Greetings, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday column? Best Shots has you covered, with 16 Rapid-Fire Reviews for your reading pleasure! So let's kick off with Jazzy Jake Baumgart, as he takes a look at the latest issue of Detective Comics...
Detective Comics #34 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Jake Baumgart; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Although a final issue in an arc is difficult to grade on its own, Detective Comics #34 still stands strong. Sure, if this is your first issue you might be a little lost, but Buccellato and Manapul have crafted an amazingly striped-down-to-the-core Batman story in the six-part Icarus story. No sidekicks, no JLA, no supervillians - just Batman as a true detective. The creative team was able to humanize Harvey Bullock, a surprisingly rare occurrence, beyond a toothpick-chopping naysayer. The heart of the story lies with the orphaned motocross racer Annie. Annie finds herself at a similar crossroads that most of the Bat-family has before donning a mask. The storytellers guide her away from a cape and instead give us something a bit more potent and grounded.
Moon Knight #6 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): After the video game-like awesomeness that was Issue #5, I couldn't help but wonder how and if Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey would top their last effort with the final issue of their tenure on Moon Knight. Not surprisingly, they do. Ellis originally wanted to create a series of "one-and-done" stories and he succeeds thoroughly with this cop drama where Moon Knight takes something of a backseat to the misunderstood NYPD officer attempting to uncover the mystery behind the masked vigilante. Meanwhile, Shalvey and Bellaire produce some of their best joint efforts as they complement each other's work to create street-level feel with their raw brushstrokes and evocative lighting. The final fight scene at the end transcends mere fisticuffs between good guys and bad guys, and instead, speaks to the tensions between vigilantes and officers of the law – and what happens when poor decisions are made no matter how sympathetic the motivations. This is comic allows Ellis and Shalvey to exit with a bang while showcasing Bellaire as one of the premier colorists today.
Grayson #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Vanessa Gabriel; ‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Dick Grayson is “dead.” He’s got a new identity as an agent of Spyral. The best part? He works with one Helena Bertinelli. For all the acrobatics in art and discourse from the now enigmatic Dick Grayson, Helena’s presence and one-liners are the best thing about this issue stealing the show from our title character. The other thing that steals the show, but not in a good way, is the excessively complex dialogue. How much ten-dollar sci-fi lingo can you pack into a speech bubble? In the case of Grayson #2, way too much. Exceptionally detailed panels and beautifully dynamic bodies move us through the issue, that at first seems pretty straight-forward, but we end up somewhere wildly convoluted. Grayson #2 plays a lot of inside DCU baseball, and the only thing we’re left sure of is that Helena Bertinelli is a clever woman. I guess that’s good.
Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Although Bendis and Marquez open this issue in melodramatic fashion following Miles' revelation to his girlfriend about his superhero identity, the comic really explodes into action as we see Miles in the same location facing the same monster who was thought to have slain his predecessor. Marquez switches back and forth between the reactions of those closest to both Miles and Peter followed by snippets from the battle scenes. This ratchets up the tension and culminates with the reappearance of Peter Parker, but this time as Spider-Man! The question as to whether or not this is the real Peter Parker – back from the dead – plagues everyone involved from the onlookers to Osborn and Miles, and even still, the reader. Bendis's recreates the same tone between his original Spider-Man and Green Goblin, but unfortunately, only time will tell if the Ultimate Universe will see the full return of its most beloved character.
Batman Eternal #18 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): Tim Seeley’s dialogue is so heavy-handed that it might as well be wearing lead boxing gloves. The introduction of Killer Croc as an uneasy ally of Batman and Lt. Bard is uninspired and Seeley’s work with Red Hood, Batgirl and Batwoman is similarly dull. I guess the twist in expectations (Batman working with Croc while Red Hood and Batwoman have to fight Batgirl) could entertain some readers, but it’s telegraphed to the point where none of it is a surprise. Andy Clarke’s art might be the only saving grace. His character work is very strong, even if his Killer Croc lacks the menace of past depictions, and the visual storytelling is effective even with such a dull script. Eternal keeps adding pieces to this puzzle but it feels like we’re no closer to any sort of resolution.
Lazarus #10 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Vanessa Gabriel; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Taking a break between arcs, this one-shot flashes back several issues to Jonah Carlyle’s treachery gone awry, as he flees Carlyle territory and crash-lands into a rival family hoping to sell his family’s secrets for safety. Greg Rucka’s continues his careful craftsmanship of deeply embedded nuances of privilege and desperation with flits of dark character exposition that expound upon what has happened so far and raises the stakes for what is to come to a white-knuckled high. The story-telling in Lazarus is almost unparalleled, especially when you consider the depth of Michael Lark’s. Rucka brings the layers and intrigue, but Lark brings intensity and understanding through pained expression, perfect anatomy and a high-tech backdrop. Lazarus #10 is chillingly cohesive and a shining installment of what this title has to offer. Time to jump on if you haven’t already - you'll leave this issue dying to know what happens next.
She-Hulk #7 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Honey, I shrunk the She-Hulk! Faced with a ticking clock and an objective to find a shrunken scientist in literally his own back yard, She-Hulk has a fun team-up with Hellcat and Hank Pym. Charles Soule really gets to the heart of this story, which is the friendship between She-Hulk and Hellcat, and the sparks that can fly between their respective dysfunctions. Hellcat telling a bunch of ants "I am sick of your sass" is probably the funniest bit in the book, and Javier Pulido really kills a two-page sequence where She-Hulk goes to town on a group of mangy cats. Granted, the conclusion feels a little long (the cliffhanger could easily have gone next issue), but beyond these minor pacing concerns, She-Hulk is the Big Two book to beat this week.
Superman/Wonder Woman Annual #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10):Whew, there is a lot of story crammed into this annual. Superman: Doomed maintains its pace as Diana faces her promise of ending Superman's life should Doomsday prove victorious. Charles Soule does his best to focus on the characters while the world, and its heroes fight to survive. In that respect, he succeeds, but at the cost of many story moments lost in the chaos. With so many artists on this title, it's hard to focus on one in such a short space. As a whole, the book stands tall as a piece of intense superhero action, with dynamic panel design and some color work that really pops off the page. If you're fully vested in this mini event, then it's a can't miss issue. Fans looking for more interaction between Clark and Diana will find the book entertaining, if a little lacking.
Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers #1 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Edward Kaye; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): In case Gødland hadn't tipped you off, Joe Casey is something of a Jack Kirby fan. While the former was a love letter to the King of Comics, this is full-on immersion in the crazy world of Kirby. There’s been a few recent attempts to revive this character, but Casey is the first to get it right. The premise is solid, the plot is captivating, and it has a great hook that makes it stand out from its predecessors. It’s the best thing Casey has written in years. Nathan Fox, Jim Rugg and Ulises Farinas all bring their A-game and provide some amazing pages in rather different styles that still pay tribute to the King. This is the best Kirby revival in decades.
Action Comics Annual #3 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): Seven pencilers and six inkers are credited in Action Comics Annual #3, and the result is about as schizophrenic as you'd expect. Greg Pak never really focuses on any one story or sequence in this issue, bouncing from Brainiac-possessed Lois to Red Hood and the Outlaws to Dr. Xa-Du from Grant Morrison's Action Comics to guest appearances by Batman, Lex Luthor and the Martian Manhunter... it's a lot to take in, and without a central, cohesive storyline, it's hard to justify paying the extra cash for the annual. Artistically, this book is all over the place, as well, with no artist ever getting to stick around long enough to make an impression. This crossover continues onto its third arc this week, so Pak and company do have plenty of time to recover.
Usagi Yojimbo: Senso #1 (Published by Dark Horse Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; 'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10): After taking some time off to deal with harrowing personal issues, Stan Sakai has finally returned to his magnum opus, and he really means business. Usagi Yojimbo has been consistently great for decades, but there hasn't been a standout story for some time now. That all changes, as we jump 20 years into the future, for a story of war, sacrifice, family great honor and… aliens? This is the first time the series has contained sci-fi elements since much-loved Space Usagi spin-off, and it provides a much needed breath of fresh air. Sakai’s black and white artwork is similarly outstanding on this issue - possibly his best since the Yokai OGN. The rabbit ronin is back and better than ever!
Green Arrow #34 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Ollie and Diggle face down the Dragon - Richard Dragon, to be exact - as Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino take a bow on Green Arrow. This comic feels tense as hell, which is great for a finale - in particular, there's a great sequence where Dragon systematically takes out Green Arrow and his associate like they weren't even there, analyzing potential weaknesses as he wreaks havoc across a double-page spread. Colorist Marcelo Maiolo really makes this book his own, with weird, evocative color choices that remind you almost of the seedy neon lights of '70s New York. There are some hiccups, to be sure - pint-sized killer Emiko reminds me a little too much of Damian Wayne, and Dragon himself gets taken out pretty darn fast - but all things considered, this conclusion hits all the right beats.
Iron Fist: The Living Weapon #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 1 out of 10): I've been a defender of Iron Fist: The Living Weapon since its first issue, but man - there's a line between being an auteur and being self-indulgent, and I think this book has long crossed that line. Kaare Andrews' characters suddenly learn kung fu just so they can break spider-demons' arms, and Danny Rand meanwhile gets mangled by a cyborg behemoth claiming to be his dad, as Andrews finds new ways to crush his hands into spindly messes. And this book definitely reads like a mess - it's just gore and exploitation for exploitation's sake, and five issues of it is more than most need. Danny himself is just a plot device to get Andrews his hulking cybermen and brutal flashbacks. This book is about the opposite of fun.
Nailbiter #4 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): After the tension built up from last issue's flickering "blackout panels," Josh Williamson and Mike Henderson provide readers with a little release through pulling back the cover behind not only the mysterious killer haunting Finch and Crane's footsteps but also the fate of Agent Carroll. We even see Alice and Warren's interactions in the jail leading to what looks like the young girl innocently tempting the serial killer back out of retirement. The only drawback to this issue was the color felt a little over-saturated at times, which made distinguishing details in the linework a little difficult particularly in the scenes with Crane and Finch. Overall, it's another solid issue that moves the plot forward while taking some time to add some depth to the history and character of the town of Buckaroo.
Alex+Ada #8 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The secret is out – at least to Alex's grandmother – that he's unlocked Ada's programming allowing her to become fully sentient. Although there were a few moments that were lighter on action and heavier with exposition, I really like the thematic directions Sarah Vaughn and Jonathan Luna are taking with this series in terms of ethics and advancing technologies, individual access to equality and basic human rights, and self-determination. While Luna's art is more simple and less flashy than many other comics from Image, the clean layouts keep the reader's focus on the story without complicating matters, and his ability to convey each character's emotions is subtle yet effective. Eight issues in, and I continue to find myself hooked by the smart and thought-provoking premise of this book.
Terminal Hero #1 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Edward Kaye; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): You know the story: man gets brain tumor, man gets radical treatment, man develops super powers, man goes mad with power. It’s a decent concept, but the plot jumps about like crazy, skipping major details and foregoing any character development. It feels like there’s two or three issues of story crammed in here, with every other page removed to save space. Artist Piotr Kowalski provides a really interesting opening page, with great colors from Kelly Fitzpatrick, but the rest of the issue is of inconsistent quality - there’s a few stand-out scenes, but most panels aren't very memorable. Terminal Hero #1 feels like so much wasted potential. Perhaps writer Peter Milligan can pull it together in the second issue, but I doubt it.