocking. Nor is it all that amazing. Charles Soule does an fine enough job in bringing her in, but I get the impression he'd rather delve more into the relationship issues between Diana and Clark. Which is a shame, because Tony Daniel's pencils are far more comfortable drawing the fights. His execution of Diana as a dangerous battlefield tactician in combat is a great contrast to Clark's blunt force trauma. Daniel's action scenes are fun and have a real sense of motion. But when faced with more introspective moments, his limitations come screaming to the forefront. With awkward anatomy and rather flat expressions, it cuts into the better elements of the story and is a real shame. Still, this title might have the best understanding of Wonder Woman at her core in the New 52. Whether that's a good or bad thing is up to you.
All-New X-Men #23 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Not much of a trial in this one but the events that will help launch Greg Rucka’s Cyclops title are here. Brian Michael Bendis has a lot of fun having the All-New X-Men interact with the Guardians of the Galaxy. It gets a little tiresome when he leans on Iceman and Rocket Raccoon for humor but its pretty much par for the course for a Bendis title. Stuart Immonen has definitely fallen into a groove with these characters. Despite the large cast, he’s able to keep the book from getting too busy and he balances the dialogue-heavy full cast scenes with some great space action. The plot is crawling in this one but it’s a fun read overall.
Justice League #3000 #3 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): As the effects of Barry’s death continue to be felt, readers are still taken through a story muddled with abrasive, overbearing characters and a deeply dramatic plot. While it was great to see this new Trinity acting alone, their inability to get along has become more of an annoyance for the reader than an obstacle for them to overcome. The villain Locus—a part of the ever-enigmatic (and deeply dramatic plot point) the Five—is reduced to an angry, borderline psychopathic woman looking for a boyfriend. There are so many different avenues to go with this character, and yet it feels like the authors copped out and settled with the trope-y scorned woman because it’s easier to write. The artwork remains rough-looking, primarily due to the inking, but otherwise capitalizes on the variety of angles and perspectives. The artwork is realistic enough that the appearances in the future don’t seem too generic or superficial, making the setting really feel natural. Hopefully with the team’s “mother” being called in, more will be revealed about the specific origins of the team, but readers will just have to wait for next month.
Wolverine and the X-Men #41 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Professor Wolverine is a jerk! With an issue that seems tailor-made for the Tumblr "feels" crowd, Jason Aaron focuses on the hapless sad sack of the Jean Grey School, the (now fired) janitor Toad. Toad's been getting the short end of the stick for most of this series, and even though he came through in a pinch to help save the Jean Grey School students from the all-new Hellfire Club, Wolverine, Storm and company have pink-slipped this amphibious attendant. Aaron is determined to pluck at your heartstrings, even if the story feels a little cheap, a little cloying, as the living island Kraoka weeps lava at Toad's dismissal, or the demure Husk timidly tries to reach out to her onetime beau. Pepe Larraz is the most expressive of this book's two cartoony artists, having a much looser, endearing style than Todd Nauck's stiffer lines. (You can definitely see shades of Stuart Immonen and Ramon Perez.) As a done-in-one story, Wolverine and the X-Men #41 is somewhat predictable, somewhat disposable, but hardcore loyalists will still have a good time.
Batgirl #28 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Gail Simone takes the vampire misconception about the Bat Family to the extreme in Batgirl #28, when the new villain Silver believes they’re actually vampires attacking people in the night. Playing on the sisterly relationship between Strix and Batgirl, Simone crafts a story that immediately gets the reader engaged by having the conflict play so close to Strix—having a young girl that also cannot speak calls Strix to action, which makes the story feel organic and natural. Fernando Pasarin and Blond on art makes the reading enjoyable with the subtle techniques they use to make the art realistic—at times, the background goes blurry with quick movement, which makes the art seem more real and dynamic. It’ll be interesting to see where Simone takes this story arc, especially with the addition of the new villain Silver.
Uncanny #6 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Escapes from torture-filled prisons are always in Styles, but Wheeler and Maggie might not appreciate the reason for their rescue as this uneven series swings upward again. Writer Andy Diggle doubles down on the deception, veering things back to the Styles-as-bad-guy side of the spectrum while unleashing the character’s destructive potential and creating more mysteries for Wheeler to solve. With explosions and counter-attacks, artist Aaron Campbell gets free reign to show his chops, keeping the story moving and highlighting how deadly our cast is. Unfortunately, this one’s a rare miss for colorist Bill Crabtree. He buries Campbell’s expressive linework in a muddied series of reds that ends up losing key details. This one is fun, but needs to be more consistent issue to issue.
Forever Evil: Rogues Rebellion #5 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Brian Buccellato continues filling in the blanks in the Forever Evil story in this latest issue with the loveable Rogues. Our heroes, especially Weather Wizard, get a chance to finally catch a break, and Buccellato manages to do this while still keeping to the desperate tone of the overall Forever Evil storyline. Even though it feels like a losing battle, the reader still smile when the Rogues deem Johnny Quick as a “half-assed Flash.” The art is the weakest part of the issue, making it appear too cartoonish. The proportions, especially in the face, are off and distracting, and the flat coloring adds to the two-dimensional feel of the book. Some characters, such a Grodd, are especially distorted, making him appear more laughable than menacing. With the mysterious entity emerging in the main storyline, readers are left wondering with where this part of the story will finish.
Winter Soldier: The Bitter March #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Set in the time before Steve Rogers jogged his memory, the first issue of The Bitter March is a solid introduction from Rick Remender and Roland Boschi. Remender’s spy-thriller approach is a great fit for the clandestine nature of the character so even though we don’t see a ton of Bucky, the tone and setting is right. That’s helped immensely by Roland Boschi’s work. The success of an espionage plot hinges on the small details, the miniscule sleights of hand. Boschi exceutes those moments perfectly in sync with Remender’s narration with uncluttered layouts and excellent pencil work. We don’t get much of the title character but this is enough of good enough starting point to intrigue new and old fans of the Winter Soldier.
Green Lantern Corps #28 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): All the soap opera and various alien species of Green Lantern Corps may be enough to dissuade casual readers, but those who like their sci-fi extra wonky will have a lot to enjoy with Van Jensen and Bernard Chang's book. Chang is the superstar here, giving this issue a dynamic, animated feel - think of Howard Porter in Justice League 3000, but not overwhelming. Derelict space shops and lonesome asteroids are used as establishing shots, but Chang doesn't beat you over the head with it - instead, he moves on to beautiful characters and expressive scenes, not to mention colorist Marcelo Maiolo taking some pages from his Green Arrow playbook by punctuating the big action sequences in white and red. (It doesn't quite fit as well here, but Maiolo gets points for trying.) That said, Van Jensen's script, featuring a renegade Durlan Green Lantern as well as the kidnapping of another GLC mainstay can feel a bit overwhelming for new readers. (That said, the skulking Von Daggle already feels like a great addition to this cast of characters.) This book may be rough around the edges, but it's not hard to find something that shines here.
Mercenary Sea #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 1 out of 10): A band of stereotypical rogues take on odd sea jobs and the look of a rejected Cartoon Network pitch in this opening issue that does little to establish itself. Too-heavily influenced by animation cells, artist Mathew Reynolds shifts colors like they were Hanna-Barbara backgrounds, distracting the reader. His characters are stiff, and the decisions on what to spotlight are confusing. There’s no flow from panel to panel at all, which highlights the pieced-together feel of the clichéd plot. Worse, Kel Symons’ script features dialogue we’ve seen many times before: The obligatory bar fight talk, arguing over a seemingly futile quest that’s bound to be validated at some point, and of course, the trap set-up. This one has little new to offer a potential reader.
Nightwing #28 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): While the pacing of this story leaves a little to be desired, Nightwing #28 stands out because of the wonderful artwork by Russel Dauterman. Gone largely overlooked with BOOM! Studios' Supurbia, Dauterman's fluid linework and off-the-wall fight sequences are perfect for the acrobatic Nightwing, as he falls off buildings and bounces off buses battling the shape-shifting Spinebender. Kyle Higgins may be a little on the nose with Spinebender's transformations - including Deathstroke, Superman and Batman himself - but it's hard to begrudge him when he's working with an artist that makes it look so good. Where the comic seizes up is at the halfway point, where Higgins makes a hard turn into a completely different storyline, one featuring a little girl who has learned Dick Grayson's secret identity. It's emotional, but at times a bit saccharine. Come for the art, stay for the action.
The Bunker #1 (Published by Oni Press; Review by Jeff Marsick; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Joshua Hale Fialkov masterfully weaves a web of mystery, but it’s Joe Infurnari’s haunting panels that really set the tone in Oni’s remastering of the first five chapters of the digital-only series. They’ve resized the pages and added hues of color to the original black and white, which helps the reader distinguish between the story’s past, present, and future set pieces. I don’t think this version is superior, however; it read more like a ‘50s horror movie or Twilight Zone episode and was better paced in its original format. It’s still a fantastic and intelligent take on the apocalypse genre, though, about five friends who discover a bunker with their names in it that is either presaging a doomsday they’re either going to cause or possibly prevent.
Suicide Squad #28 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): Even OMAC can’t save this one. Matt Kindt’s uneven plotting and characterization is matched in its inconsistency by Jason Masters and Carlos Rodriguez’ art. Allt he double and triple crossing is coming a head as the gang sets aside some differences to deal with a Thinker-run OMAC bent on destroying them and Belle Reve. But there is very little substance here. OMAC takes out the entire team singlehandedly and Kindt throws in a solution that we don’t even get to see executed. It feels like a single issue stretched to its limits to cover enough pages for two. Masters and Rodriguez have a few moments of competency but overall their work is boring. Their visual storytelling is brought down by statuesque characters and a lack of clear focus. It’s probably for the best that this book will soon be put out of its misery.
Batman: L’il Gotham #11 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Marlene Bonnelly; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): It’s always fun to see Damian behave more like a child than the old-man-in-a-boy-suit we’ve come to know him as, and the first story in this issue definitely highlights that charming, curious nature so prevalent in L’il Gotham. Both tales are full of references for diehard fans designed to make you smile, from Damian poking fun at the Justice League costume redesigns to an image of Ace the dog from Batman Beyond tucked away in a corner. Nguyen’s art doesn’t disappoint, and translates well no matter which version of Batman he draws (and you’ll see many in this issue!). The writing is clever and accessible by all ages, too, which makes this a perfect book for comic beginners and veterans alike.
Avengers, Vol. 1: Avengers World TPB (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Previous Avengers writers have gone down the “get bigger” road, but writer Jonathan Hickman ups the stakes to a universal scale. Opening with a plot that digs into the deepest part of the Marvel cosmology and bringing in the Shi’ar and Captain Universe, Hickman leaves seeds to pick up on later while establishing the epic nature of his plans for the team. Unfortunately, the art on these issues is very poor. Jerome Opena’s battle scenes are stiff and lack life, feeling like posed pictures. Meanwhile, Adam Kubert can’t keep Black Widow’s look consistent from panel to panel. Neither artists’ characters emote when speaking, a disaster in a Hickman script. This is a great start, but it’s the plot and dialogue doing all the heavy lifting.