Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellet madness? Best Shots has you covered, with this week's installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's kick off today's column with Frolicking Forrest C. Helvie, as he takes a look at the latest issue of Ms. Marvel...
Ms. Marvel #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Once again, Wilson and Alphono remind readers of Marvel's ability to distill the essence of the superhero genre from the lens of a troubled teen – something Ditko, Kirby and Lee founded the House of Ideas upon decades earlier. Like Peter Parker of old, we see Kamala struggling with her newfound powers in school along with the social pressures of adolescence – how does one balance superhero-dom along slide friendship with members of the opposite sex? And as Ms. Marvel learns by the issue's end, dressing up as a superhero may seem like fun and games. Instead, there are some very real costs to donning the mask, which set the young hero up to learn that things are not as black and white as they seem. Artistically, I liked how Alphono increases the detail to add emotional weight to certain moments while pulling back in others for a more minimalist approach to focus readers on Wilson's dialogue and pick up the momentum –one example of the many smart storytelling techniques employed in this issue.
Batman Eternal #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Batman Eternal is a return to the long-form storytelling that we’ve seen before from DC. Without stretching into a bunch of different titles, Eternal is keeping the action focused each week while still involving a large cast of characters. And what we’re getting to far is solid serial drama with pacing that feels similar to weekly primetime action-adventure television. We’re still very much in the beginning stages of the narrative but the appearance of a historically significant villain already sets the stakes high. Jason Fabok’s art is perfectly suited for this book, injecting it was a level of grit and grime that one would expect from a Bat family book. It’s not a perfect comic, but two issues in, it might already be DC’s most accessible Batman title.
Genesis #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Lindsey Morris; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): For a book with 58 pages, there's not a lot said in Genesis, the latest comic by Nathan Edmondson and Alison Sampson. It reads like a very long, very extended metaphor - one that you have to exert more than a little effort to interpret. The problem may be that the story is too entrenched in the awkward marriage it strikes between religion and philosophy. It's similar to a conversation many of us have probably had with ourselves regarding existential woes, but it's not a dialogue that bears repeating. On the bright side, Sampson does good work on the visuals, creating sweeping dreamscapes that tie in nicely to the disjointed narrative. There are definitely readers that will enjoy this allegorical piece, but priced at $6.99, it's a little more work than it's worth.
Justice League #29 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The Metal Men may be the marquee names for this issue of Justice League, but Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke wind up writing a surprisingly heartfelt story about Cyborg, a character who - until now - still never really connected with readers enough to merit a place on the team. As Forever Evil began, Victor was taken off the board first, as his cybernetic parts revolted and formed a villain known as the Grid. Using Cyborg's ambivalence about his human and robot sides as a battleground for Earth's future, Geoff Johns makes superheroic combat into something a bit character-driven than we've seen from him in awhile. Doug Mahnke, paired with inkers Keith Champagne and Christian Alamy, winds up looking a lot like Ivan Reis, as the shadows are tamped down and the inks are very smooth. (Seriously, the inkers on this book need to take a bow, it looks great.) Mahnke makes the Cyborg-Grid fight look really cinematic, especially when we see the hulking behemoth touch down along a darkened street. While there are a couple of pacing issues near the beginning and end of the book, this is one of the best issues of Justice League in a long time.
Thor: God of Thunder #21 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): It's surprising that a God of Thunder can fly under the radar like this, but Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic are downright killing it with their latest Thor arc, "The Last Days of Midgard." Pitting Old Thor against a dying Galactus makes this comic crackle from the very first page, as Ribic dominates with his action sequences. Colorist Ive Svorcina makes the larger-than-life Galactus shudder with violent energies, as Ribic makes the World-Eater look imposing as hell as he blasts Thor through the Earth's crust. But Jason Aaron really outdoes himself with the story of Modern Thor, as he gets one-upped by the corporate machinations of the Minotaur, taking a page out of the Superman-Lex Luthor playbook. While this arc doesn't redefine Thor, it's refreshing to have a god humbled by a mere mortal. The next issue can't come soon enough.
Supergirl #30 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Supergirl has really grown on me over the last six months. The decision to make her a Red Lantern has actually given the book an interesting hook and provided Kara with a more diverse set of supporting characters. The plot stagnates a little here as the characters prep for a battle with Atrocitus. And the insight that given about Kara’s motivation feels redundant if you’ve been keeping up with Red Lanterns. Having three different artists on this one give it an inconsistent look, but I love Diogenes Neves’ flashback sequence toward the end. There’s no doubt this book will bounce back next month in part two of the battle with Atrocitus, but this one doesn’t make the case for being essential reading.
Winter Soldier: The Bitter March #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): From its knockout punch of a cover to its numerous cliffhangers, few superhero books on the stands will make you go "holy jeez!!" more than Winter Soldier: The Bitter March #3. Rick Remender is determined to put super-spy Ran Shen through absolute hell, as he has to juggle the Winter Soldier on his tail, Hydra crawling up his nose, as well as two assets that he has been assigned to protect (even as they wind up trying to flee him at every turn). Shen is a likeable protagonist, which makes the sheer punishment he goes through that much harder to stomach, as he's shocked, shot and beaten and still somehow keeps kicking. Roland Boschi reminds me a bit of Scott McDaniel with his kinetic action and his sharp, sketchy linework, and he pulls no punches as we see characters get gut-shot and their skin fried off by acid. The one downside of this book? It's still not really Bucky Barnes' story, as he's more of the unstoppable killer of the plot, kind of like Michael Meyers or Jason Voorhees. Still, this book doesn't just demand your attention - it earns it.
Batman and Wonder Woman #30 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): Patrick Gleason is still one the best artists on DC’s roster but this one-and-done is poorly thought-out. There are too many red herrings and the opening scene of Batman entering Paradise Island is bafflingly long considering Wonder Woman’s standing in that community and her presence there. With the pages wasted there, the Ra’s Al Ghul faceoff is wrapped quickly and the story seems to serve the moral at the end of the story more than anything else. It’s ineffective at best, and this issue misses an opportunity for some larger commentary. Batman and... has been a good place to explore Bruce’s relationships with many different characters, but here it only changes the setting, and the narrative falls flat as a result.
Hulk #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Justin Partridge, III; ‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): Even the greats stumble every once and awhile. Replacing the momentum of Indestructible Hulk with what essentially feels like a 21-page info-dump, Mark Waid delivers the new status quo for Bruce Banner, but the finished product feels more clunky than what we are used to getting from Waid. This first issue serves new readers well enough but it feels too much like a narrative checklist instead of a propulsive story. Mark Bagley also feels more stiff than usual; his usual fluidity and vibrancy stifled by the constrained script. Bagley does what he can with the sparse action scenes of the #1 and in these scenes, he delivers as per usual, but three good pages out of twenty one aren’t good enough to redeem this first issue. Waid, ever the idea man, ends with a fun enough cliffhanger that hints at the potential of the series - I only wish that the journey there wasn’t such a retread of well-traveled story territory.
Batwoman #30 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Marc Andreyko and Jeremy Haun deliver on the fight scene promised last month, and it’s clear that Andreyko is really starting to get a handle on Kate Kane’s voice. He sets aside some of the larger themes introduced in the first issue of this arc but moves forward with the Wolf Spider’s plot to point where it actually feels like we’re getting somewhere. Jeremy Haun’s action sequences are great, but there’s something about the way he renders Batwoman’s mask in profile shots that just doesn’t work. Same as last issue, facial inconsistencies plague this book, but the pieces are coming together, albeit slowly.
Curse #4 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The final issue of this miniseries ends on a note that many readers will no doubt have seen coming; however, this in no way takes away from enjoyment of seeing Laney and Anton work their way by the story's conclusion. We see how Laney's being accused of murder resolves itself along with finding out the fate of his dying son as Daniels and Moreci ask "How far would a parent go to save his child?" I also really enjoyed the scenes with the werewolves as Rossmo and Lorimer deliver the type of explosive and jaw-dropping action fans will be looking to see. There's nothing romantic about these monsters, but there is plenty of bloody, body-rending horror to be found – just as it should be. And it's clear from the way the story ends that this is not the end of the road for this creative quartet, so hopefully BOOM! has plans to keep the Curse alive.