Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday pellets? Best Shots has your back, with this week's installment of our Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's kick off today's column with the latest look at the newest issue of Secret Avengers...
Secret Avengers #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Could it be, that beneath all the gags, Secret Avengers has a darker mystery running through it? Ales Kot proves that this book isn't just about the laughs, as Maria Hill prepares to battle an unseen enemy waiting to strike. There's a lot of subplots being seeded in this book, including Coulson displaying signs of PTSD, the cyborg known as the Fury having an interesting scar, or Spider-Woman possibly getting a power upgrade, but it doesn't keep it from being satisfying. One of the great bits is the interplay between Hill and MODOK, who gets a great scene proving "I am not just a caricature." Michael Walsh's almost woolly inking makes this book as moody and atmospheric as ever, his composition packing a lot and his characters already starting to show some strain under pressure. Even at its darkest point yet, Secret Avengers remains a fun, exciting read.
Robin Rising: Omega #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The lengthy recap will be enough to catch up those unintiated with the saga of Damian Wayne, but it might worry more experienced readers. However, fret not, Bat-fans. This issue clocks in at 35 pages and most of it is an all-out brawl that teams Ra’s al Ghul, Frankenstein and Batman against the forces of Glorious Godfrey of Apokolips. Only in comics, right? Peter J. Tomasi kind of just lets Andy Kubert takes the reins. Kubert’s fight choreography is solid, and it gets even better when a certain team of superheroes shows up to help. That’s where Tomasi gets to dig in a bit. Batman has always been a little off-kilter and his reaction to how one of his teammates interferes in his rescue mission is a reminder of the bond between a father and son.
Rat Queens #7 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Vanessa Gabriel; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): In Palisade, it seems everyone’s got a past and writer Kurtis Wiebe continues to tease and unveil unexpected yet rightly organic layers to the characters of Rat Queens. Who knew Lola was so divinely badass? Or that Sawyer is drawn to the darkness in Hannah because he has it in him too? The Rat Queens’ stories are becoming increasingly rich and enthralling, and always funny. Yet no matter how many D&D references or belly-laughs because of Betty there may be, Roc Upchurch continues to be the magical force on this book. Roc's sensual, expressive style makes Rat Queens so godsdamned human. The pain in Hannah's eyes, Dee's smooth pensiveness, Violet’s stern dismay or Betty's outright lovable nature - it all feels like someone we might know and sometimes someone we'd like to be... in our own fantasy comic. Rat Queens #7 is full of exquisite aesthetics, biting sarcasm and a proper shagging (or three). You’ll want to read this one.
Supergirl #33 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Tony Bedard wraps his underrated "Red Daughter of Krypton" arc with Supergirl #33, which does a masterful job of setting up action and tension, even if it doesn't quite solve the problem that's been bugging Kara Zor-El since her reintroduction: a lack of clear direction in terms of her characterization. That said, Bedard does a great job at using all the continuity tools at his disposal, including Kara's Red Lantern ring and the cloud of Kryptonite dust encircling the planet following the "Doomed" storyline in the other Super-books. The villain of the piece, Worldkiller-1, is expertly explained, making the book surprisingly reader-friendly. Even more important is artist Jeff Johnson, who balances cartoony expressions and hard-hitting superhero choreography - Johnson is definitely a talent to watch, and one that DC needs to lock down before the competition sniffs him out.
The Wicked + The Divine #2 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Admittedly, I wasn't as taken with the first issue as many other critics were as I felt W+D #1 didn't fully lay out the premise or primary conflict for these characters as clearly as a first issue should. With Issue #2, however, Gillen and McKelvie more than make up for any ambiguities from before. Readers will better understand who these gods are, where they come from, their reasons for being on Earth, as well as possible directions the story will take without giving too much away. McKelvie once again shows his keen eye for mixing the surreal and real to create hip and captivating visuals especially when combined with Wilson's pop-infused colors. Readers who fell in love with the first issue will have already bought #2, but for those like myself who were more reticent about giving it a go, it looks like this series may just live up to the hype after all.
Ms. Marvel #6 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Vanessa Gabriel; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): As Kamala Khan finally starts to dip her toes in the waters of superheroics, she is faced with the reality of what that means in her world - including disobeying her parents or meeting a real villain for the first time. With the perfect pitch of a sheltered gamer girl, Ms. Marvel #6 digs into Kamala’s relatable journey of self-discovery as she happens across an A-list X-Man and fangirls out. Adrian Alphona is missed on art duties for this issue, but once your eye transitions to Jacob Wyatt’s more simple lines – you’ll be charmed. And when Kamala dons her costume for the first time, Wyatt draws it perfectly. Ms. Marvel #6 is full of heart and humor, continuing to be one of the most delightful additions to Marvel’s superhero line-up.
Batman Eternal #15 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Ray Fawkes gives us a good change of pace issue as we check in on Batwing and the Spectre but there are no teeth in the narrative. Fawkes serves up a lot of mystery and teases the Spectre but we don’t get much pay-off on either front. We get to check in with Harper and Red Robin as well as Batgirl and her increasing band of heroes, but it’s pure table-setting and not much else. Dustin Nguyen’s work buoys the issue, but it’s a shame to waste his talent on such a middling script. This issue reminds us of the pitfalls of the weekly format; sometimes you hit odd uneven patches after a stretch of good storytelling.
Dark Engine #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Writer Ryan Johnson brings us an action-filled time travel tale about a female warrior sent to the dawn of history to destroy an ancient evil. The issue is fast-paced and packed to the brim with battling — mostly of the dinosaur-slaying variety. The plot, though, feels a little dense and requires close attention, like the first chapter of a long novel. John Biven provides some astonishing artwork that brings the pages to life with an almost hallucinatory quality in places. Action scenes are a blur of motion and the gore is visceral and raw. His style owes a lot to that of Guy Davis, especially his creature designs. This an intense opening salvo that will hit you like a shotgun blast to the face.
Translucid #4 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Translucid is such a great title for BOOM! Studios' latest superhero book, because there is such a dreamlike quality to both the art and the writing. Artist Daniel Bayliss brings such a seediness to his stretched-out cartoons that is only brought to a nightmarish LSD setting by colorist Adam Metcalfe. There's seriously nothing else like it on the stands today, and it's BOOM!'s best find since Emma Rios. The actual story by Claudio Sanchez and Chondra Echert also reads appropriately to a terrifying dreamscape, as the superhero known as the Navigator recalls his horrific, sometimes even hallucinatory childhood. It's like looking at Batman if we took into account what mental scarring truly looks like. All in all, this is an electrifying book to read.
Uncanny X-Men #23 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): It’s always a pleasure to see Kris Anka on a full issue. His art is slightly less refined than Chris Samnee or Declan Shalvey, but it’s cut from the same cloth; clear and consistent storytelling with a penchant for delicate work with expressions. Dazzler’s breakdown is a standout moment here, but Bendis’ script is otherwise very utilitarian. The last will and testament mentioned on the cover provide the impetus for this issue, but not much actually goes on, we’re just told what needs to happen next. This is the X-Men, a superhero soap opera if there ever was one. Bendis and Anka serve up plenty of soap here - I’m just curious to see what the superhero angle will be.
Black Market #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): I was initially very excited by the premise of Black Market - when you have superheroes breathing fire or shooting lasers out of their eyes, who wouldn't consider their very organs to be a lucrative resource? Yet the first issue of Black Market doesn't quite deliver on that initial promise, only because we've seen much of these tropes before. Frank Barbiere's main character, a nebbish, down-on-his luck funeral home assistant named Ray, almost seems too pathetic for us to even sympathize. (Even Wesley Gibbs' character in Wanted had a boss and a girlfriend we wanted to see him punch out.) Too much time on the superhero exposition and the tried-and-true sibling rivalry means not enough time getting to the point. But the bright spot to this comic is definitely the artwork by Victor Santos, who reminds me a bit of a cross between Bruce Timm and Michael Avon Oeming. The visuals and high concept alone make me want to give this book another shot, but admittedly, the first issue feels a little stiff.
Devilers #1 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Edward Kaye; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Joshua Hale Fialkov debuts yet another new series, this time revolving around a team of exorcists from different religious backgrounds brought together to defeat the legions of Hell assailing the Vatican. The story is filled with gory horror, but it also has a strong action-adventure element to it and some light-hearted humor that prevents it from taking its concept too seriously. Artist Matt Triano provides some suitably horrific visuals to accompany the story. His action scenes and monster art in particular are all top-notch. However, the artwork is let down a bit by a slightly weak color job from Mark Roberts that seems like a bit of an afterthought. This is a fun opening issue that harkens back to the action-adventure horror movies of the 1980s.
Teen Titans #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10):Not really sure why this comic needed a new #1. Still, it's an opportunity for new readers to discover this all-new and improved Teen Titans. Only writer Will Pfeifer does little to attract the new reader, to say nothing of exciting the faithful. Mysterious baddies hold some kids hostage, the Teen Titans save the day, but there is still the mystery behind said baddies. Pfeifer keeps the story moving, but his dialogue and plotting is average at best. Kenneth Rocafort has a style that does not lend itself to these adolescent powerhouses. His expressions are decent, but his physical compositions are either too flat or too exaggerated. Not horrible, but not great, Teen Titans #1 simply fills up shelf space.
She-Hulk #6 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): I'm not sure what's more surprising about She-Hulk #6 - that Charles Soule and Ron Wimberly have a guest appearance by Nightwatch, or the fact that they make Nightwatch cool as hell. Yep, that '90s not-Spawn ripoff teams-up with the Jade Giantess in the latest issue of She-Hulk, and there's just something about Wimberly's graffiti-style art that makes the mask, trenchcoat and techno-tentacles of the character just pop. Beyond Wimberly's eclectic visuals - which, admittedly, can take a bit of time to get adjusted to after the oh-so-smooth lines of Javier Pulido - Charles Soule also teases the mystery of the "blue file" as well as Angie Huang, Action Paralegal. Ultimately, the story doesn't quite hit as hard as the spectacle, but this may be the most energy this series has had yet.
Cap’n Dinosaur #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Shaky Kane has been around for years, but after a couple of years off, he recently returned to take the indy comics market by storm. This one-shot sees the master of psychedelic artwork team up with fellow 2000 AD alumnus Kek-W, who is noted for his weird and wonderful tales. The pair produce a bizarre pulp comics homage, filled with weird creatures, oddball characters, and lots of fake ‘60s-style mail order ads. The plot isn’t particularly memorable, but it’s an incredibly fun read all the same. Plus, Kane’s artwork alone is worth the cover price. Taken as a whole, the issue makes for a very odd and rather trippy experience. Recommended for fans of the strange and those looking for something a little more off-the-wall.