Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday Rapids? Best Shots has your back, with this week's installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! Let's kick off today's column with Puckering Pierce Lydon, as he takes a look at the latest issue of Detective Comics...
Detective Comics #32 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato continue to redefine Detective Comics, and they’re starting to make the case that this should be the only Batman book you’re reading. The continued emphasis on Harvey Bullock is a great change of pace from most Gordon heavy stories. And it’s fun to compare Bullock and Batman’s methods to solve the same crime. The standout here though, is really the art. I had some concern that Manapul and Buccellato wouldn’t be able to deliver on a book set in Gotham because I thought the watercolor quality of the art wouldn’t carry the weight of the black ink as well. I’m glad I was wrong. Not only are Batman and Gotham as imposing as ever, but Manapul and Buccellato deliver some gigantic “only in comics” moments that are sure to entertain even the most jaded reader.
She-Hulk #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Lindsey Morris; 'Rama Rating 8 out of 10): Jennifer Walters is back at it in a new story arc this week, with scripting by Charles Soule and art by newcomer Ronald Wimberly (Prince of Cats). The all-girl legal team of She-Hulk, Hellcat, and Angie are on the case to find out what's up with a mysterious blue file in which a lot of supers are implicated. The dialogue and pacing of this installment are of the same high caliber that this title has been delivering since the outset, and with a new artist on board to boot, this book is looking fresher than ever. The thick-lined Walters that Javier Pulido introduced with the series has been swapped for more thin-lined, sinewy characters. Continuing to walk the walk and talk the talk, She-Hulk reminds us that she is the real deal.
Batman Eternal #10 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): John Layman is turning in the best scripts during Batman Eternal thus far. There’s a lot packed into this issue but the pacing is stellar. Layman gets to delve into some of Falcone’s past with Selina Kyle and deliver some barnyard retribution in the form of Professor Pyg’s and his farm hands. He also checks in with Stephanie Brown and Lt. Bard, proving that it is possible to cover the expansive nature of this narrative in a single issue. Riccardo Burchielli isn’t the best artist this book has seen but he turns in a good effort here. He skimps on anything resembling a background but his characters (especially Pyg’s crew) are rendered really well. In an issue that centers arounds Gotham’s scars and the scars it leave on it’s inhabitants, Burchielli really brings out a grotesque ugliness that characterizes the city.
All-New X-Men #28 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The Future Brotherhood's motivation to time-travel to the present and attack the X-Men has been cryptic. We finally learn Xavier's reason here, but the explanation feels simplistic and rushed. Brian Michael Bendis teases that teenage Jean Grey will continue to be the focal character of All-New X-Men. However, other than her obvious connection to the Phoenix Force, it is still unclear why she is the one to have so much plot revolve around. Even more frustrating, we still do not know why Molly Hayes and Deadpool joined the Brotherhood. Stuart Immonen's art is especially impressive in the details of Beast's lab. Immonen and Wade von Grawbadger's X-23 is one of my favorite depictions of the character, with her fierce, athletic look. With lots of dialogue and very little action, All-New X-Men #28 seems primarily written to explain Xavier's motive, but little else is accomplished.
Batgirl #32 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): It feels like we've seen a lot of Batgirl angry - we saw her mad when her insane brother James kidnapped their mother, we saw her mad when the Joker came back, we saw her mad when James was killed - yet I'd be lying if I didn't say that Gail Simone wasn't able to mine that for some good drama. Most of this comic is running in place, plot-wise, but Simone paints a good picture of what's going on with Batgirl these days - she's fighting against the criminal known as Knightfall, she's struggling to reconcile her relationship with neighborhood boy Ricky and the fact that he's suing her dad for police brutality - but by the end of this book, Simone punches you in the gut with Knightfall's latest bit of grotesqueness. Fernando Pasarin sells all these moments with some superb acting, and the cliffhanger featuring the Birds of Prey together again shows a lot of promise. The only thing is... we have seen a lot of this before. If you can stomach that, you'll have no problem keeping up with Batgirl.
Avengers Undercover #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Baron Zemo has invited the Avengers Arena survivors to join his ranks, so we get a tour of Bagalia as our cast of seven weighs the decision. Dennis Hopeless is effective at writing Nico's bewilderment as she sees Cullen Bloodstone fully adjusting to life as a rogue. Hopeless writes a great scene where Nico wrestles with her dark side, consoled by Daimon Hellstrom. We see moments of real friendship between Hazmat, Cammi and Aiden. In a welcome move, Hazmat asserts leadership and the unapologetic personality that made Issue #1 so enjoyable. Runaways fans will enjoy a particular plot twist that affects Nico. Kev Walker, Jason Gorder and Jean-Francois Beaulieu give Bagalia a believable lived-in feel. I love Beaulieu's colors, especially the purple glow of Tower Zemo's windows and the light blue aura of the tower's elevator. Walker draws every detail masterfully, from the menacing glow of a monster's eyes to the panoramic view of a demon fight club. Hopeless continues to mature this likable cast of characters as he sets the stage for their next objective in, as Aiden calls it, "Badguy Neverland."
The New 52: Futures End #6 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Not bad, Futures End, not bad. By focusing on some of the more interesting subplots going on in this series, the Futures End collective (Brian Azzarello, Jeff Lemire, Dan Jurgens and Keith Giffen) are building up a head of steam, aided by some extremely solid pencils by Patrick Zircher. While there's not much emotional drama here, there's enough plot progression and twists to pique your interests, and it doesn't hurt that they get better with each new installment. Watching Batman Beyond watch a group of thieves planning a heist on Terrifitech is a great segue for Mr. Terrific watching him, and the sci-fi lunacy of Frankenstein and Amethsyt fighting Phantom Zone criminals after their subatomic ship is just pure popcorn action. The best part, for my money, is the mystery surrounding what happened to Red Robin, as Lois Lane finally tracks Tim Drake down for answers. More questions, in this case, means more investment for this weekly.
Amazing Spider-Man #1.2 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): “Learning to Crawl” is an interesting case. Considering the sliding timeline of Marvel’s heroes with regards to their continuity, it makes sense that we would eventually see a teenage Peter Parker in the Internet age, but the retroactive inclusion of “Clash” is a little bit heavy-handed. Pete and Clash so similar at this stage because they’re both kind of whiny, genius teenagers. I guess Dan Slott will show us how their paths diverge and lead Peter to become the Spider-Man we know and love, but this tale feels extraneous and it’s not particularly entertaining to watch Peter pout and moan. But Ramon Perez’s artwork is still a joy to behold, a expressive amalgamation of ‘60s Ditko and more current work by Marcos Martin and Paolo Rivera. This might be the best Marvel work he’s ever done, and that alone is worth the cover price.
The United States of Murder Inc. #2 (Published by Icon; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): This book delivers the reading experience that fans of mobster movies are going to dig. Valentine, a newly made man, faces a choice: he can either become a "rat" for the FBI like his mother, or go further into the world of the mafia to uncover the mystery behind the senator's murderer alongside his femme fatale partner, Jagger Rose. Bendis' dialogue continues to convey the same sort of tone one might have heard in classics such as The Godfather or Goodfellas while still maintaining original voices for his characters. Meanwhile, Oeming and Soma's art immediately drops readers into the shadowy underworld where Valentine and Jagger begin to pick up the pieces following their implication in the suitcase bombing of the U.S. senator's office. Oeming keeps the details simple, which aid in keeping the cinematic flow and pace moving at a clip. Likewise, Soma's coloring played an important role in helping focus the reader's eye on the most important aspects of each panel while not complicating the line work. I especially liked her color palette choices for the flashback to the 1960s. Overall, this team is bringing readers a new and fresh reading of both historical and fictional events involving the mob that should not be missed by anyone who still finds themselves missing Tony Soprano.
Superboy #32 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 2 out of 10): Oof. You can't win 'em all. The nondescript title "Happenings" is pretty apropos for Superboy #32 - stuff happens in this book, but hell if they make any sense or have any narrative weight. Aaron Kuder's script is all over the place here - there's a splash page where Jon literally narrates what's been happening over the course of his entire series (including his father, the villainous Harvest, and the original Superboy, who got ignominiously shoved out of his own book to make way for this new antihero), and then we get a scene where Niti gives Jon a kiss for basically no reason. Combine that with a frenetic but superfluous fight scene and a cliffhanger that totally jumps the shark in terms of tone, and you've got yourself a book that still hasn't found its way. The bright spot to this comic is Jorge Jimenez, who gives this book a cartoony flair reminiscent of Humberto Ramos back when he first started out. Jimenez is a talent that DC would do well to capitalize upon (especially for their other teen books), but the eye-gouging and overall bloodiness of Superboy makes him a poor fit.
Figment #1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): In a move to capitalize on the relationship between corporate owner Disney, Marvel is releasing a number of original comics based on the various park attractions in an attempt to deepen the mythos of the characters fans have experienced in California, Florida, and around the world for generations. This issue brings Jim Zub and Fillipe Andrade together to tell the story of Figment – the dragon mascot of Epcot's Imagination! Pavilion. But here's the thing: Figment #1 doesn't feel too "cutesy" as one might expect from a Disney comic thanks to Andrade and Jean-Francois Beaulieu's otherworldly and kinetic aesthetics. Set in late-19th century London, we follow a young and brilliant scientist who unlocks the powers of the human imagination while in search of a new energy source. The result? The birth of his childhood creation, Figment the Dragon. While Zub certainly creates an interesting backstory for this licensed property, his greatest success lies in his and Andrade's ability to tell a story that does not depend on the dialogue to understand what's going on. This is particularly helpful for parents seeking comics for their younger readers (at least this one) who may not be able to handle the level of the text in the speech bubbles but will enjoy the story nonetheless.
Twisted Dark, Vol. 1 (Published by TPub!; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Newly re-mastered with updated art, Twisted Dark, Vol. 1 provides readers with an anthology of a dozen thrillers from a variety of talented artists and written by publisher, Neil Gibson. What I really enjoyed is the variety of genres in this story. Although they're all twisted and dark in nature, Gibson shifts from the "slice of life" stories that feel grounded and realistic such as "On a Lighter Note" or "Cocaina" to other stories that play in a sci-fi setting like "Windowpayne" or horror as in "Blame." Between this and the mix of illustrators – whose aesthetics vary significantly – there's bound to be something for every horror-suspense fan. My favorite story of the collection was "Routine" with Caspar Winjgaard on art duties. Its roughly hewn line work looks almost like a woodcut, which is fitting considering the setting of the story, and the stark black and white contrast works particularly well given the mindset of its protagonist. Like many of the stories contained in this volume, this story delivers a punch to the gut that will remind readers that good comics can most definitely be found off the mainstream.