Greetings once again, 'Rama Readers! David Pepose is still beyond the edge of space and time, so I, George Marston, am once again your guide through this week's collection of Rapid Fire reviews! We've got a really stellar column this week, so let's kick things off with Lindsey Morris's review of a book that's been getting a ton of attention lately, She Hulk #2.
She-Hulk #2 (Published by Marvel; Review by Lindsey Morris; 'Rama Rating 8 out of 10): Jennifer Walters is settled into her new office, and now she's just waiting for the clients to roll in. Trouble is - they aren't. Charles Soule brings us another look at our stressed-out and put-upon protagonist as she tries to make ends meet in the big, big city. Javier Pulido adds his distinctive style to the pages again - particularly with the new set of characters, which happily includes Patsy Walker, Hellcat. The creative team even give us a view of the two friends cutting loose with a night of dancing, too many cocktails, and some good ol' hand-to-hand combat. The pace is picking up, new characters are appearing, and the book is set for it's first multi-issue arc. Things are starting to look up for our green heroine.
Action Comics #29 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge, III; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Greg Pak gets Superman. This has been proven time and time again since his start on Action Comics (and Batman/Superman to an extent), but nowhere is it more apparent than in the pages of Action Comics #29. Here Pak gives just all the hallmarks of a great Superman story; an impossible situation, genuine emotional stakes, humor, and crackling action beats. Greg Pak is giving us a book that truly lives up to the title of Action Comics. Aaron Kuder, once again, turns in tremendous pencils that do more than just make Pak's script look pretty. Kuder takes all the emotion, weight, and speed of Pak's script and translates it beautifully onto the pages, giving the art the energy and momentum required for great comic storytelling. Pak and Kuder are quickly becoming one of my new favorite creative teams and, for the first time in a long while, Action Comics has once again become one of my favorite books on shelves.
Earth 2 #21 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Tom Taylor continues to pick up in momentum as the last vestiges of humanity’s hope slip away. Even though the World Army’s forces are decimated by Superman, Taylor’s able to inject humor into the issue despite the mass murder going on. Project Beyond feels more like a scene out of 2012 than Earth 2, but the team more than makes up for those few pages between the interactions of the characters, which is where most of the humor comes in. Nicola Scott has mastered the art of breaking down the action to have characters quip back and forth with each other and make the most of the dialogue. While we may not be able to predict exactly where Taylor’s going with the story, by adding in Mister Miracle and spending time on Mr. Terrific, perhaps the story going on in Earth 2 will make its way into Earth 1, especially now that First Contact is going on. Much of the issue’s excitement comes from what could be, rather than the issue itself, which is its major flaw—this doesn’t change the fact, though, that the issue is an enjoyable read and worth picking up.
Trillium #7 (Published by Vertigo; Review by Vanessa Gabriel; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): One of Jeff Lemire’s greatest feats is the way he brings your heart to a fevered beat, and then breaks it in a moment. Not only does he do this in Trillium #7, but he does it twice. As Nika and William frantically grasp at their reality and move through space and time, Lemire will move you to near tears. Hope is the way he makes it necessary for you keep turning the pages. His exquisitely painted, emotionally charged rendering of a prodigious future, a peculiar past and ingeniously placed panels are the reward. Trillium #7 is engrossing, heartfelt and rich with nuance setting the stage for a remarkable ending. This issue and the story as a whole will takes its place among the stars, as it should.
Magneto #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge, III; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): I did not notice the parental advisory warning on the cover before I read this issue, but that may have been the best possible way to go into it. Magneto #1 pulls absolutely no punches in telling the story of Magneto's one man crusade against those who commit crimes against mutant kind. Cullen Bunn writes Erik as a man distilled through his experiences into a man with a singular purpose. This is still the angry, yet less powerful mutant that we've seen through the years, but now he has turned that hatred and pain into focus and the results are deadly. Gabriel Hernandez Walta does some truly wonderful work here, mixing Steve Dillon like character work with jarring displays of inventive violence. Walta also finds little moments of clever panel work when he can, like the single panels of potential weapons for Magneto as he cases a room. I was unsure about what a Magneto ongoing would be about or look like when it was announced but upon reading number one and seeing just how far it was willing to go while presenting it's story, I am more than interested to see just where else Erik is headed and just how far he is willing to go in his pursuit of justice.
Uncanny X-Men #18 (Published by Marvel Comics; review by George Marston; ‘Rama Rating: 2 out of 10): There’s very little that makes for a worse comic than watching characters wait around while things happen in other titles. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what’s happening in Uncanny X-Men #18. From the misleading cover, to the absolutely abrupt end page, the pace is glacial at best. The only plot point of note is Cyclops and company’s discovery that the original X-Men were taken by the Shi’Ar, a beat that takes less than a page to cover. Even the brief character moments feel like they were pieced together out of older scripts, and Marco Rudy’s kineticism is wasted on talking heads. Worse, his experimentation with different styles actually hampers the book, making Bendis’s spare script even harder to follow. Uncanny X-Men #18 is absolutely inessential filler.
Evil Empire #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Max Bemis tackles big themes in the first issue of Evil Empire and draws together two unlikely companions in what looks like a compelling take on a dystopian future. Although Bemis sometimes gets lost in the ambition of the narrative by jumping between points in time, he plays the strong personalities of his characters well enough to compensate for the confusion from the story. One specific example is the representation of Mrs. Laramy’s murder—the execution of the scene was a strange narrative choice that ultimately made for a jarring reading experience. The art, although strong in its composition, lacks a variety between people: most males and females share a similar body type and look, with the exception of the coloring done by Chris Blythe. Ransom Getty’s strength definitely lies in making incredibly immersive backgrounds that set the scene of the story perfectly. Even though Evil Empire gets off to a rocky start, the sheer shock value of the last few pages easily makes up for it, leaving readers wondering exactly what happens to turn the country into a dystopian regime.
Afterlife With Archie #4 (Published by Archie Comics; Review by Jeff Marsick; ‘Rama Rating 10 out of 10): There is so much to love about this series and it continues with Francavilla applying his pulpy stylings to Aguirre-Sacasa’s tense script, this time spotlighting Archie and his dog, Vegas. The latter is heroic to the end while the former is forced to take heartbreaking action, rendered in one page across fifteen panels. It’s been interesting how the nightmare that Riverdale is enduring forces the reveal of deeper secrets within these familiar characters, such as what is intimated this issue about the Blossom twins; what lies deep within is sometimes creepier than the external threat. That last splash page says it all: the survivors in the Lodge mansion are in for the fight of their lives, and someone’s probably not going to make it to issue six.
Jupiter's Legacy #4 (Published by Image; Review by Lindsey Morris; 'Rama Rating 7 out of 10): It's been a long time since the last installment of Jupiter's Legacy, and things are looking bleak for the world at large. Mark Millar shifts into a more story-heavy gear, scripting a planet in straits even more dire than they were previously. With the main focus of the story on Chloe's son Jason, we're left wondering what Brandon and Walter are up to in the White House. Frank Quietly does an exceptional job as ever with the visuals, shining particularly bright with the flashback sequence. A solid, if not particularly thrilling read for the series. With any luck, the next issue will be more timely and have a little bit more grit.
Starlight #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): As someone who’s really only heard about Buck Rogers, I didn’t have much to go on going into Starlight. Coming out of the issue, however, I couldn’t be more content with the first issue. Mark Millar chooses to focus on Duke McQueen, the man who traveled to a far distant planet, as a person rather than on the idea of space travel, which is really the strength of the issue. Millar draws a clear dichotomy between Duke’s time on Earth, where no one believes him and his own family barely gives him the time of day after his wife’s death, and his time on this mysterious planet, where he’s a hero. This is immediately relatable to readers who have experienced being lauded in one setting to find themselves criticized in another. By the end of the issue, we’re glad that this space ship has landed to give Duke a chance to experience the good life again. Paired with Goran Parlov’s economic line art and Ive Svorcina’s flat colors, Millar and the team give us an opening issue that can’t help but make readers pick up the rest of the series.
Captain America #18 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): This issue is essentially the action filler as Rick Remender and Nic Klein build to the main confrontation. Cap and Falcon spend most of their time dispatching of mind-controlled SHIELD agents as they attempt to infiltrate super helicarrier, Gungnir. It’s a pretty light and fast-paced book that leans on Klein’s ability to nail the visual language of the action sequences. He really delivers, giving us a really exciting visual spectacle coupled with some great lettering effects (kudos to Joe Caramagna if those were his doing). Remender is light on exposition in this one but the tension still builds at a good clip. These are the kind of comics that a casual reader can enjoy and that's a huge strength with a movie on the way.
Apocalypse Al #2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): Is it just me, or is anyone else still getting the Black Widow/Buffy mashup vibe? J. Michael Straczynski fails to make his work stand out, leaving the protagonist feeling like a facsimile of two original and strong female characters in their own right. What should be witty dialogue falls flat as Al shows no distinct personality that’s unique to her and her alone; everything about her feels like we’ve seen it before, which severely undermines the story. Straczynski takes no time to fully define Ultimate Darkness and creates a convoluted mythos that only confuses the reader and leaves them in the dark about the rules of the world. Although the Book of Keys provides an immediacy to the story, there’s really not much more going for the issue besides its admittedly enjoyable car scene at the end. Sid Kotian and Bill Farmer save the issue with their visuals, particularly in building the setting in the virtual world and coloring the Ultimate Darkness. Beyond that, though, there isn’t much to write home about.
Forever Evil: Arkham War #6 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): If the idea of a giant, drawn-out, brawl between all the B-Level Batman villains sounds totally gnarly to you then you are probably already hooked on Forever Evil: Arkham War-if not then you passed on the book way before this issue. Number six is another entry of raising the stakes with little pay off. Jason Fabok has dumped out what’s left in the Batman toy box and went to town crafting a gigantic war that’s mostly blood, guts and yelling-but little more than that. This urban warzone is anchored quit well by art duo Jaime Medoza and Scott Eaton in that it matches the current visual vibe of the Bat-books and can stand amongst them. If the characters on the frontlines don’t do it for you there isn’t much going on back in the barracks to keep you around.
Detective Comics #29 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): John Layman finishes his run on Detective Comics with the conclusion of Gothtopia, but doesn’t quite earn the finish. Although his portrayal of Batman is one of the best—showcasing Bruce’s ingenuity and compassion extremely well—the overall conclusion of the story lacks a meaningful climax. We’re never in doubt that Batman’s going to succeed, and we’re never in doubt that Scarecrow is going to be stopped; everything happens like we’d expect, besides the last confrontation between Batman and Scarecrow, which makes for a rather dull reading experience. Artist Aaron Lopresti does pretty well for the issue, making sure to vary the perspectives to avoid the monotonous visuals he’s leaned on in past issues. As the creative team’s run ends with Batman in a generic fight after a predictable scene where he pushes Catwoman away, readers too are ready for the new creative team and the new adventures that’ll come with them.
The Movement #10 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Vanessa Gabriel; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): These Coral City kids have abducted Gotham’s sweetheart, Batgirl. Thus, conflicting ideals of justice and ethics, themes frequented by The Movement, are the kinesis of the issue providing plenty of momentum. Chris Sotomayer’s vibrant teals and yellows punch up its youthful impetuousness, but the issue moves too fast. Abrupt story beats suck the soul from the moments of transition – or lack of. Freddie Williams’s jagged lines are beautifully striking in a few panels, but mostly, are too severe and add to the feeling of haste. Still, hats off to Gail Simone on Kulap’s free love and Tremor’s asexual identification. Those characteristics might seem contrived to those who don’t look past their privilege, but shaking up the comics’ status quo is a good thing. There’s great energy in The Movement #10, if only it were channeled better.
Veil #1 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Where others would fail for withholding so much information, Greg Rucka succeeds in making the present moment much more interesting than Veil’s origins, which earns him the ability to withhold information without taking away from the momentum of the story. Veil’s inherent innocence immediately puts her in a dangerous situation that hero Dante swoops in to save her. To pair them up makes the story much more interesting, as they’re unlikely partners on the surface. By the end, however, readers are going to be waiting on the edge of their seat to find what happens next. Toni Fejzula’s use of color and shadows gives the visuals an eerie quality that fits with the air of mystery conveyed through the story; the colors particularly stood out during the scene in the street, making it look like the light from the neon signs shine into the panel. From the first page, the story gains traction leading to the explosive climax of ending, giving Veil an incredibly strong start and leaves the reader eager for more.
Moon Knight #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10):
Moon Knight has often been portrayed as Marvel's "C" list Batman, so it's not surprising Ellis, Shalvey, and Bellaire are presenting a fresh take on this character that is equally unexpected and yet thoroughly engaging. The dynamic Ellis creates between the newly minted "Mr. Knight" and the police creates an interesting detective procedural out of what I expected would be a typical superhero comic. Artistically, Shalvey and Bellaire deliver just the right amount of grit for a street-level crime drama while still finding moments to make their hero come to life. My only real complaint is that the origin story in the beginning, while providing necessary background for readers unfamiliar with Moon Knight, fails to connect to the actual plot in an organic way. Otherwise, it's surprisingly good story for a character whom many readers may not have otherwise given a second glance.
Green Arrow #29 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): If nothing else, Green Arrow #30 needs to come out now so we can find out how Oliver’s going to get out of this one. While the creative decision to make the Outsiders an expansive organization brings up questions as to how it interacts with similar organizations like the League of Assassins, writer Jeff Lemire runs with it and goes all out to give us an action-packed and exciting issue. Upping the stakes by having the rest of the clans’ payloads still active, we get so invested in the story at that point because we care about these characters and we desperately want to see how Oliver stops them. Artist Andrea Sorrentino is so on point this issue, getting extremely creative with panel layouts that make the visuals as worthwhile as the narrative, particularly in the two-page spread where Oliver gets caught. Sorrentino uses the architecture of the cathedral to break up the panels and it looks absolutely stunning.
God is Dead #8 (Published by Avatar Press; Review by Justin Partridge, III; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Oh, Avatar Press, you are my kind of crazy. With just two issues into his run, Mike Costa has set himself and his story arc well apart from the original six issue series that he co-wrote with Jonathan Hickman. Instead of focusing on the divine like Hickman did, Costa has given us a small scale story focusing on the humans surrounding the gods and the toll it takes being in their service and under their subjugation. Though Costa makes sure to deliver the craziness that this book (and publisher) is known for, this issue still has a clear point of view and something to say about the effect of religion on its followers and unbelievers. The book has never looked better under the hand of the new series artist, Juan Frigeri, who keeps with the Avatar house style (IE: Jacen Burrows) but gives us a bit more of an intimate look into these characters amid the godly carnage. Avatar Press always gets unfairly dismissed as the company that is nothing but exploitation and mindless violence, but underneath the blood these books always have a larger message. God is Dead is no exception
Tales of Honor #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): What should have been a highly engaging science fiction comic book turned out to be a mediocre version of the norms in the genre. The story follows Honor Harrington, and writer Matt Hawkins does a lot to make her likeable and relatable; however, the choice to use flashbacks severely detracts from the reading due to their listless quality. As Honor continually says she “gets ahead of herself,” the narrative jumps backwards and forwards and then backwards again, without letting the reader know Harrington’s motives or why we, as readers, should care about her struggle, which is a shame because both her and Lord Pavel Young have great tension as adversaries. The artwork has a digital quality that fits with the science fiction setting of the series; moving away from the usual comic book art style was smart, considering this series moves away from mainstream comics as well. Unfortunately, for all that Tales of Honor has going for it, there’s an equal amount taking away from the reading experience.