Happy Thursday, 'Rama readers! Your friendly neighborhood Best Shots team is at it again, with this week's installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's kick off today's column with yours truly, as I take a look at the final (until the relaunch) issue of Mark Waid and Chris Samnee's Daredevil...
Daredevil #36 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): "I am Daredevil." With these three words, Mark Waid and Chris Samnee put an indelible mark on the Man Without Fear, one that marks a fitting capstone to this chapter of their run. The best parts of this book are when Waid makes his own personal statement about Matt Murdock - namely, that he's a man of integrity, an integrity that is so strong it will both define him and kill him. And in so doing, Waid also take a bold step in undoing a step from none other than Brian Michael Bendis himself - outing himself to the world, and foresaking his lawsuit against the newspaper that published his secret identity in the first place. Chris Samnee, meanwhile, draws a lush, dramatic comic, with the words "I am Daredevil" looming large across the various denizens of the Marvel Universe. That said, this comic isn't without its flaws - namely, the internal logic of Waid's conclusion feels a little too convenient, with the Secret Society's raid on the courthouse resulting in a clean, rapid flushing out of two sleeper agents. Still, it's a fitting conclusion to this chapter of Daredevil, and one that sets up a promising new status quo to come.
Batman and Two-Face #28 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The more I read this comic, the more I'm taken with it. Batman and Two-Face #28 is bloated and at times rushed and messy, but it's also a story that's so bold, I can't believe DC actually went through with it. (Although chances are, they'll probably ignore most of it anyway.) Peter Tomasi has to rush to tie up this triple-cross between Batman, Two-Face and Irish gangster Erin McKillen, and Erin gets the short end of the stick. That's okay - Two-Face was the real draw here, and Tomasi makes some big moves in terms of Harvey's relationship with Batman. (Not to mention Harvey's gristly future, as well. Here's hoping it sticks. It's a dramatic moment, but one that could easily be cheapened by other writers.) Patrick Gleason's artwork is a bit hit-or-miss with the storytelling, however - sometimes his panels are so small that crucial information is missed, like Batman launching himself out of the Batmobile to rescue Harvey, or Batman pulling a retractable roof switch. Still, when Gleason is on, he's on, especially with an image of Batman charging ahead with the courthouse's seal of justice as a shield. This comic might be too final for DC to commit to, and that's a shame - while Tomasi may ditch the narrative he's been building for a rollicking action sequence, the consequences to Batman and Two-Face are a little too delicious to ignore.
Loki: Ragnorak and Roll #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): As the Flying Spaghetti Monster in the delegation of gods hosted by Odin would say, Loki Ragnorak and Roll is #brilliant. Writer Eric M. Equivel makes the classic rivalry between Thor and Loki his own by making Loki the hero and creating a history that makes it believable. In a world where Thor and Loki are dominated by Marvel, Chris Hemsworth, and Tom Hiddleston, it’s nothing short of amazing that Equivel is able to make unique voices and personalities for each other and play them off perfectly. Artist Jerry Gaylord adds even more to that by making the dynamic between Thor and Loki visually similar, using his compositional skills in panels and placement of the dialogue to create fun exchanges between the characters. The only thing “missing” from this issue is the in-between from when Loki finds his new friends on Earth and the present, but the stunning quality of the story prior to that more than makes up wanting for more. This is a must read series for anyone a fan of the current mainstream iterations of these characters and anyone wanting a damn good time.
New Warriors #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10):Strange to say this, but I wish Yost had two issues to introduce the New Warriors. This is a book that does a lot of jumping to bring every character into the book and reveal the big baddy. Combine that with Christopher Yost's normally strong and personality driven dialog and you have a book that's tricky to take it. Marcus To on art is a nice and safe call. His action scenes have a nice sense of flow to them, with each character having a good hero moment. However, his art alone in this book doesn't have a strong enough narrative stand on it's own. So while New Warriors #1 isn't the best launch for these characters, the potential between Yost and To is enough to keep me around for a few more issues and hope everything gels.
The Terminator: Enemy of My Enemy #1 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): The Terminator universe gets expanded with Enemy of My Enemy, as it’s revealed that Skynet was after more than just Sarah Connor: Dr. Elise Fong was on their radar as well. While the idea is mildly interesting, the story brings up the question as to why exactly no one else noticed two future-robot-assassins gallivanting through the present. Although the thought of watching a Terminator pursue two strong women seems like it would make a good story, the issue unfortunately doesn’t do much to make its story stand out. Writer Dan Jolley doesn’t do enough to make the reader care about former agent Farrow Greene — he plays too much up on the badass loner trope, making her feel one-dimensional and flat. Artist Jamal Igle shines in the issue, making the fight scene between the Terminator and Greene enjoyable with his smart use of breakdowns to make the action fast paced and explosive. Hopefully Jolley will take the time to flesh out this cast of characters to really draw the reader into the story; until then, it remains an interesting concept with a mediocre execution.
Birds of Prey #28 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 2 out of 10): Usually, tie-in issues to a larger story serve to illuminate the reader and fully explain the events going on; Birds of Prey #28 essentially does the exact opposite as it sacrifices the current story to set itself up for future ones down the line. While Chris Sotomayor’s colors are the highlight of the issue, the rest of the team cause the issue to fall flat. Christy Marx jumps through the narrative without letting it breathe naturally, especially after the fight scene with Batman and Poison Ivy. Black Canary gets captured, suddenly the fight ends, which makes for a jarring reading experience. By bringing Ra’s al Ghul into the mix, Marx muddles her story within the context of the overall universe, as Ra’s was left defeated in last month’s issue of Red Hood and the Outlaws. It seems far-fetched that he’d already be back to his usual, manipulative self and devoting time to Black Canary, while Batman is about to pursue him, and is still recovering from Jason’s attacks. While these all might not be happening at once, it’s never specified when exactly these events happen, which seriously detracts from the story and leaves the issue less than inspiring.
Punisher #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): After a strong first issue, Nathan Edmondson gets stuck in place with his sophomore issue of Punisher. For the most part, this issue is half-mystery, half-explanation of Frank Castle's new status quo on the West Coast, but it never gets deep enough into both for it to matter. Based on last issue, I was perfectly content with Frank just moseying on into another town, no questions asked, but discussing the strata of "too tough for cops, too small for superheroes" just diminishes the Punisher's standing by comparing him to men in robot armor wielding Norse hammers. The artwork by Mitch Gerads, however, looks amazing as ever - his photorealistic style really sets the tone of this book, whether it's Frank skulking into a Mexican drug den with the perfect military stance, or the way he looks at a fleeing van in the desert. (That said, does Frank Castle really need a mask when he's on duty?) While Edmondson's sense of humor for Frank is still a nice touch, the insertion of superheroes is too much.
Batwoman #28 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): From page one we can see both artist Jeremy Haun and colorist Guy Majors are working better together, with Batwoman #28 finally starting to step away from JH Williams' shadow. There is a frail quality to Jeremy's pencils when drawing Kate that counters wonderfully with the raw anger he draws as Batwoman. I only wish writer Marc Andreyko were as comfortable. Like Kate Kane herself, Marc is struggling to find a voice for the character, both in and out of the cowl. Trying to find a balance between her nightly activities and her personal life, Batwoman is a person that doesn't know her place in Gotham. It's a premise that still has promise, but the uneven narrative suggests that both character and writer aren't sure what that promise holds.
Undertow #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Atlanteans abound as Image Comics seeks to reinvent the old-age concept of this water-breathing world. Though the beginning of the issue isn’t the strongest, writer Steve Orlando quickly recovers to bring readers into this world where Atlantean separatists struggle to survive on the mainland. The parallels Orlando draws between the Atlanteans and today’s humans is a double-edged sword: it’s strange that Atlanteans would use similar vernacular (unless there’s an Atlantean psychologist named Freud), but it also engages readers in the story when the narrative examines propaganda and rebellion through the eyes of Ukinnu Alal in his experience with Redum Anshargal. The art by Artyom Trakhanov is out there, making the visuals appear gritty and unrefined, which ties nicely into the narrative. The coloring stood out as problematic due to the stark contrast of colors—like having bright pinks and light teals in the same panel. Overall, the issue makes some interesting explorations into this unique iteration of Atlantean culture and deserves at least another issue to let the team find its footing.
Supergirl #28 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 2 out of 10): Despite already appearing as a Red Lantern over in the Green Lantern titles, the story behind Supergirl's new status quo had yet to be told - at least, until now. Unfortunately, Tony Bedard tries to do too much with this script, and winds up dropping the ball on all of his agendas. First off, he shows a lack of confidence in the actual main character of the book, instead falling on the newly reimagined Lobo as the book's narrator (and central focus). Supergirl herself is one-dimensional in her violent breakdown, remaining endearing to no one. Lobo, meanwhile, comes off as a bland scrappy rogue, a mere punching bag and source of exposition for Kara Zor-El's psychological state. The artwork, by Yildiray Cinar, is pretty uneven when it comes to facial expressions, but there's a flicker of panache involved when Lobo gets punched through a wall. Based on this issue, Supergirl's new gig feels like anything but a promotion.