Happy Thursday, 'Rama readers! Ready for your Thursday column? Best Shots has you covered, with this week's Rapid-Fire Reviews! So let's kick off today's column with Perforated Pierce Lydon, as he takes a look at Batman and Robin...
Batman and Robin #34 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Peter J. Tomasi really nails the Bat family dynamic better than most writers at DC right and as Bruce embarks on this suicide mission to save Damian, he gives his family their own mission: keep Gotham safe. There’s a lot to love in this issue. Jason, Barbara, Tim and Dick know that the game is changing. This is bigger than them. It’s also not always easy to sell some of the more science fiction-y elements of this story because of the characters general noir overtones but credit to Tomasi for making it much more seamless than his counterparts writing Batman Eternal. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again - Patrick Gleason is the best artist currently working on Batman. Strong characters are backed by a tone set by Mick Gray’s deep black inks. It feels like a Batman book because it has a sort of claustrophobic closeness to it. The words on the page are the secrets that we are lucky to be privy to. The mission that Bruce gives Batgirl, Red Hood, Red Robin and Dick Grayson almost seems like it’s ours as well.
Ms. Marvel #7 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10):Kamala Khan concludes her sewer adventures with the de-powered Wolverine as they face giant alligators. G. Willow Wilson continues to write a Ms. Marvel that acts as a channel for the reader to imprint their own sense of adventure, hope, and purpose upon this brave young woman. The interaction between Kamala and Wolverine is honest and packed with just enough student to mentor messages, never once slipping into after school special territory. Visually, Jacob Wyatt gets to play around more with Marvel's powers and helps create some really dynamic action, without losing the sense of youthful exuberance a gritty battle would ruin. While there are a few too many “cute” moments, both in words and pictures, Ms. Marvel #7, is a book continues to grow in spirit and charm.
Multiversity #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): It’s finally here! Nix Uotan is back to save the multiverse from the greatest threat its ever faced (don’t call it a crisis!). Or is it we, the readers, who are saving the day? It all goes a bit wacky and metafictional as Morrison takes us to numerous alternate universes, filled with tons of strange variants of popular characters and some surprising fan-favorites like Captain Carrot. Ivan Reis does a great job illustrating the dozens of characters that Morrison packs the issue full of. He has a pretty standard superhero style, but it’s of the highest quality and suits this story perfectly. Multiversity is Grant Morrison’s love letter to superhero comics and DC’s complex 70-year continuity.
The Fade Out #1 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Edward Kaye; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips return with yet another pulp/noir series. This time they take us to the 1940s for a story of murder, lust, and betrayal, set against the backdrop of the waning days of the golden age of Hollywood. The setting is alluring, the plot is compelling, and the script is gripping. Phillips artwork is some of his best yet. He definitely has a style, which he uses frequently, but he breaks the mould a bit here with some ethereal flashbacks and gorgeous black and white panels. There’s some obvious similarities with several of the duo’s past collaborations here, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The secret ingredient is a phenomenal writer/artist team.
Teen Titans #2 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): I have to give Will Pfiefer credit - he has absolutely stepped up his game for the second issue of Teen Titans. The very first page, featuring a viral clip of Bunker lashing out as a homophobe he just rescued, sums up this thoughts on teen superheroes: "Underneath our masks, we are very, very dangerous." It's a great way to distill how brash and untested these kids still are, and it gives this book a nice "adults don't understand" vibe. Pfeifer fleshes this out with a nice Robin scene, as well as a gang of Wonder Girl vigilante wannabes. Kenneth Rocafort's style is somewhat subdued (for him), although the random squares and trapezoidal panels feel like he's trying to distract us from him not utilizing his pages all the way. Either way, this is the best Bunker has certainly ever been in the DCU, and if the next issue can keep improving, this book might be onto something.
Mighty Avengers #13 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Marvel's most likeable superhero team goes head-to-head against a vampire cult, as Al Ewing continues to write one of the best damn team books in the business. Ewing's character work is superb, whether its Blue Marvel reconnecting with a possible new flame, Blade remembering his vampire girlfriend Spitfire's warnings, or sorcerer Kaluu outsnarking everyone in the room. (And extra points for further fleshing out Power Man's chi-based powers.) Artist Salvador Larocca doesn't offend with his ultra-clean style, but he doesn't make much of a statement with it, either. He does stumbles a bit with his page compositions, with a lot of letterbox panels and overly distant shots, but he redeems himself with a great two-page spread of the Avengers in action. Even if the art isn't quite as normal levels, the writing keeps this book running smoothly.
Batman Eternal #20 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): The Bat Family continues to be stretched thin across the world in an issue that does nothing to address the series' weaknesses. Because of the need to address the many irons in the fire, scripter Tim Seeley has to over-explain, which means his usual strong dialogue is buried under lines like "Liquid nitrogen canister from the basement where they held those owl zombies." It's nice to see Gordon-as-hero again, but the fact that the man who framed him is dead but Red Hood finds enough evidence anyway is just too convenient. Artist Emanuel Simeoni is extremely uneven, doing good layouts for the Gordons but burying Batman's scenes in confusing, overly-busy scenes. This is an ambitious series, but it's sagging badly under its own weight.
The Wicked + The Divine #3 (Published by Image Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): This issue sees the last page revelation from issue two pay off in bombastic fashion.Jamie McKElvie’s character work is once again on display with his character designs for Baphomet and Morrigan. But he’s no slouch on the action sequences, either, keeping the energy of this book as high octane as ever. Kieron Gillen’s writing makes Laura an easy character for readers to latch onto (even if it’s questionable whether they should), and she’s become essential in tethering this book to something resembling reality. Altogether, this issue is excellent and Gillen and McKelvie are continuing to set the bar high for their next creator-owned work.
Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Aaron Duran; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Out-of-continuity stories represent an opportunity for a creator to truly explore the themes and morals of a well-established character... Which is why Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #1 feels lacking. Gail Simone and Ethan Van Sciver debuting this title is a big launch for DC, but unfortunately both played it a little too safe. Simone focused on how Wonder Woman is a different kind of hero than Batman as she pits the Amazon against Gotham foes ran rampant - a story DC fans have read many, many times, which sadly leads to familiarity. Van Sciver's art is strong when he's presenting large-scope moments, but the story calls for many close and personal moments and his style simply isn't up to the task. Although still entertaining, this debut comic could (and should) have been a grand return of the Wonder Woman so many fans miss. As it is, Diana still stands in the shadow of others.
Original Sins #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Original Sins concludes as it began - as a distinctly, split-down-the-middle mixed bag. Al Ewing and Butch Guice's Nick Fury story is squarely in the good - it's a huge reveal for a longtime supporting character that is about as heartbreaking as it gets, and Ewing deftly writes about guilt, and whether that is how a would-be hero could justify some heinous behavior. Chip Zdarsky also knocks his two-page comic out of the park, drawing an expressive, Maguire-esque series of in-jokes, like Luke Cage saying he hates both sweets and Christmas, or the Beast writing a cop show pitch called Stars & Garters. The downside of this book is the Young Avengers story by Ryan North, relies on a talky plot rather than giving Ramon Villalobos an actual story he can convey visually.
Batwoman #34 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Moritat and Jeremy Haun share art duties here and it works well because their sequences are so different in tone. Moritat handles all the action while Haun, and his penchant for facial expressions, handle Kate and Maggie’s relationship. Both artists get to play to their strengths. Nice work, editors. For Marc Andreyko’s part, he’s definitely entering some schlocky, lesbian vampire territory, but it’s balanced with how well he delivers Kate and Maggie’s break-up. It’s simultaneously the best and worst of what a Batwoman book can offer, and it’s frustrating to see it here. Hopefully, Andreyko finds a new and interesting angle to his vampire story. Overall, you might be tearing up while you roll your eyes, but this one is ultimately a net positive.
Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland #1 (Published by IDW Publishing; Review by Edward Kaye; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Writer Eric Shanower brings the magic he worked on adapting L. Frank Baum’s Oz books to reviving Windsor McCay’s Little Nemo strips. This debut issue plays out a lot like a collection of Nemo strips, chronicling his dreams about journeying to Slumberland. It’s a nice tribute to the original strips and reads really well. Gabriel Rodriguez really outdoes himself here, providing some fantastic dreamlike scenes and creative panels in the vein of those used by McCay. There’s also a hint of Jim Woodring’s Unifactor in some scenes, though not quite as trippy. Great all-ages comics are few and far between and this one is a definite keeper!
Daredevil #7 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): A great fight scene just can't overcome some wrongheaded plotting for Daredevil #7, which undoes this series' Original Sin tie-in almost as quickly as it began. The good stuff is artist Javier Rodriguez (Newsarama Note: We had the wrong artist listed here originally. Apologies to Rodriguez), as his two-page sequence of Daredevil versus the Black Panther looks great, particularly the way the Panther throws roundhouse kicks and sweeps. That said, Mark Waid's plotting in general feels overly convenient - everything seems to come up Daredevil, whether its finding blackmail material for the Queen of Wakanda or being dragged to his target rather than killed on sight. The most egregious bit in this script, however, is retconning the retcon for whether or not Matt's father was an abuser - the twist feels cheap, and the reveal drags on so long that it feels like an afterschool special. I don't doubt Waid tried to include an important message on postpartum depression in this issue, but the execution doesn't work.
Supergirl #34 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10): Now that the “Red Daughter of Krypton” storyline is over, Supergirl is shoehorned into the “Doomed” arc that infected just about every other Superman family book the last few months. But since there was such a long layoff, Tony Bedard is forced to spend most of the issue recapping and recapping and recapping ad infinitum, completely losing everything that had made this book so great in the process. Karl Moline, however, is a great fit on art. The linework is very efficient and easy to read. The colors are bright and welcoming. But the script is so flimsy that all that good work is for naught. This is the comic book equivalent to catching up on a story via Wikipedia.
Justice Inc #1 (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): Doc Savage might have to team up with... Doc Savage in order to fix a broken timestream, as he goes back in time to the world of the Shadow and others in the start of a pulp hero crossover that gets caught up in its own references. Writer Michael Uslan actually provides end notes to help readers catch references, which include nods to classic adventures and even the Twilight Zone, but with everyone from Einstein to H.G. Wells showing up, there's too much going on to follow clearly. Giovanni Timpano's likenesses aren't strong enough, but he does a good job of keeping the visuals interesting in a talk-heavy script by changing angles and panel structure. Overall, this miniseries is off to a rocky start.
All-New X-Factor #12 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): "I was wrong" may be among the rarest words we hear from anyone, but hearing it from Quicksilver is but one surprise up Peter David's sleeve in this thoughtful interlude issue. Quicksilver has a long history of being both heroic and villainous; a martyr and a perpetrator. After a full arc of fast-paced fights and explosions, David gives the fledgling team a breather to let the surly speeder face his past, including the fallout of Decimation. David accomplishes the impressive feats of expanding Quicksilver's emotional range and giving Danger and Warlock a touching scene. I like how artist Carmine Di Giandomenico and colorist Lee Loughridge give Danger and Warlock's conversation a dreamlike purple palette that contrasts markedly from everyone else's interactions. The artists also capture perfectly Gambit's uneasiness when discussing his latest tryst: distrustful glances, shifting body language. I hope Polaris is given deeper emotional development in future issues, because here she mainly plays the part of enigmatic field general. David continues to write a creative and engaging story about an unlikely team.
Trinity of Sin: Pandora #14 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10): Pandora's put back in her box for later use as this series wraps up weakly. It's never a good sign when you've been relegated to vampire-hunting, and while writer Ray Fawkes does his best to make it creepy and tie into Pandora's theme of redemption, it's a forgettable battle that only serves to move the character into S.H.A.D.E. in case they need her. Tom Derenick and Francis Portela commit the artistic sin of background laziness, doing nothing to make Baltimore look like Charm City-or even one devastated by global tidal waves. They do have fun drawing various kinds of blood-suckers, and Giganta's clear enjoyment of her new gig as a good guy shows. As an epitaph, even a contrived character like Pandora deserved better.
Hellraiser: Bestiary #1 (Published by BOOM! Studios; Review by Edward Kaye; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): After taking the Hellraiser mythos in an interesting new direction, Clive Barker has left the series and Boom! has created an anthology title set in the world. The opening and closing stories are by close Barker associates Ben Meares and Mark Miller, with the middle by Victor LaValle. All three stories are entertaining enough, but ultimately rather forgettable. Likewise, the artwork by Conor Nolan, Colin Lorimer, and Carlos Magno is all serviceable, but somewhat unremarkable. After the previous Hellraiser series that Boom put out, this debut feels a little disappointing. While Barker wasn’t writing the previous series, he was guiding the direction, and his influence is sorely missed here.
Rocket Queen and the Wrench #3 (Published by Big & Tall Tales; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): The problem with superhero riffs and deconstructions are their inherent derivativeness - nobody wants the off-brand when they can get the real deal. But Rocket Queen and the Wrench largely transcends its Iron Man influences, as the title characters are more like bickering step-siblings, creating sparks with every adventure. Writer Justin Peniston's introduction starts off a little unfocused - you don't need werewolf legacy heroes when you've already got the gold of a family of genius techhead superheroes - but once he brings everything back to the core group, the book crackles, delivering emotion and exposition in one blow. Artist Ramanda Kamarga is a real find for this book, delivering a manga-influenced style that really plays up how cool it is just to have a techno-suit that can fly - colorist Garry Henderson also deserves a lot of credit for his spot-on colors. Definitely a comic worth catching up on.