Greetings, 'Rama reviewers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has you covered, with this week's edition of your Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's kick off today's column with Prolific Pierce Lydon, as he takes a look at the new superhero in the cineplex, Captain America...
Captain America #19 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Captain America is still in hangover mode after the epic that was “Dimension Z,” but Rick Remender has been steadily building the threat of Dr. Mindbubble and the Iron Nail. Last sisue was an out and out fight comic. This one leans more toward exposition but is balanced with plenty of explosions. Remender returns to the theme of his run, “You always stand up” and it’s clear that he’s not done putting Steve through the wringer. Nic Klein turns in a valiant effort but his work is marred by inconsistencies. While widescreen format action is definitely his strong suit, close-up reaction shots are not. The difference is in the amount of detail and Klein is better when he’s drawing less lines. The conclusion of this issue is one I’m sure readers have felt coming but it isn’t stale. We’re in for a doozy of a finale.
Detective Comics #30 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Though Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato are new to the Batman corner of the New 52, they’ve quickly proved themselves worthy of tackling a Batman adventure. Introducing two new characters, while integrating all that’s happened so far in Bruce’s history, the creative team has started a story that has the feel of the Batman family. Although Francis Manapul’s artwork seems a little out of place in Gotham, as those fluorescent qualities to his coloring makes the tone seem lighter and brighter, his breakdowns indicate his level of adaptability. To cross over from Flash to Batman and to subtly alter his style so that it fits with the difference between those two characters, while still staying true to his style, is indicative of his skill. The opening issue of their run promises readers the title is in good hands with an exciting story to come.
Pretty Deadly #5 (Published by Image Comics, Review by Scott Cederlund, ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Sometimes it’s not the story that’s being told but the journey that the creators take you on that counts. As Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios have marched us along with their characters into Death’s domain, Pretty Deadly has been a confounding yet fascinating story. Living up to its western roots, this issue features the ultimate gunfight at the O.K. Corral. The lyrical characteristics of DeConnick and Rios’ work combined with Jordie Bellaire’s evocative colors creates a living and breathing pulse to this story. This issue is full of cryptic harmonies and sweeping movements that build up before majestically releasing all of its energy as everything changes for the characters and for the readers’ experience of this comic. DeConnick and Rios weave together this spiritual spaghetti western that’s as much Clint Eastwood as it is the Book of Revelations.
Starlight #2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): While the story is admittedly predictable at this stage of the game, that doesn’t change the fact that writer Mark Millar is setting up for long-term success. After establishing the “ordinary world” of our protagonist, Millar disrupts the status quo with a call to action in the form of a twelve-year old boy looking for a way to save his world. Millar’s now introduced a foil for which to compare Duke — it’s clear that both will have much to learn from each other. We’ve become invested in the story now, because we have to know what happens next: what will Duke do now that Tantalus is in trouble? Goran Pavlov and Ive Svorcina continue to impress with their teamwork: where Pavlov succeeds in the simplistic, but effective, composition and slightly exaggerated character designs, Svorcina continues to use flat colors to give it that old-time feel to the art. Starlight #2 has a lot of potential - let’s just see if the creative team takes advantage of that in the coming issues.
She-Hulk #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Marvel continues its strong trend of solo books playing outside the usual superhero realm. Sure, Charles Soule still manages to include plenty of punching and heroics between She-Hulk and Doombots. But the clichéd action takes a welcome backseat to allow greater exploration of Jennifer Walter's career and how she balances the tights with the suit. While Javier Pulido on art is still a refreshing change of pace, his character composition can appear a bit repetitive at times, with more than a few panels looking like they were cut and pasted in. Still, when the story allows his style to flourish, the reader is greeted with some truly lovely art and panel design. She-Hulk #3 is not the strongest issue to date, but still a fun way to spend $2.99.
Swamp Thing #30 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Justin Partridge, III; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Even a forgettable issue of Swamp Thing still ends up being entertaining. Alec Holland works to return to his leafy body, while some of the past Avatars scheme and plot behind his back. This issue is largely pipe laying for the finale coming next month so unless you have been following the title from the start, or maybe the start of this three issue arc, you aren’t in for anything ground breaking in the pages of Swamp Thing #30, though a quick bit of scene stealing from Vandal Savage makes a strong case for this issue. Jesus Saiz does an admirable job with a script of mainly talking heads, making each scene move along at a decent pace, letting each character show a wide range of emotion in the pace of the title’s usual creature feature action. Swamp Thing hasn’t hit many lulls in its thirty issue run, but this month we see just what a Swamp Thing lull would look like and even still, it's solid comics.
Self-Obsessed One-Shot (Published by Image Comics; Review by Lindsey Morris; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Sina Grace is no stranger to being self-involved, as he shows in both the title and contents of his newest comic. A collection of short autobiographical works from his early works to now, Grace takes us on a stroll through his brain's inner workings, revealing trains of thought that range from alarming to endearing. There is a lot going on here, and the comic ends up reading like an erratic journal, complete with playlists! Watching the evolution of Grace's life and work is fun to see, starting off poorly-drawn and mired in drama, and ending with more well-rendered and thoughtful pieces. Numerous photos of Grace, portraits of himself done by other artists, and a Sarah Jessica Parker page round out the book. A worthwhile read for any Grace fan.
Green Arrow #30 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The Outsiders war is coming to a head, and Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino continue their upward trajectory for Green Arrow. There's a decent amount of exposition here, as Lemire has to explain the various weapon-based clans (not to mention Oliver Queen's increasingly complicated relationship with his thought-to-be dead father), but there's some emotional content being built up. (That said, it's not always perfect - the inclusion of Katana from Justice League of America, for example, feels like a non-starter.) But it's artist Andrea Sorrentino, along with colorist Marcelo Maiolo, that really makes this book stand out, particularly a double-page splash through a window that cuts across the pages with shard-like panels. Sorrentino's inkwork is a little rough, and sometimes he has a goofy moment here or there (like suddenly zooming into someone's heart as it's pierced with an arrow, which makes a dramatic scene suddenly hilarious). Still, the ambitious artwork and plot make this one of DC's best books.
Inhuman #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge, III; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): After a rocky inception period, Inhuman #1 finally hit shelves this week and its a real mixed bag. Charles Soule does a good enough job presenting new Inhumans and a zealous tribal leader who offers an alternative to the House of Boltagon, yet the stilted dialogue keeps the comic from being the regular stellar work that we are used to getting from Soule. As an introduction issue it works well enough, but just judging from this #1, I’m not convinced that we have Marvel’s Next Big Thing just yet. Joe Madureira and Marte Gracia gives Inhuman a stylish, manga-inspired look that wows at times and plays up the heightened comic book nature of the story, but nothing can really distract from the weirdly telegraphed dialogue. The potential for something great is there, but don’t expect to be blown away by Inhuman #1.
Dead Letters #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Scott Cederlund; ‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Is “a guy wakes up with no knowledge of who or where he is” really that strong of a way to kick off a new story anymore? It’s been done over and over and it’s being done again in Christopher Sebela and Chris Vision’s Dead Letters #1, a metaphysical crime comic. Working with a potentially catchy and otherworldly high concept (to say what that is would be to give away the hook at the end,) Sebela and Vision’s cacophonic story throw up too many barrier at the reader, leaving you unsteady about what it is that you’re actually reading. Too many characters and too many rushed sequences create distractions rather than guiding you into the mystery of who this man is and what is this world that he has woken up into. It’s difficult to follow what is happening in the story until the end when a new character shows up to provide answers that are far more fascinating than the path we took to get there.
Moon Knight #2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): This book has it all - except for a fully realized lead character. Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire continue to make a great name for themselves drawing Moon Knight, even if the story he's in could feature any one of the hundreds of heroes in the Marvel Universe. The issue has an interesting bit of panel compositions for the first half of the book, as each page loses a panel as a sniper kills more and more people. Moon Knight himself looks dynamic enough, as his crescent-shaped cloak cuts across the sky. That said, writer Warren Ellis fits in a lot of action in this done-in-one comic, but very little to clue us in on who Marc Spector is or what he's about. There's a halfhearted message about banks being bloodier than global security, but this story could be shoved anywhere. The art is truly sublime, and that makes this book worth the buy, but it's a shame that the story can't measure up.
Aquaman and the Others #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): The Others was an exciting addition to Aquaman's ignored supporting characters. So I was excited to see Dan Jurgens bring the team back together in Aquaman and the Others #1. It's disappointing that the return feels so very mundane. The artifacts that power the group are failing and only Arthur can help. If there is more story there, Jurgens is going to make us wait till issue #2 and that hampers the book. Lan Medina is perfectly serviceable as a visual storyteller, but does little that allows the book to rise above. Like so many other New52 titles, this issue fits in line with DC's art style that is hamstringing more than a few titles. As a prelude to Futures End, this is a null book. On it's own, it's good enough, but just barely.
Black Widow #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge, III; ‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Black Widows solo adventures continues to deliver on several different levels. #5 finds her confronting the Hand of God once and for all and coming face-to-face with various figures from her past, deepening the intrigue of the series. Nathan Edmondson has done a great job balancing the espionage aspects of the series with bone crunching action. Edmondson also keeps Natasha largely in the dark for this issue which tips the scales out of her favor, rasing the stakes for Natasha and the audience. Phil Noto continues to wow with his almost European-looking art direction. Noto’s panels are often story driven and rarely do they sacrifice the narrative for visuals. Black Widow #5 continues to do unexpected and ambitious things with the Hawkeye model and makes a monthly case for being Marvel’s best-looking title.
Veil #2 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Lindsey Morris; 'Rama Rating 9 out of 10): Greg Rucka and Toni Fejzula have another stunner on the shelves this week with the second issue of their new series, Veil.The comic's art still stands at the forefront, all sharp edges and blocky watercolor, uniquely rendered and beautifully colored. The book is rather sparse on dialogue at times, and all the better for it, because Fejzula handles the visual storytelling exceptionally well. Rucka continues to build up this world, full of crooks and cops and rats, rats, rats. Promising new characters are introduced, while old ones slowly gain more depth. The pacing is such that, when combined with the artwork, it gives the whole book a rather dreamy quality - which is one of the factors that make this story such a success. Highly recommended.
Action Comics #30 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10):There are moments in Action Comics #30 where we get a real sense of Greg Paks understanding of Superman. Too often these days we have a Superman that scowls, rages, and burns through his enemies. So it's refreshing to read how Pak writes the final confrontation between Superman and the Ghost Soldiers. The triple art duties by Aaron Kuder, Jed Dougherty, and Karl Kerschl make for an unbalanced read. The more emotional tone required of the story is lost between the three. One moment Superman looks like an angry bully, only to appear as a penitent survivor in the next. And like the Aquaman and the Others title out this week, this issue only tangentially serves as a prelude to yet another mini event. The elements to a great Action Comics are all there, but the team lacks cohesion.
The Field #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): The Field takes a stab at mashing together the action and mystery genres as our unnamed protagonist goes through the motions of the story. The issue ultimately feels listless as our amnesiac hero's memories because we’re not sure what anyone’s objectives are, nor can we get a feel for where the story is going because these characters feel more like plot devices and archetypes than full-fledged characters. That being said, there’s a lot of intense action in the issue, and writer Ed Brisson ups the stakes considerably in a short amount of time. Simon Roy’s art style appears unrefined at first glance, especially with his inking, but characters are dynamic and expressive — they feel and look alive, which makes their movements feel fluid. Unfortunately, The Field doesn’t make readers invested and there’s nothing in the issue that gives us an urgency to pick up the next issue.