Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has you covered, with this week’s Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let’s kick off today’s column with Protective Pierce Lydon, as he takes a look at Batman Eternal…
Batman Eternal #12 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): James Tynion IV and Mikel Janin treat us to a continuation of a couple of plots from the last issue while also checking in with Bard, Bullock and Gordon. Tynion has a lot of ground to cover in this issue and he tends to get a little bit longwinded with his dialogue. It still feels natural but the balloons do crowd the panels. The reason I mention that is because Mikel Janin’s work is excellent. His character renderings have weight and his lines are very clean, lending themselves to some of the better expressions that we’ve seen in Eternal. With Grayson right around the corner, this issue is a great showcase for an artist on the rise.
Ms. Marvel #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): With Ms. Marvel #5, G. Willow Wilson turns the standard trope of the superhero on its heard as we see Kamala discovers it takes work – and often failure - to learn how how to be super as she bumbles through her first (and unsuccessful) rescue attempt. While this has been shown in comics before, what makes this issue particularly unique is it is Kamala's story: Readers would not experience the same emotional connection with any other character as we do with Kamala as she sits in the kitchen with her father the morning after her failed journey. Thanks to Adrian Alphona, these touching moments hit home through his expressive art, which aptly captures the feelings of frustration, perseverance, and triumph in his young heroine. Overall, Ms. Marvel #5 continues to be the sort of inspirational superhero book that will keep both regular and newer comic book readers coming back.
Justice League #31 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Geoff Johns has a great handle on the Justice League. Paired with artist Doug Mahnke, this creative team is bringing out the best qualities of this title: the action, the suspense and the humor. Johns is maintaining this title as the spine for the larger DC Universe, all while keeping it entertaining. However, the narrative requires that the reader is all caught up. The strongest criticism on this issue is, by itself, it might not be the best jumping-on point and relies heavily on what came before and what will come after in the narrative. Still the individual moments are strong and crisply rendered by penciler Doug Mahnke. It juggles the larger pieces of the DCU story all while staying consistently fun.
Amazing Spider-Man #3 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): It’s incredible how easy Dan Slott falls back into writing Peter Parker. This issue is more of a set-up issue than the last one, but it features a lot of the old Peter Parker charm. Black Cat’s emergence as an actual foe of Peter’s is much different than we’ve seen in the recent past but it makes sense after the events of Superior Spider-Man and it’s an interesting turn to see her take. Otto caused Peter to lose a lot of friends, and he’s starting to realize that. Humberto Ramos looks much more reined in for the second issue in a row but he still lets loose during the action scenes. This is a great development in his style because toning down the energy in the quieter moments helps keep the reader from being distracted and places greater emphasis on the story in those scenes. A wholly solid issue from the creative team this month that packs a punch and few needed laughs.
Superman #32 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Once again, Superman sees a new creative team takeover with the DC debut of John Romita, Jr. on art and the return of Geoff Johns to the writer's seat. Johns brings Clark back to the Daily Planet and shows why it has always been a sort of home for Kent. Meanwhile, JRJR wastes no time taking advantage of a battle with Titano to take his turn at creating some classic Superman imagery of his own, with a sleek and trimmed-down depiction that creates a fresh take on the definitive superhero. Johns' storyline centers around an encounter with an alien visitor, Ulysses, whose origin story directly mirrors that of Superman. While it does feel similar to Scott Snyder's Wraith from Superman Unchained, there is enough variation to the blonde-haired ubermensch that it doesn't feel derivative. Ultimately, this issue has the look and feel of a clean start that many readers will appreciate as it revisits classic themes with a few new twists.
Uncanny Avengers #21 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Another month, another great issue of Rick Remender and Daniel Acune’s Uncanny Avengers. These two creators are churning out quality issues on a consistent basis and this one is full of the kinds of “go big or go home” moments that we’ve come to expect. With a Celestial about to stomp Earth out of existence, Remender takes his unity theme to a very literal level having Rogue absorb the powers of Avengers and X-Men alike while Wasp employs an unlikely ally. Daniel Acuna’s art is a bit less defined than usual and he loses some clarity in smaller moments. But he handles the big ones, like Thor’s assault on the Celestial, with aplomb. Uncanny Avengers is a masterclass in comic book storytelling that can remind even the most jaded fan that anything truly is possible.
Sinestro #3 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): The good thing about Sinestro is that it’s one of the cleanest-looking books in the entire DC publishing lineup these days, with Dale Eaglesham and Rags Morales bringing some top-notch production values to the entire enterprise. So what’s holding back Sinestro from being the universe’s greatest Lantern? Probably because progression-wise, it doesn’t feel like this book goes very far. Cullen Bunn writes a menacing, almost poetic Sinestro, but action-wise he doesn’t do much that’s particularly memorable – even having a corps of vigilante Lanterns has already been done to death in Red Lanterns, and Sinestro’s back-and-forth with his daughter Soranik Natu moves a little slow. But Dale Eaglesham and Rags Morales tag-team effortlessly, and colorist Jason Wright imbues their art with a ton of energy. Every series can get a slow issue every once in a while, and when it comes to Sinestro, at least the slow issues look pretty.
All-New Ghost Rider #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Come for the art, stay for the art, and... unfortunately, there’s not much else. Tradd Moore is an absolute force of nature, elevating this book by the sheer strength of his linework and unconventional approach. But Felipe Smith’s plot is a total snooze. Robbie is beginning to adjust to being Ghost Rider, but Smith doesn’t examine that relationship enough or really let Robbie explore his new powers. Robbie’s opposition is a mad scientist and a group of juiced-up gangbangers that don’t feel big enough to really be taken seriously. Smith tries to prop the book up on brotherly love schmaltz, but it’s hollow at best.
Red Lanterns #32 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Gardner’s gang of Red Lanterns attempt to rescue Rankorr from Atrocitus, but it doesn’t go as well as they hoped. Meanwhile, Atrocitus and his crew destroy Gardner’s base of operations. The cover teases “The Revenge of Atrocitus” but his revenge isn’t all that direct. Soule attempts to paint Gardner and his squad as a hopeless band of miscreants that deserve their fate in an effort to remove Supergirl from the rest of them. But it doesn’t make much sense with the Reds going up against their greatest foe and their numbers already dwindling. It’s very altruistic, but not a very sound strategy. Jim Calafiore excels with the non-human characters but completely misses the boat when trying to depict the emotions at play in Guy and Kara’s mentor/mentee relationship. On the whole, he delivers as many great panels as the story allows, but the story itself is lacking.
Guardians of the Galaxy #16 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Brian Michael Bendis has been trying an interesting experiment with his latest arc of Guardians of the Galaxy, splitting up our lead heroes and having them independently get ambushed by the forces of J-Son of Spartax. Part of what makes this scattershot approach work is the knowledge that Bendis is effectively seeding a ton of potential storylines, and the other is that he’s got some amazing artists working for him. Nick Bradshaw steals the show with some very expressive and endearing takes on Venom (!), Gamora and Star-Lord, as all three of them fight their way out of their respective deathtraps. David Marquez, however, stumbles a bit with some extremely brittle inking at the tail end of the Star-Lord/Captain Marvel team-up, and unfortunately Jason Masters winds up looking much rougher in comparison near the end. While I’m not too fond of the too-easy way Bendis gets his characters out of their respective jams (nor the wasted pages replaying Drax challenging the Shi’ar Gladiator to combat), this is still a decent showing for an unorthodox arc.
The Flash #32 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): Brett Booth’s tenuous grasp on anatomy doesn’t do Robert Venditti and Van Jensen’s story any favors. It seems that with Wally in the fold and time and space unraveling, there’s a shift toward a pre-New 52 status quo. Barry’s superheroing in this issue is fine (even if he does get outsmarted by a still unidentified villain) but the eulogy for Captain Cold that runs through the issue feels trite. Plus with time and space unraveling, Barry’s line, “Everything that’s worth anything takes time,” is a little too on the nose. Venditti and Jensen force the plot to progress, but the progression doesn’t feel natural, and that makes the subtleties they are building glaringly obvious. Booth’s sketchy, angular style doesn’t suit the Dali-esque power set of Merge, and he’s not able to help sell the emotion in the final scene.
KaBOOMbox, Vol. 1 (Published by Brand New Nostalgia; Review by George Marston; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): In a way, it's hard to review a book like KaBOOMbox Vol. 1. It's not really a story, or a collection of stories, so much as a yearbook of some of the indie comics world's brightest up and comers. With contributions from too many amazing creators to name them all, KaBOOMbox is a perfect starting point for anyone looking to break out of the mainstream scene. Typically excellent pieces from names like Tradd Moore, Toby Cypress and Ming Doyle anchor bigger surprises from Andrew MacLean, Joe Querio, and Jorge Coelho, and even that is only scratching the surface. With not a dud in almost 100 pages, KaBOOMbox, Vol. 1 is a perfect window into the zeitgeist of a burgeoning corner of the indie publishing scene.
The Package (Self-Published; Review by George Marston; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Elliot Blake and Alexis Ziritt's The Package reads more like storyboards for an unproduced script than a graphic passion project. The Package feels clearly influenced by the films of Robert Rodriguez and Oliver Stone, capturing the former's sense of over the top grit, and the latter's inability to define his characters. It's a good thing Blake got Ziritt to draw his opus, because without Ziritt's slashy, chunky inks and frenetic energy, there would be no passion on these pages. Even Ziritt’s work suffers from sacrificing clarity for personality, which may be the exact opposite problem with Blake’s script. Still, without Ziritt’s art, there would be little to grasp onto here, and The Package might easily disappear into the shelves of other well-meaning, but unremarkable OGNs.