Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has your back, with this week's edition of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's kick off today's column with Rambunctious Rob McMonigal, as he takes a look at the new Spirit of Vengeance with All-New Ghost Rider #1...
All-New Ghost Rider #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): If you like speed lines, has Marvel got a comic for you! Tradd Moore, in an otherwise visually appealing comic if you are a fan of OEL Manga, overdoes the impressions of motion, which hurts this otherwise innovative debut of a new take on a classic character. Throwing out what has come before, writer Felipe Smith presents Robbie Reyes, a young man trying to make life better for his differently abled brother. His desire to right wrongs is played nicely in strong character development, leading up to an unjust death that sets the stage. Moore, when not adding squiggly lines everywhere, has a great, fluid style that captures a sense of constant movement. His characters are extremely expressive in a debut issue that’s worth investigating.
Red Lanterns #29 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Charles Soule puts the Big Blue Boyscout in this issue, as Guy Gardner struggles to figure out what to do about Kara. As much as he wouldn’’t mind having her on his side, he doesn’t want to anger Man of Steel. So this one kind of unravels into a lot of discussion and exposition. It’s easy to forget that so much of the DC Universe that we understand as readers is not entirely clear to the characters themselves. Superman has never met a Red Lantern, and what he’s heard isn’t good. The plot crawls in this one but Soule keeps it interesting because the conversation is weighty - a Kryptonian with a red power ring is an extinction-level threat. Alessandro Vitti does his part, too. While his Superman is definitely too bulky, his Red Lanterns are on point. The displays of Kara’s awesome powers are absolute wow moments. (I mean, she singlehandedly defeats a tsunami.) Red Lanterns has really come into its own under this creative team.
Amazing X-Men #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Jason Aaron has to wrap up all the threads as he concludes "The Search for Nightcrawler," and while it gets a little muddled by the end, it's hard to really care - Kurt Wagner is back, and in a bright, bouncy, entertaining story, to boot. This conclusion is all Nightcrawler's story, and considering how long it's been since we've seen him in action, it's hard to begrudge Jason Aaron, as he Kurt and his demonic father Azazel clash blades and teleport across pirate ships in Heaven. Ed McGuinness's artwork is a great fit for this, as every character is beautiful, cartoony and larger-than-life. McGuinness also nails the dramatic moments, especially when Wolverine winds up at death's door, as well as Kurt reflecting on the high price he paid for saving the world. It's not the deepest story in the world, but I'll be damned if Amazing X-Men isn't one of the most fun X-books I've read in quite some time.
The Bunker #2 (Published by Oni Press; Review by Scott Cederlund; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Receiving letters from their future selves, a group of friends struggle with the notion that they may be the cause of something horrible that they haven't even done yet. Joshua Hale Fialkov and Joe Infurnari's second issue deals with the group still being in shock over what they continue to learn about the future, stumbling through life trying to process everything that they’ve learned. More than just letters, one somehow receives a newspaper from a few days from now which shows he's going to be the hero after a great tragedy. Fialkov explores the conundrum of can or should you change the future if you know what's going to happen. Infurnari’s soft, pastel-like artwork vividly allows him to use color to establish the emotional chaos each character is experiencing. Playing off of each other, Fialkov and Infurnari build a sense of dread in this issue one moment at a time while slowly revealing the more questionable motivations of a few of the characters.
Silver Surfer #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): The Surfer’s good deeds might get him punished in an irreverent opening issue that takes Norrin Radd in an ill-fitting direction. Writer Dan Slott tries his patented wry humor, with the Surfer as straight man. The attempt at a light touch doesn’t work for such a serious character and pairing him with an Earth woman who feels responsibilities doesn’t help matters. Mike Allred’s art (with wife Laura’s colors) does a great job with capturing the wackiness of the Impericon, especially in a splash page of the planet, which looks like something out of Judge Dredd. His quirky designs look stellar (such as a set of captured aliens showing their unique looks), but overall this one has too many stale jokes and out-of-character actions.
The Flash #29 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Brian Buccellato can’t stick the landing before giving way to a new creative team. Solving his mom’s murder and exonerating his father has always been at the center of Barry Allen’s character. but Buccellato piles on a lot of unnecessary misdirection in this conclusion. Agustin Padilla attempts to fill the void left by Patrick Zircher, but even Matt Hollingsworth’s colors can’t inject Padilla’s art with the same kind of mood and urgency that Zircher captured. Some of it might not be his fault though. There’s so much exposition that some of the panels feel overrun with text. It’s jarring when artists change in the middle of an arc. All of the misdirection obscures the conclusion and takes some punch out of the final reveal which may or may not be explored by a new creative team. Buccellato’s lackluster finale robs a good story of a worthwhile conclusion.
Uncanny Avengers #18.NOW (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): “Avenge the Earth” is a great, big, gigantic title for an arc, but Havok is buckling under the weight of his new role as the focal point of this Avengers squad. The opening narration is so heavy-handed and overly melodramatic. It just doesn’t have the same gravitas that it might if it came from someone like Captain America. But Remender delivers some big moments in the book’s second half, including a cliffhanger that no one will want to miss. Daniel Acuna’s art suffers sometimes from a lack of clearly defined lines. But the looseness of it does allow him to deliver big action sequences and makes close-ups ooze with emotion because they seem more natural. This isn’t the strongest work from either Remender or Acuna, but it will suffice as an opening to a new arc.
Aquaman #29 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): There is a very classic feeling to Aquaman #29. It’s not hard to look at the classic interpretation of the hero fighting monsters because of some macguffin and not see it. Writer Jeff Parker is giving us a Saturday morning superhero version of Aquaman that works with police and fights the hoards - heck, he even uses his catch phrase “Outrageous!” Although classic, it’s something we have seen time and time before. Even penciler Paul Pelletier has that Alan Davis style but with a dash of Kirby-flourish on action scenes. Although the New 52 DC prides itself on being modernized, its hard to escape that ol’ Silver Age feeling in Aquaman #29.
Skullkickers #25 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): "A Dozen Cousins and a Crushing Crown" starts off an all-new story arc for Zub, Huang, and Coates. Consistent with previous issues, the latest from Skullkickers delivers some laugh-out-loud moments that left this reader more than satisfied by the end of story. The depiction of the dwarves in Dwayre proves hysterical and unexpected – these are not your father's Gimilis and Gloins. Huang's line work cartoonish artwork jumps off the page and aptly conveys the fast-paced action of the story. Meanwhile, Coates' coloring – already strong in past issues –emanates depth and texture, which helps Huang's lines really pop. And of course, Zub's little zings embedded throughout the story's dialogue and lettering continue to make this a really fun comic to read.
World’s Finest #21 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): If there was ever such a missed opportunity, it would be Paul Levitz’s First Contact. After reading this issue, it’s hard not to wonder what kind of event could have happened if Forever Evil hadn’t been going on. While the thought of First Contact is enough to get readers interested, the plot ultimately doesn’t really go anywhere nor has any immediate effects. The ending feels largely uninspired, as it feels like Levitz didn’t end the story on his own terms—it felt like there was more to the story and more he wanted to do with it. It’s a shame, because the arc was finally picking up momentum and appeared to be heading towards an explosive climax and ending; unfortunately, this issue doesn’t go out with a bang but rather a fizzling whimper. Hopefully, “first” contact doesn’t mean it'll be the last one, and Levitz will be able to continue the story in the future.
Pariah #2 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): As a reviewer pointed out last time, Pariah seems to be a continuation of a four-part graphic novel and a lot of the background information on these characters is in there. Unfortunately, writer Aron Warner doesn’t make this new series accessible for new readers, which is the major flaw of the series. As a new reader, we still don’t fully understand what led up to these events and what makes these characters real--we have nothing invested in them and we aren’t rooting for their success. The artwork is really the saving grace of the series, Brett Weldele’s colors and the angular lines gives a certain sharpness to the visuals fit the tone of the piece really well. Perhaps fans of the original series will see more to this than what’s on the surface, but to new readers Pariah is inaccessible and hard to get into without the prior knowledge.
Hawkeye #18 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Ah, man. Ah, Hawkeye. This book's uneven publishing schedule might have thrown us for a loop, but Kate Bishop's story in Los Angeles has become a dark yet charming read that shows that she's just as much of a screwup as her mentor in New York. Indeed, it's easy to overlook that Kate actually fails in her mission this issue, because Matt Fraction makes her such a quirkly, likeable character. He also does some smart stuff in terms of looping the story back to its inevitable conclusion, as Kate finds herself crossing paths once more with Madame Masque, who feels more and more like the true archnemesis of the book (leave it to Clint Barton to not even have his own supervillain in his own book). Annie Wu knocks the artwork out of the park this issue, with her lines getting nice and loose, showing off a lot of expression for Kate. Another solid success for one of Marvel's most entertaining books.
Batman: The Dark Knight #29 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): “In The Shadow” is a fitting title for this final issue of The Dark Knight because that’s essentially where this book has found itself amongst the dearth of Batman books in DC’s publishing line. Gregg Hurwitz ends this Man-Bat story with a fittingly gray conclusion. Man-Bat might have been stopped but corporate greed is alive and well. Hurwitz is reaching for something bigger than this book ever was and the sentiment rings a bit hollow. Ethan Van Sciver’s sleek opening pages come in stark contrast to Jorge Lucas much darker, thicker art. It was an odd move to let Van Sciver open up the book. Lucas delivers a few pages of solid horror but most of the book is drowning in shadows and the same grit teeth expression panel after panel. Maybe we’ll get a better Bat-book in place of this one.
Real Heroes #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Bryan Hitch takes on the idea of parallel earths in a fresh way as he takes on a journey as movie starts must become the heroes they act as in a universe where their stories are real. Hitch makes these characters stand out due to the diverse cast with respect to gender, race, and disability. It’s exciting to see such differences represented in a team that’s drawn from popular superheroes from the Avengers and Justice League. The narrative has a slow start, but quickly picks up speed during the middle of the issue. While the pace increase was appreciated, it was hard to keep up at times. In the end, readers can be rest assured they’ll be caught up as Hitch sets himself up with a fantastic opportunity to explore how everyday people—well, as “everyday” as movie stars can get—will react when they’re asked to step up to be Real Heroes.
Suicide Squad: Amanda Waller #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): On the surface, this is a pretty enjoyable story starring a fan-favorite character; but if you stop and start to actually think about the feasibility of the story and what’s happening, it all starts to unravel. Jim Zub plays on Waller’s nobility a bit too much, beating us over the head by constantly reminding us that she’s a good person who “loathes violence.” As Waller must survive against an experiment gone wrong, with powers that make little to no sense (absorbing heat from the desert wouldn’t provide moisture for snow to start falling) and a cliché motive to seek revenge, we go through the story feeling like we’ve seen this before. There’s nothing too special here in the writing and in the art: André Coelhd’s pencils feels static and forced at times, with characters in awkward positions and movements. Unless you’re a diehard fan of the character, this is one you won’t miss.
Iron Patriot #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): The ever-restless Rhodey takes on another role, this time as a dedicated protector of the United States, in a morose story with poor art. Ales Kot sets a somber tone from the opening pages and never gives the reader a single breather, making it seem like a man who stood in for Tony Stark can’t handle himself. Rhodey argues with his father, who wants him to put family ahead of duty, gets manipulated by the government, and ends up beaten, none of which gives this comic any appeal. Garry Brown’s art doesn’t help at all, putting generic looks on faces, posing them as stiffly as possible, and barely adding in any details. This isn’t a great start for a Marvel icon who deserves better.
Hacktivist #3 (Published by Archaia; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Marcus To and Ian Herring continue to be an all-star combination as the art never ceases to amaze. To’s ability to create immersive illustrations that bring the reader into the story is one of the most appeals aspects of Hacktivist. Derron Bennet deserves a shout out on lettering, making the use of foreign language within the narrative that much more seamless. The story picks up its pace as the protagonist Ed Hiccox makes his way to Tunisia to assist in their revolution. This leads to an interesting explanation of what Hiccox’s algorithm really is—even though it errs on the side of unbelievable, if you can suspend your disbelief, it’ll probably keep you hooked in the story. As the issue ends with a sudden death, we’re left wondering what’s going to happen next, which is the sign of a great narrative. Regardless we’re still a little confused on the exact rules of the world, these characters and situations are interesting enough to keep us wanting for more.